The Portland Trail Blazers face the Miami Heat Saturday ironically as the less banged-up team, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Chris Andersen all dealing with various injury concerns.
This series of minor injuries Miami faces, though, is nothing compared to what has happened around the league this season.
First it was Derrick Rose (again). Then Kobe Bryant (again). Brook Lopez followed suit. Russell Westbrook too. Rajon Rondo still hasn't returned.
And that's just the start.
Injuries to Al Horford, Omer Asik, Steve Nash, Tyson Chandler, Andre Iguodala plus the names mentioned above have affected teams looking to make playoff runs. Plus, two top ten draft picks (Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel and Portland's CJ McCollum) have yet to step on the court this season and two others (Phoenix's Alex Len and Washington's Otto Porter) have barely played.
Injuries are an all-too-common occurrence in the NBA. But the holiday season of 2013 was unusually unkind to the league when it came to superstars' ability to play on the floor.
The conversation about the difficulty for the NBA to deal with injuries to its top players is the customary one. After all, a league that's helped by the faces of players not concealed by a facemask or cap is a blessing when they're healthy, but a curse when they're not.
However, where you can find the biggest discord is with the fans of the teams themselves.
SB Nation's sites offer a strong gauge on how the fans feel about their teams and, in turn, how they react to injuries, which can often be crushing blows.
Interestingly (*knock on wood*), the Blazers have been fairly injury free this season. Outside of CJ McCollum -- who has yet to play in an NBA game this season -- Portland is healthy. Indeed, all five Blazers starters have played every single game so far this season.
When you read what these fanbases dealing with injuries have to say, though, the flashbacks come swiftly: It's a narrative and conversation Blazers fans know all too well.
The biggest injury story of the year has to be Rose, an ex-MVP that will sit out yet another season after a knee injury sidelined him just a few days before Thanksgiving -- the start of this holiday barrage. Over a month later, injuries continue to stay at the forefront of the conversation on Blog a Bull. In fact, two of the site's last five pieces (as of this writing) are about injuries, from Rose to Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. Like the conversation heard in the last few seasons here at Blazer's Edge, @BullsBlogger writes that "in some ways it [the injury epidemic] seems quite explainable as an entirely broken system the Bulls have failed to address."
Down in Los Angeles, Bryant, the former face-of-the-NBA, is also facing injury issues. The Great Mambino wrote about them in "The nightmare season, all over again." This piece from Silver Screen and Roll makes the comparison between the Lakers' horrendous 2012-13 season to this one, both between the injuries and the issues between coach and players. As Mambino says, "It's a cyclical torrent of emotions over and over, and then once again. And thus, the nightmare season continues. Again."
The more recent superstar injuries have been equally as difficult to deal with. Ben described the importance of Russell Westbrook's knee injury as it pertains to the Blazers this week, as the Oklahoma City guard will not be available again until after the All-Star Break.
Welcome to Loud City's Sarah Rogers characterization of Westbrook's injury as "Not. Again." seemed quite appropriate and relatable for fans of Northwest sports. Zebulun Benbrook later broke down the Thunder's offense without Westbrook in advance of their 89-point performance against Charlotte, their lowest point total in a victory since January 2012. Things are bad enough right now in OKC that there's a budding "It might be time to start Derek Fisher at point guard" conversation.
Aside from players missing time from their teams, one of the biggest conversation points around the league is about how to replace these All-Star level players. Back east, Brooklyn's season went from bad to worse when Lopez (foot) went down for the season just a few days before Christmas. What the Lopez injury may provide is an opportunity for the youth in Brooklyn to develop, according to Reed Wallach of Netsdaily. "In the long term," Wallach writes, "the Nets are strapped for assets, so they must develop and play with what they have now. The injury to Lopez will expedite the process."
This conversation extends to other teams, too. In Atlanta, veteran Elton Brand will be a starter in the wake of Al Horford's injury, at least in the immediate future. Jordan Crawford (and in turn, Brad Stevens) has done his best in filling in for the injured Rajon Rondo. The Knicks had a plethora of guys try to fill the void left by Tyson Chandler at the beginning of the year, though they were mostly unsuccessful in doing so. Even the Golden State Warriors, arguably the deepest team to lose one of their top performers in Iguodala, were hovering around .500 until their recent four-game winning streak.
Each of these experiences -- from complete disbelief and questioning the makeup of the team, to scrambling to find the next available piece to fill in for an injured star -- are ones we all can relate to as Blazers fans. It's often as if the Sports Gods are testing our true fandom.
The league may be a big loser in all of this, plus the teams who now have to come up with Plan B for 2014. But include the head-scratching, looking-to-the-sky-in-disbelief fans in the losing category too.
The theme of injuries rolls once again into Portland tonight, though instead of being for the home team, it's the visitors that are bringing the injury bug to town.
The team and fans alike hope it isn't still contagious.