The Injury Bug Bites


Orlando has been lucky. Real lucky.

Sure Jameer Nelson tore the labrum in his shoulder midway through 2009 and Hedo Turkoglu always seems to fight some strange illness. But Orlando has always been able to fight through and adjust.

Orlando has been lucky. Lucky with injuries.

Very few teams among the NBA’s contenders have had to deal with fewer prolonged injuries than the Magic. The Lakers have had Andrew Bynum in and out of the lineup throughout the last three years. Kevin Garnett has struggled with knee issues that have sapped some of his former explosiveness. Dwyane Wade seems to always be in and out of the lineup with various injuries.

The Magic had Nelson out in 2009, but quickly moved to pick up Rafer Alston. Without that move, the Magic would not have reached the Finals.

Orlando may finally be taking a hit from the injury bug. And it may finally cost the team some games.

Brandon Bass came down on Zach Randolph’s foot after draining a jumper in the third quarter of Monday’s game. He officially suffered a sprained ankle and is day-to-day. But reports of the swelling in his ankle were pretty gruesome (like golf ball-size gruesome). His status is uncertain for Thursday’s matchup with Miami.

This injury came after JJ Redick and Gilbert Arenas missed one game each with various injuries — Arenas had a knee contusion that forced him out of Sunday’s win over Cleveland and JJ Redick had a shoulder contusion he suffered when Antawn Jamison collided with him on a pump fake Sunday. This came after Jameer Nelson left Friday’s loss to Chicago after taking one too many knees to the thigh. And Hedo Turkoglu has been dealing with lower back issues that have slowed him down.

That is a lot of injuries all happening at the same time. And, of course, the Magic’s big changes this season were spurred by the strange illness that ravaged the team in mid-December and cut out all the momentum that came from the team’s 15-4 start.

Orlando is fighting the injury bug right now at a time that it really cannot afford to. The Magic have settled in the standings with the Hawks, about 2-3 games behind the Bulls and the Heat for the second and third spots in the East. With games against Miami and Boston this weekend, Orlando needs to build confidence against the best teams in the league and show that it is still on a championship level.

That is going to be made tougher if Bass has to miss an extended period of time.

It is no secret Orlando has some problems in the front court right now. The three-man rotation of Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson and Bass have been serviceable since the trades. But it is also clear Orlando might need a more formidable post presence as a backup center. Teams have done a good job attacking Orlando when Howard is out and he has pretty much been forced to play the entire second half in most games.

Taking Bass out of the equation creates a major problem for the Magic. Like in 2009, Bass’ injury might force Otis Smith’s hand and lead him to pick up that back up big man most have been clamoring for, even if Bass is not out an extended period of time.

Otis Smith has to measure a lot of things and find a balance between letting his current team gel or making sure the team does not fall further behind (assuming he does not have a larger move in mind). Bass’ injury is going to ask a lot of questions to this roster. Questions it may not be able to answer.