Doc Rivers started to list them off, NBA stars sidelined by injury, inevitably missing names along the way.
“I laugh because in this generation, they have all this stuff — strength coaches, you know,” the L.A. Clippers coach joked late last month before a game against the Utah Jazz. “Maybe Dominique [Wilkins] was right. Chips and hot dogs before every game, and he never was injured.”
Rivers’ best player was writhing on the court after a collision with Dallas’ Monta Ellis a few days later. Six-time All-Star Chris Paul is expected to miss up to six weeks with his separated right shoulder.
It was just the latest injury to a high-profile NBA player this season.
Atlanta’s Al Horford is out for the season with a torn pectoral. Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez is done, too, after fracturing his right foot Dec. 20.
Marc Gasol, Steve Nash and Tiago Splitter all are sidelined.
Derrick Rose’s comeback from a torn ACL was gut-wrenchingly put on pause after he suffered a season-ending injury to his other knee.
“It’s really unfortunate this year,” Jazz forward Marvin Williams said Monday. “It’s not like people are getting hurt. They’re getting injured. As a fellow athlete ... you never want to see anyone get injured. Obviously you’re going to get hurt throughout the course of a season. But when things like that happen, you just wish them the best.”
Utah’s next opponent has not been exempt from injury. The Oklahoma City Thunder were without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook because of offseason knee surgery when they came to Salt Lake City on opening night.
Westbrook was given the night off against Utah to rest when the Jazz visited Oklahoma in November. It wasn’t enough. Swelling in Westbrook’s knee required another surgery in late December.
“We know that Russell’s work ethic and commitment will help him return to the level of play that we have all come to appreciate,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said following Westbrook’s surgery Dec. 27.
Even so, Westbrook isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.
The Jazz haven’t been exempt, either. Rookie point guard Trey Burke missed most of the preseason and the first 12 games of the regular season after breaking his right index finger. Utah went 1-11 over that stretch.
In total, Jazz players have missed 61 games to injury and illness this season. Last season, 11 Utah players missed a combined 102 games due to injury. The Jazz saw players miss a franchise-high 254 games in 2003-04.
“I think it’s the same. I think it’s just that there’s so much news coverage now,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said last week when asked about the seemingly higher number of injuries league-wide. Then, searching for an explanation, he added, “Maybe players are so athletic and so strong and violent the way they stop and start, there [are] more injuries.”
The Lakers have been hit hard by injuries this year — none of higher profile than Kobe Bryant, who came back from a ruptured Achilles tendon only to fracture his kneecap.
“It’s just devastating to teams when they do go down,” D’Antoni said.
“Hopefully by the end of the year everybody’s healthy and can play,” Rivers said. “That would be great for the league.”
Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
P At EnergySolutions Arena
Tipoff • Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV • ROOT Sports
Radio • 1280 AM, 960 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 11-25; Thunder 27-7
About the Jazz • Coming off a 110-99 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles. ... Play seven of their remaining 10 games this month at home. ... Big man Derrick Favors’ 11 double-doubles this season are two more than he had last season.
About the Thunder • First place in the Northwest Division. ... Forward Kevin Durant has averaged better than 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the last six games without Russell Westbrook. ... Average 107.1 points per 100 possessions while allowing just 97.8 points; the 9.3 net rating is best in the NBA.