The Silver Lining of an Everyday Tragedy
Injuries are devastating, no doubt about it. They can be more demoralizing than a loss, in that they’re uncontrollable barriers that cannot be fought or placed blame upon. They can be the end of a player’s career while drastically affecting those around him. Contending teams have turned to tanking and coaches have completely reconstructed their philosophies in the face of a single injury. Perhaps the worst part is that if the athlete just took a half-inch longer stride, or landed just an inch to the right, he’d be fine.
With most things in life however, there lies a silver lining. As basketball fans mourn the triumvirate of depressing injuries sustained by Derrick Rose, Marc Gasol and Andre Iguodala last night, they should also remain hopeful that these setbacks mean an opportunity for a new star to rise.
It’s often forgotten that injuries have paved the way for some of today’s great players.
Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise of 2012 was in part due to an injury to Baron Davis, who was inactive for the Knicks up until the latter part of the season. With point guard struggles a worry, the Knicks signed Jeremy Lin as a contingency. Lin turned out to be plenty more than that, now playing in Houston with a 3-year, $8-million per year contract. He is a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate if his reserve role remains, averaging 16.3 points, 4.9 dimes and 2.5 boards a night on 51% shooting from the field, 41% from long range.
An even greater case of benefiting from another’s downfall is that of Paul George, who just last year made the unexpected leap from stupendous young role player to defensive anchor and near-superstar. Danny Granger, formerly the Pacers’ top gun suffered left knee issues at the cusp of the 2013 season, forcing Indiana to rely on the young George.
The rest, is history. George struggled early on in trying to lead an offense by his own hand, shooting under 40% from the field in the month of November. George grew more comfortable in his role, eventually finishing with a then career-high of 17.4 points per game while fronting one of the league’s top defenses. He showed glimpses of a higher ceiling than many imagined, but these glimpses transformed into everyday events beginning in the 2013 Playoffs.
George averaged 19.2 points, 7.4 boards and 5.1 assists during Indiana’s Eastern Conference Finals run in which they finished one game shy of the NBA Finals. This year, George is putting up 24.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists a night, all while maintaining a true-shooting clip of .587 and playing an elite brand of stifling defense. This early-season MVP candidacy may very well never have happened if Granger didn’t suffer with injury troubles and retained his spot on the team as an offensive focal point.
Who is to say who the next Jeremy Lin or Paul George is? Last night’s chain of injuries may have just begun the process of giving NBA basketball fans their newest stud.
One potential breakout player could be Ed Davis, of the Memphis Grizzlies. Davis was shipped to Memphis in the Rudy Gay deal, and is chock full of potential. While his jump in productivity has been expected for a while, he’s yet to see the minutes that would allow him to prove his worth. Davis is playing just 12.3 minutes a night, a career-low mark that will almost certainly be inflated with Marc Gasol out. His career per-36 minute production hints at solid play from his part once that time comes, with averages of 11.6 points, 10.2 rebounds on 54.1% shooting.
Or perhaps a boost in playing time is all a struggling second-year player like Marquis Teague needs? Teague does play Derrick Rose’s position and this wouldn’t be the first time a seemingly inferior player came out and surprised us.
None of this changes the fact that injuries are one of the toughest if not the toughest things in professional sports. But to see these events completely in a negative light would be refuting the fact that some of the today’s brightest players and some of tomorrow’s have an injury to thank for the chance to show the world what they’re made of. Break a leg, fellas.