The NBA's stellar marketing army has several options you may never witness in a televised advertising campaign.These include "Where high ankle sprain happens."
Another goody is "Where knee surgery happens."
- At last, LeBron gets better of 'Melo
- Gordon, Bulls shoot down Mavs
- Pistons earn sloppy win over Warriors
- Hill: Plenty of pain in NBA
- Kahn: Jazz making sweet music
- Rosen: Lakers' D makes difference
- Galinsky: NBA power rankings
- Celtics celebrate 17th title
But the defining battle cry could be "Where digging a hole happens."
Even though the Thanksgiving turkey hasn't been slaughtered yet, a few teams may be in danger of attaching their seasons to that last one. And while issues that include crooked shooting, half-hearted defense and shaky chemistry could be contributing factors, the damning variable of injury has put these franchises at risk of falling too far behind to enact a successful rally.
Early injury-oriented swoons have been conducted by the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs, whose official gurney is overdue for an oil change.
Let's begin with the Wizards, who -- through Wednesday's 48-point combined effort from forwards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison -- don't have to worry about finishing the season winless. That victory occurred against the mighty Western Conference's Utah Jazz, who now are engaging with point guard Deron Williams (but without center Mehmet Okur).
This colossal performance followed quickly on the heels of the Wizards' fifth defeat, which was saluted by an observation Jamison delivered to an emissary from the Washington Post:
"Guys are not hurting."
Antawn was referring to emotional pain that attaches itself to players when their team frequently finds itself being outscored by the opposition. In short, he didn't think his teammates were bothered enough by losing.
So a superior effort happened in the victory over Utah, although what is described as the Wizards' modified Princeton offense generated a field-goal success rate of only 40 percent.
But even with increased focus, please don't believe the Wizards are anything but hurting.
Gone until mid-December is Gilbert "Agent Zero" Arenas, whose nettlesome left knee required surgery that has kept him off the court and away from NBA action (or impressionable kids co-starring in those Adidas ads).
The irony is that last year's Arenas absence provoked the Wizards into winning 33 of 55 games with the crucial component of having Butler and Jamison in uniform. League-observing sharpies testified that without the one-on-one inclinations of Agent Zero, Coach Eddie Jordan's Princeton sensibilities -- cutting, passing and overall harmony -- were almost fully realized.
Working without Arenas this season, Washington claimed last place in 3-point shooting accuracy through those five setbacks. It certainly doesn't help to be without guard Roger Mason, who took his 40-percent deep shooting to San Antonio.
But the Wizards also checked in as last in field-goal percentage defense, which suggests they haven't exactly mastered the finer points of a match-up-zone implemented by assistant coach Randy Ayers.
Perhaps this zone would be a bit more daunting for foes had a wrist injury not removed 7-foot center Brendan Haywood from action.
Our next stop is Oakland, where controversial ankle injury happens. Well, it reportedly happened in Jackson, Miss., the hometown of Golden State Warriors guard Monta Ellis.
According to Ellis, a high ankle sprain complete with a torn ligament happened while he was playing pickup hoops in Jackson. That seemed like a shame because Monta had just signed a six-year, $66 million deal with the Warriors, who were hoping the kid's speed and quickness would enable him to become a point guard capable of replacing the departed Baron Davis.
Then it was discovered that Monta's injury looked inconsistent with how an ankle becomes rolled while playing basketball ... unless you and your cronies were going 5-on-5 aboard ATVs or something. But even if the ankle of Ellis had been compromised by space aliens who abducted Monta and performed experiments to determine why he's so quick, things wouldn't be any easier for the 3-5 Warriors.
Let's just agree that it's a bit tricky to play wildly up tempo when the primary ballhandler is an undrafted rookie (Duke's DeMarcus Nelson) who didn't play point guard in college. And with Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette and Al Harrington on the floor, timely and equitable distribution is crucial.
We'll see if Ellis -- whose prescribed, three-month absence began in late August -- can keep the others and himself happy upon his return. In the meantime, Coach Don Nelson will continue springing his own zone defense and hoping the Western Conference's old guard and rising franchises don't run away and hide.
The Warriors have plenty of time to catch up, but only if Ellis (or even DeMarcus Nelson) can keep the ball moving.
Our next turn takes us to San Antonio, where losing two of the league's best players happens.
The proud Spurs began this season without marvelous Argentine two-guard Manu Ginobili, whose ankle buckled during an Olympic skirmish with Team USA. San Antonio promptly lost four of its first five games, and the only triumph required a 55-point, double-overtime effort against from point guard Tony Parker against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Parker encountered a high ankle sprain of his very own in the next game.
So the Spurs, who were defeated by the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday and are registered at 2-5, will rely on Tim Duncan and spot-up shooters to keep their chins above Western water.
Unfortunately, the defense that has helped define San Antonio has been as untidy as Coach Gregg Popovich's beard. Through seven games, the Spurs were 22nd in field-goal percentage defense. And now that Parker and Ginobili are temporary goners (Parker for maybe 2-3 more weeks and Manu until mid-December), the Spurs have nobody with the off-the-dribble shake to break down defenses and find those stand-still jump shooters.
Expect more touches than ever for Duncan, whose ability to inspire double-team tactics should lead to more pristine looks for welcome newcomer Mason (14 points per game).
With 75 more games to play, it seems silly to dismiss the Spurs. But with the stunt doubles at Duncan's side, staying alive in the West may depend on the training room and the ARP machine.
Other franchises advised to mind their Ps and Qs due to the infirm are the Chicago Bulls (thumb injury for guard Kirk Hinrich), Bucks (ankle sprain for Michael Redd), Indiana Pacers (sore knee for Mike Dunleavy) and Atlanta Hawks (high ankle sprain for high-riser Josh Smith).
The Hawks, whose first defeat happened in a close call with the defending champion Boston Celtics, should have enough gusto to win their share until Smith returns.
The other squads should have enough time to recover, because of one important variable:
They're all working in the Eastern Conference, where it just so happens that the holes may not be too deep.