On to the bad news: the Knicks are not in good shape. Remember that knee surgery Amar’e Stoudemire had back in Phoenix, the one that doctors said would only fix the problem for a few years and render it unfixable later? Well, now it’s kind of unfixable. Amar’e is out six to eight weeks for a knee debridement. He wasn’t really the anchoring force of the team, though, so that shouldn’t hurt, right? Well, Tyson Chandler’s out for a little while too. But hey, we still have Carmelo Anthony! Well, no, we don’t. Why? Melo tripped himself, and now his knee doesn’t want to give him any help. At least Amar’e’s injury sounds kind of serious, and was caused by hard work over the year. Melo tripped while turning around! He played after the initial injury, but unlike some players I will discuss later, he doesn’t tend to do well with injuries so he’s been sitting out. The Knicks thus are reduced to starting some of their bench players, which isn’t terrible considering how good they are. At a game I attended, JR Smith did drop 36 points on OKC, no small feat even for the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, or Melo himself. The wins just aren’t there, though, and the Knicks are tied for third place with the Brooklyn Nets, a team riding a surge of momentum to try to lead the division going into its inaugural playoffs. D-Will vs. Melo. I almost salivate thinking about a potential playoff matchup.
The Lakers never cease to amaze this season. Not only are they now in eighth place, they are now a half a game out of seventh, with a legitimate shot to take over sixth before the playoffs and a slim chance to reach fifth. Houston is in seventh, and the Lakers will have had a legitimate chance to tie them Monday night against a weak Phoenix Suns team. The only bad news is that Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are still out. Pau has been out closer to 20 games, and was set to return either Sunday or Monday but experienced foot pain after practice and will need further evaluation. Kobe got a double-dose of trouble by getting a severely sprained left ankle and the flu in the same week. The flu will pass, but the ankle isn’t necessarily going anywhere very quickly. Kobe has a history of ankle issues (though usually the right, not the left), and claimed that this was the second worst of his career, sustained while landing on Dahntay Jones’s foot after a fade away jumper that could have tied the game against the Atlanta Hawks. The NBA later issued a statement saying Kobe should have been awarded free throws, but unfortunately that does not give the Lakers the game back or reduce Kobe’s tennis-ball-sized-ankle to normal size. Kobe attempted to play against Indiana but sat out after the first quarter and did not play Sunday night against Sacramento.
Kobe was frustrated by the lack of a call, arguably for good reason. He commented that the league needs to protect shooters a little bit more, and, from my own experience, I tend to agree with him. Most people think that NBA stars get favorable treatment from refs because they are famous and get free throws even if someone barely touches them while they are shooting. However, there are clear rules stating that contact on the return trip to the ground is also a foul and it seems that these rules are not enforced, especially outside of the NBA in normal games. The injuries really seem to occur in these cases and I think they deserve attention. Kobe’s injury occurred from a player stepping under him while he was in the air, a very dangerous move which very frequently injures players if contact is made. But even outside of real games, people can be hurt by unnecessary contact with the shooter. So although people may call the shooter soft for wanting a foul call especially in pick-up games, I think it is necessary to realize that sometimes it isn’t just about points, it’s about the safety of the shooter. After all, if tripping and hand-checking are fouls before and during the shot, why shouldn’t they be after? Food for thought.