Injuries are just a part of the game of basketball.
As we enter the 2021-2022 NBA Playoffs, notable stars and key players will be unavailable or not able to play at full strength.
Future MVP Luka Doncic has been ruled out for Game 1 of the Mavericks’ first-round series against the Utah Jazz. Doncic suffered a left calf strain in the final game of the regular season against the Spurs.
A game Doncic shouldn’t have been playing anyway as the Mavericks already had the 4 seed locked up. Without Doncic on the floor, Dallas is more than likely going to drop Game 1 going down 1-0 with hopes that Doncic will return in Game 2 and dig them out of the hole. The Mavericks will also be missing Tim Hardaway Jr. for likely the entirety of their playoff run and Maxi Kleber looks probable to play Game 1.
Stephen Curry will likely play, if he plays at all, on a minutes restriction in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets. While the Nuggets are missing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr., as Jokic has proved this entire season while they’ve been hurt, Jokic can carry his team to victory. Curry suffered a sprained ligament and bone bruise in his left foot and hasn’t played since. The Warriors are serious championship contenders with Curry at the helm. This series could be crucial to getting him back to 100% for the ensuing rounds.
The Warriors know this better than anyone as in previous years many believe the Warriors would have even more championships had Klay Thompson not torn his ACL in the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors, or if Kevin Durant hadn’t torn his Achilles in Game 5 that same year.
Robert Williams III, the defensive anchor, and spark plug for the Boston Celtics, had surgery to repair a torn left lateral meniscus on March 30. The soonest return for Williams would be Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets if the series were to get that far. Without Williams on the floor, the Nets will be able to exploit Boston in the paint in a series that is already an uphill battle for the C’s. We have never experienced in recent memory a seed so low that is such an imminent championship threat as the No. 7 Brooklyn Nets.
To add more challenges, the most enticing, game-changing player that could return this playoff, Ben Simmons, is aiming to debut in Game 4. We haven’t seen Simmons play since the last playoff when he was booed off the Philly floor by his hometown fans. Simmons sat out the beginning of the season, refusing to play for the Sixers until he was traded for James Harden at the deadline and shipped to the Brooklyn Nets. Simmons since has been nursing a back injury that has him yet to debut for his new team. Simmons having not played in almost a full calendar year could prove rough for Brooklyn. This and the need for team chemistry as the Nets failed to form with Harden earlier this season could make the Nets a dominant force or an easy first-round exit.
On the bright side, Fred VanVleet should be ready to go for Toronto in their series against the 76ers. VanVleet has been struggling with a lingering knee injury for the majority of the season. With the Raptors threatening to participate in the Play-In Tournament, VanVleet fought through it and once having escaped the Play-In, shut himself down for the final three games of the regular season to rest up.
We have seen in prior years that injuries make or break a playoff run. Champions are not always the best team on paper. Champions come from talent plus health plus a little bit of luck.