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Snap, crackle & pop: An alarming number of players are breaking down mid-season

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What’s behind the recent spate of serious, often season-ending, injuries in the NBA? And what can the Warriors do to prevent similar misfortunes?

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns
Suns guard Isaiah Canaan is being tended to by medical personnel following a gruesome ankle injury in the first quarter of a game against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 31 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Love is lucky.

A surgeon will not need to slice his hand open, adjust this or that, and insert screws to fix a fracture. The break should heal on its own ... in approximately two months. While he’s on the mend, the Cavaliers will certainly miss his 17.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.

Love, however, may welcome a break from his team which, yet again, finds itself mired in disarray, dysfunction and decline.

Sadly, Phoenix Suns guard Isaiah Canaan did not experience the same good fortune as Love. In a game against the Dallas Mavericks, an awkward, hard landing snapped his ankle so thoroughly that when his body hit the hardwood, his leg was noticeably akimbo with his foot pointing in a direction nature did not intend.

Canaan had surgery on the ankle the next day and, as expected (based on the severity of the fracture), will miss the rest of the season. Although there is no timeline for his return, he is expected to make a full recovery.

New Orleans Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins suffered a ruptured Achilles’ tendon in a game against the Houston Rockets. The Pelicans’ star has already gone under the knife to repair the torn tendon and he returned to social media on Thursday to share a “thumbs up” with his fans.

A timeline for his recovery has not been made available yet — most likely because injuries to the Achilles are notoriously slow to heal.

Meanwhile, reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks is on crutches with a quadriceps injury, while his teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is dealing with a hurt left ankle.

Both players were hurt in Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Oklahoma City Thunder will be without defender Andre Roberson for the rest of the season. Deemed irreplaceable on defense by Thunder coach Billy Donovan, Roberson suffered a ruptured patellar tendon about a week ago. He had surgery on Sunday, and is expected to make a full recovery.

In a contest in the Windy City against the Bulls, Warriors’ rookie Jordan Bell went down with an ankle injury just minutes into the game. He is not expected to return until after the All-Star break. Later, in the same game, Chicago’s Kris Dunn suffered a hard, face-first fall that left him with a severe concussion and shy of two teeth.

He is expected to miss significant time.

So, what the heck is going on?

Almost daily, news has surfaced during this midpoint of the season of players going down with catastrophic injuries. The most severe have resulted in surgery and ended seasons, leaving players with long roads of recovery ahead and teams depleted of talent.

What is behind the breakdown of these strong, athletic, generally-durable basketball bodies?

For any professional athlete, injuries come with the territory. But the 82-game NBA season is a grind unseen in other sports, with many more games to be played each season and often little recovery time from one game to the next. Add cross-country travel, time-zone confusion, and sleep deprivation to the mix and we see potential ripened for disaster.

Especially when players go down with non-contact injuries, or injuries resulting from the player being unable to prevent an awkward fall or landing due to slow reaction time, the wear and tear on the bodies of these athletes becomes apparent.

Also, athletes typically have a high tolerance for pain. They are used to shoving nagging aches and pains out of their minds and willing their bodies to do what average folks may consider superhuman feats. For those with non-contact injuries, perhaps the unfortunate byproduct of playing through pain is playing through warning signs of a more serious injury to come.

Adrenaline aside, Isaiah Canaan’s pain tolerance should be considered extreme. It was reported by Suns’ team doctor Tom Carter that Canaan did not so much as wince as the doc realigned the player’s ankle and leg into their proper places (still on the court, zero pain meds).

A wake-up call for the Warriors?

Short of sitting the whole squad, is there anything Warriors coach Steve Kerr can do to see his players to the end of the season, and into the playoffs?

With players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston not being the spark off the bench the team needs (and showing signs of slowing with age), resting starters is not necessarily the answer. The bench players — with the exceptions of perhaps David West and JaVale McGee — are showing signs of fatigue, which often is a factor in player injuries, whether cause or effect.

Livingston and Iguodala have both been ruled out of tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Kevon Looney, meanwhile, is expected to step up big in the absence of Bell.

Injuries are just one factor in a team’s ability to make a championship run. But it should be considered a key factor when star players are involved. Despite the league’s crackdown on resting non-injured players, it would behoove Kerr to strictly manage minutes, sit guys who have so much as a paper cut and, if the situation calls for it, rest players anyway (and take the fine).

Poll

Do you fear the mid-season injury curse will strike the Warriors?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Yes. I can’t sleep at night because of the worry.
    (38 votes)
  • 62%
    Somewhat. But I try not to think about it.
    (159 votes)
  • 23%
    No way. Whatever happens, happens.
    (59 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which team will be impacted most by recent injury to a player?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Cavaliers — Kevin Love
    (51 votes)
  • 1%
    Suns — Isaiah Canaan
    (5 votes)
  • 48%
    Pelicans — DeMarcus Cousins
    (157 votes)
  • 0%
    Bucks — Malcolm Brogdon
    (0 votes)
  • 21%
    Bucks — Giannis Antetokounmpo
    (69 votes)
  • 8%
    Thunder — Andre Roberson
    (29 votes)
  • 0%
    Bulls — Kris Dunn
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Warriors — Jordan Bell
    (12 votes)
324 votes total Vote Now