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Keeler: Stars are needed for playoffs

Tommy Keeler

The NBA playoffs are limping along this season.

Like with most sports, I usually don't get into the NBA until it's playoff time. Like most fans I want to see the game at its best when it counts the most, and I'm just not sure we're getting that this year.

Injuries have played a huge part in the playoffs so far, and to me it's taken a little away from how good the playoffs could be.

At the end of the regular season, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant suffered a season-ending achilles injury. Let's face it, the Lakers weren't going to win the Western Conference, and probably wouldn't have even made it past the first round, but now we'll never know. Instead we were left with San Antonio crushing and embarrassing the Lakers in a four-game sweep (As a Boston Celtics fan, I'm not complaining about that).

It didn't help the Lakers that Steve Nash was coming off an injury, and was not anywhere close to 100 percent, and then Steve Blake went down with an injury. Even at full strength I think the Spurs take care of them, but it would have been fun to see how it played out.

Some big injuries happened before the playoffs, some even before this season started. The Celtics lost Rajon Rondo earlier this season, and I knew right away any hopes of going far this season were over. The Knicks are probably going to beat the old, battered Celtics, who are hanging on for dear life right now and down 3-2 in the series. I'm not sure how different things would have been if Rondo wouldn't have been injured, but I'm sure the Celtics wouldn't have lost the first three games if they had him.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first playoff game last year and hasn't played since. There have been rumors that he might play at some point in this playoffs, but I would be surprised if he did.

His return would make things interesting and make for a little more hype, but I'd rather see Rose play for the next 10-15 years rather than see him come back too soon and possibly shorten his career.

The Bulls are doing OK without him, but if he was 100 percent you have to think they might be the only team that could challenge LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
I didn't expect a lot of drama this year, since it's pretty clear the Heat have the best team. It reminds mea lot of when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls used to dominate.

That doesn't mean I won't be watching. I loved watching the Bulls and became a bit of fan, simply because of how good they were. I enjoy watching greatness. I don't mind dynasties, and as a fan of anything Florida, I already like the Heat.

When Jordan and the Bulls were dominating there was still a little drama, and the best part for me was always watching the Western Conference play out to see who was going to get beat in the Finals.

That brings me to perhaps the biggest of all the injuries -- Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook. The point guard suffered a season-ending injury in Game 2 of the Thunder's first-round series with the Houston Rockets. Westbrook's injury shakes things up in the Western Conference, and makes things even more wide open than they were.

Suddenly, the Spurs may have a serious chance to make the NBA Finals, and I'd like to think the L.A. Clippers (one of my other favorite teams) even have a chance. Although the Clippers are also the walking wounded with both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin banged up, and suddenly trail Memphis 3-2. You can't count out the red-hot Golden State Warriors, either.

I also still think the Thunder have a shot as well. I think things will be interesting in the West, but it's a shame it had to come because of an injury.

Miami's Dwyane Wade didn't play in Game 4 of the Heat's first-round series with Milwaukee -- it didn't matter, as the Heat still swept the Bucks. That shows how strong the Heat are, and I will be in complete shock if they don't win it all.

Still, we always have to wonder what would have happened if there hadn't been so many injuries this season.

Over the years the game is getting bigger and faster, and maybe that's part of the reason for the rash of injuries. Or maybe it's just bad luck.

Whatever the reason, I hope it doesn't continue this year or in the future years. The game needs its star players in order to thrive, and as fans we need them simply because you always want to see the best players playing when it counts the most.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com


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