Houston's beatdown of the Lakers -- we have to find a different name for them this year, like Bungles or 'Aints of the past -- means that the season has finally, truly begun. At this point, another season preview article is the basketball blogging equivalent of leaving your Christmas tree up after New Year's (in that it is frowned upon, but probably everyone does it at some point). And yet this is the most pragmatic piece regarding this season you will have read to this point.
How do I know this? Because all season previews presume overall good health. They are predictions of the most complete versions of each team, and that is a completely ridiculous presumption for every team except the Blazers. In reality, at least one - and probably more than one - presumed playoff team will have their hopes damaged or dashed by an injury to a key piece or two. For some teams, it's already happened. You almost had it this year, Celtics. On some level, I understand why prognosticators choose the rosy outlook. No one can hope to predict who will get injured over the course of the year.
But there is a third way. What if we presuppose that everybody will get hurt at some point? What would that look like?
Since I haven't been able to find any analysis on future injuries on Basketball-Reference or any other site, I did the next best thing: I fed our beloved mascot Clutch a bunch of LSD and asked him. First, he put on this number from 2009:
Then we got down to business. What follows is not a transcript of our conversation, just the bare bones of his predictions. We will not mention his vision of apocalypse, nor his prolonged digression into the protein structure of various Zombie viruses. Here's how every single Rockets player will get injured this year.
Tarik Black, F/C: Calf strain, 3-4 weeks, February.
By this time Black will have become a crucial component of the Rockets' rotation, and his injury will prompt hand-wringing and the return of Jeff Adrien.
Clint Capela, F: "Thigh discomfort," 2 months, November.
This will be of dubious validity, leading to open questions about Kevin McHale's handling of the rookie and his absence from the RGV Vipers.
Nick Johnson, G: Dislocated elbow, 6-8 weeks, March.
Nick will suffer a grisly fall following a fast break dunk during which his defender trails him under the hoop and catches his leg. Will keep him out until the end of the regular season, and will be the most-looped Vine in the month of March on Dream Shake.
Francisco Garcia, G/F: Wrist tendinitis, 2 weeks, February
Cisco, pushed to the end of the bench, becomes a dedicated towel-waver, but a long season of cheerleading will take its toll eventually. His injury will be the least-Googled injury in NBA history.
Joey Dorsey, F/C: Ankle/shin laceration, 1 week, November
Gorilla Dunks' only vulnerability is the same danger facing all gorillas in the wild: traps and snares. Thankfully, he has the best medical care a primate in his situation could ask for. If properly dressed, his injury will avoid infection and he should be back on the court quickly. According to a Google search, October is the heaviest month in terms of poaching reports, so that explains his tender ankle early in preseason. However, he's not out of the woods yet.
Isaiah Canaan, G: Turf toe, 3 weeks (reoccurring), January
This one is rough. After a couple of months filling the backup point guard role capably, Cannon picks up a nagging toe injury which will sap his effectiveness over the rest of the season.
Jason Terry, G: Left knee surgery, done, December
A recurrence of the knee problem that required surgery last offseason will end his season in his December, preceding his retirement at season's end and thrusting Troy Daniels further into the spotlight and foregrounding the ongoing #TD3 vs. #TreyDaniels Twitter hashtag war.
(Note: At this point, Clutch became despondent and refused to continue with the preview. We were able to convince him to resume only after agreeing to transcribe and publish his extended monologue on how water feels when he dips his paw in it. Look out for that next offseason.)
Donatas Motiejunas, F: Concussion, 2 weeks, March 15
D-Mo largely makes it through the season unscathed, but a bizarre incident in which Blake Griffin, in the midst of his late-season, hard-fouling revenge binge, flagrantly fouls Motiejunas under the basket, and D-Mo responds by headbutting Blake and every other Clipper who comes near him until he falls unconscious. His first public statement following the incident makes mention of a fugue state.
Troy Daniels, G: Hand burn, 3 weeks, April
In the Rockets' push for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, Daniels - having publicly proclaimed his support for the #TreyDaniels hashtag, ending weeks of bloodshed - goes 10-for-10 in the first half of a game before his right hand catches fire. Though a quick-thinking Pat Beverley inserts the flaming hand into his mouth to douse it, the damage is done. Daniels returns in Round 2 as a deadeye lefty shooter.
Kostas Papanikolaou, F: Ego bruise, 2 days, January 15
Big Papa spends the first half of the season taking the league by storm, until Kevin Durant, on a post-injury rampage, targets the Rockets' fan favorite, holding him to 0-10 shooting (he will not stop shooting, not for anybody) and scoring 40 points in the 9 game-time minutes during which Kostas guards him. He will bench himself to get some Leon Time, then return as if nothing happened.
Terrence Jones, F: Torn meniscus, season, January
Jones makes incremental improvements to his game over the first half of the season, but sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. His injury forces Big Papa into the starting lineup (after the Durant torching) as a stretch 4, jump-starting his ROY candidacy.
Pat Beverley, G: Illness, 4 weeks, December
After Beverley collapses from dehydration in an early December game, it is revealed he had been refusing water all day with increasing agitation. His hydrophobia leads to a diagnosis of late-stage furious rabies, and his treatment and miraculous recovery (right around Christmas time, leading to several sappy human interest stories, all of which leave Rockets fans misty-eyed) become a top NBA story of the month. When he returns, his aggressiveness does not, and though he improves his offensive decision-making, his transformation confirms what many NBA fans had suspected all along.
Trevor Ariza, G/F: High ankle sprain, 3 weeks, April
Ariza's dream return season for the Rockets comes crashing down with his serious injury in the late stages of the Rockets' first round defeat of the Grizzlies in the playoffs. Houston's lack of depth makes the following sweep at the hands of the Warriors a formality.
James Harden, G: Various, intermittent
James Harden's foul-drawing artistry reaches new heights this season, as he is removed from the lineup due to perceived injuries in every single game of the season. He only misses one start, and is fined a total of $200,000 over the course of the season for flopping. He still garners second-team All-NBA honors.
Dwight Howard, C: Sprained shoulder, 2 weeks, March
Dwight's MVP candidacy is derailed after a hard foul in the mold of Hack-A-Dwight sidelines him. No less than five thinkpieces are written debating the morality/legality of said strategy, once again concluded with fans begging Dwight to just get better at free throws so that none of this would happen again.