Day to Day

In lockout-crunched season, cumulative effect might add to injury woes

Even notoriously steadfast Tayshaun Prince has noticed the odd injuries that have befallen players thanks to a lockout-shortened season.
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
CHICAGO – As Tayshaun Prince stretched out on a chair following Thursday’s practice at Chicago’s downtown Moody Bible Institute, Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey, off to his left, were under the attention of Pistons strength coach Arnie Kander. They were nursing leg injuries – Gordon a groin strain, Stuckey a hamstring – that have dogged the Pistons and pretty much every NBA team this season.

Whether the statistics eventually bear out the notion that the condensed schedule resulting from the lockout led to more – or more specific, perhaps – injuries remains to be seen. But as far as Prince’s body is concerned, the evidence is already in.

“No question,” he said. “The travel and the schedule has a lot to do with it. Just look around the league. Some weird injuries.”

Prince’s reunion with ex-teammate Rip Hamilton is in doubt Friday night when the Pistons wrap up a four-game road trip against the Chicago Bulls. Hamilton has played in just 16 games this season, sitting out three big chunks of the schedule with separate injuries to his left groin (10 games), right thigh (13) and currently to his right shoulder (12).

Prince cited shoulder injuries to Al Horford and Kwame Brown in the season’s early going as among those that struck him as odd – “when do you see that?” he asked – but even injuries coming now, like those to Gordon and Stuckey, he believes are the result of the toll the Pistons’ crazy January schedule took.

“It’s been more of a normal schedule lately,” he said, “but I think that whole January and February, if you got through it OK, your body would start to wear down at a certain point. It always shows up later.”

Prince, one of the NBA’s notorious iron men, has managed to avoid injuries during the season, though he’s still taken precautions with the left knee that bothered him earlier – an injury he suffered over the summer while working out in Lexington, Ky., at his alma mater Kentucky. But that doesn’t mean he’s not feeling the effects of the schedule.

“Big time. It’s amazing,” he said. “One day I feel good and the next game it’s the complete opposite. During an 82-game season, usually when you get up around 45, 50 games, you might have a span of about a week where your body shuts down and then you get that second gear. But this time around, it’s been wild the entire time.”

Lawrence Frank believes in what the numbers tell him, so he’ll withhold judgment until the NBA’s numbers crunchers tell him the story of games lost to injuries. But …

“I imagine there’s got to be some cumulative effect of the schedule and the grind,” he said. “I don’t have scientific proof, but the schedule is a grind for everyone. It’s truly survival of the fittest. That’s just the nature of it.”

The Pistons will carry a two-game winning streak into Friday’s game at Chicago, which has been playing without not only Hamilton but also Derrick Rose. Rose has missed 18 games, most recently the last eight games with a groin injury. But even without their starting backcourt, the Bulls won convincingly in Atlanta on Wednesday as the Pistons were beating Cleveland.

“I’m real proud of our group stepping up,” Frank said after a night in which Austin Daye and Will Bynum, two players who’ve been out of the rotation until the injuries to Gordon and Stuckey, made significant contributions. “The team we’re playing tomorrow is playing without the MVP and is 13-5 without him. That’s the NBA. You never want a guy to get hurt, you do everything to get him better and that’s why you have a full complement of talented players.”

The Pistons haven’t ruled out either Stuckey or Gordon for Friday night, though it seems nearly certain that they’ll have to go without them again. Hamilton is more likely than Rose to be available for Chicago. But stay tuned. In this crazy NBA season, pretty much everybody, as they say, is day to day.