In this compressed 66 game/124 day NBA season, injuries will play a much bigger part than usual. With the news this week that San Antonio Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili will miss two months with a broken hand and that Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph will miss 6-8 weeks with knee injury, the calculus in the Western Conference changes completely.
Last season, a two month absence is 25 games, which out of an 82 game run means 30.4% of the campaign. In this season’s compressed run, a two month absence means 30 games or 45.4% of the sked. The Spurs will be without for nearly half of the season and the schedulemakers allow them any time to adjust to Manu’s absence. The Spurs play five games in the next seven days including tilts with playoff contenders like Dallas, Denver and Houston as well as road contests at Oklahoma City and Milwaukee. The nucleus of the team is already long in tooth, so this will be a severe test for the club.
Randolph’s injury is equally devastating. The Griz are an old school, throw the ball in the post and proceed kind of team and without their best post player, they will have fewer easy shots, fewer open outside shots and way fewer rebounds. They will be without Randolph for nearly a third of their season. They’ve won their first two full games without him, but the schedule won’t always serve up Sacramento and Minnesota.
The prolonged absence of Randolph and Ginobili could result in the Grizzlies and Spurs battling it out for one of the final playoff spots in the West rather than battling for homecourt advantage in a postseason rematch.