Is it a problem when one of the rites of summer in the NBA is European players getting injured? Pau Gasol went down with a broken finger on Monday not too long after Tony Parker was called back to America to rehab an ankle sprain suffered while playing with the French national team. Parker has since returned to his team, but you have to think NBA teams with international flavor are constantly worrying about what will happen next in the summer. When many players are relaxing, developing their games or working with trainers, many European players are spending their time in intense environments putting mileage on their bodies.
And that’s one reason I’m feeling much more optimistic about the Bucks injury situation for the upcoming season.
In the Olympic summer of 2008 Andrew Bogut battled an ankle injury through most of his time with the Australian Olympic squad. It didn’t appear to impact him as he played in the Bucks first sixteen games before back problems started to creep up on Andrew. The problems were unrelated to the ankle injury in the summer, but like most Bucks fans, I’m sure the entire Bucks staff cringed every time they saw a shot of Bogut holding an ice pack on his ankle last summer. Though they were unrelated injuries, you can’t help but think any extra wear and tear suffered in summer competitions is harmful for NBA players. Before last season Bogut missed a total of 20 games in three years. Last year he missed 36.
Coincidence or not, a lot of Olympic players missed a lot of time last year. Some of the time missed was more ineffectiveness than inability to go (see Jianlian, Yi) but in general it’s much better for an NBA player to have time to let their body heal and rejuvenate.
Redd and Bogut will be heading into this season with roughly nine consecutive months off. Yes, they both had lengthy rehabilitation periods, but from all accounts neither has suffered any setbacks since the season ended. Considering ACL’s tear like paper at the end of the school year, it stands to reason that Redd should be able to bounce back strong this year. And he’ll no longer have to fight for shots, he’s back to being the clear number one (and probably two) option. His game never blended that well with Richard Jefferson’s and it looked like he was slipping a bit last year. For the first time since he’d been a regular starter he averaged under five free throws attempted. All signs are pointing towards a rebound season for Redd. I hope.
The other reason for optimism? Improved depth. It hurts a lot more to lose Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd for 75 games when the only other options are Dan Gadzuric, Francisco Elson and Charlie Bell. When you throw Amir Johnson, Ersan Ilyasova, Kurt Thomas, Jodie Meeks and Brandon Jennings into the mix, things look a little brighter. None of those guys are going to look like an all-star playing 35 minutes a game, but in spurts they can all be productive.
I like the aspect that we don’t know exactly what we’re going to get from the bench this year. Will Amir Johnson stay out of foul trouble and be a productive power forward? Who knows. But I do know that Malik Allen won’t be. Can Charlie Bell be productive when he’s forced to play thirty minutes a night? No, but for fifteen he might be very productive.
But it’s still important that the guys who the Bucks are counting on stay healthy. Without Bogut and Redd things were a mess last year. Without Bogut and Redd this year, the Bucks would probably be at best entertaining losers and at worst the laughing stock of the league.
I don’t want to find out what that would look like.