ONTARIO, Calif. — Kobe Bryant. Steve Nash. Amare Stoudemire. Deron Williams. Larry Hughes.
All were victims of preseason injuries, some more severe than others.
But the question becomes, do NBA teams play too many preseason games?
The Thunder is just hours away from tip-off in its preseason finale against the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be the Thunder’s seventh exhibition game, the eighth for the Lakers.
“In my opinion, if we played four or five it’d be perfect,” said Nick Collison. “I just think the practice time is more valuable. It is good to play games, but I think after four or five you’ve got enough time to evaluate.”
Bryant sat out last night’s game against Charlotte after hyperextending his knee Tuesday against the Bobcats. Bryant said he’ll play tonight only if the swelling in his knee subsides.
After leaving Phoenix’s preseason finale against the Thunder last night with a dislocated left pinky, Stoudemire said of the preseason, “Thank God it’s over.”
Williams and Hughes are worse off. Williams, the Utah point guard, originally thought his sprained ankle would be season-ending when he landed on No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose’s foot last Saturday. Williams will miss only two weeks. Bulls guard Hughes is expected to miss six to eight weeks after dislocating his right shoulder Wednesday against Minnesota.
The Thunder’s Joe Smith hasn’t played since sustaining a broken nose in the second game against Sacramento. Earl Watson sat out Thursday’s game with a sudden sore calf injury that hadn’t been mentioned all week. Jeff Green has had a scare, either an ankle or hand injury, in seemingly every exhibition he’s played in.
“Some of these injuries you might not hear about in the season because guys would play through them,” Collison said. “And they know that they’ve got some time now to maybe let things heal properly so they do that. So there’s some of that going on.”
The argument always can be made that injuries can happen at any time. But going beyond injuries, isn’t the preseason supposed to be about building chemistry and implementing offensive and defensive sets and ironing out the wrinkles? I can probably count on one hand how many minutes the Thunder’s projected starting unit has played together this preseason. I wouldn’t need one whole hand to add how many minutes we’ve seen the Thunder’s nine-man rotation used.
So what exactly is the point of the preseason if teams aren’t getting to look at their regular rotations, choosing instead to hold players out until the games count?
“Some of it’s business,” Collison said, ”trying to market the league around these different cities.”
Which I guess explains why I’m typing this up from a hotel in Ontario, Calif. instead of the plush downtown hotel I love in L.A.
Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo takes the side most coaches likely would. He likes the month of practice and the seven to eight exhibition games.
“If that was the collective wisdom of the veteran players in the league, that they don’t need four weeks to get ready and they can get ready in three weeks fine,” Carlesimo said.
“But you also run a risk of accelerating things by starting to play preseason games sooner or try to play the same amount of preseason games in three weeks or get ready to play an 82-game season and they’re not in shape…I’d be a little scared to go less. But I would trust the (coaches) like Jerry Sloan or Phil (Jackson) or (Pat) Riley, the guys who’ve been players in this league and coaches in the league and saw the way it used to happen.”
This much I know – after tonight’s game I’ll be singing Stoudemire’s tune, “Thank God it’s over.”