Hoosiers In The NBA: The Injury Bug Bites

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course this is completely optional but it is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just look for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Injuries are a part of sports. Sometimes injuries can derail someone’s career or interrupt their great play while other times injuries are blessings in disguise as it lets someone else show off their potential. All four Hoosiers in the NBA were affected by injuries this week, whether they were injured or someone else who affects their play was injured. Let’s go over how each Hoosier did this week and break down the ramifications of these injuries:

Eric Gordon: Guard, New Orleans Pelicans:

Vs Dallas (W 120-105): 17 points (5-19 FG)(3-3 FT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, steal, block, personal foul, 34 minutes.

@ Atlanta (L 106-98): 26 points (10-20 FG)(2-3 FT), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, 4 personal fouls, 32 minutes.

@ Toronto (L 100-81): 30 points (11-22 FG)(4-5 FT), 3 rebounds, assist, steal, 3 turnovers, 2 personal fouls, 36 minutes.

@ New York (L 95-87): 11 points (5-11 FG), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 personal fouls, 39 minutes.

First off let’s take a moment to celebrate the fact that I’m writing a column about injuries and it has nothing to do with Eric Gordon being injured. In fact it almost feels like he is the only healthy player on the New Orleans Pelicans, with Jrue Holiday playing limited minutes, Tyreke Evans not playing at all, and Anthony Davis recently having to sit out two games with a hip injury.

However, it’s Davis’ injury that affects Gordon the most. Without Davis, the Pelicans’ scoring options looked very bare outside of Gordon, which meant Gordon had to take more offensive responsibility this past week. What we saw was vintage-Gordon as he dropped 26 points against the Atlanta Hawks and a season-high 30 points against the Toronto Raptors. Not only was Gordon scoring a lot but also very efficiently, hitting 50% (10 of 20 vs Atlanta and 11 of 22 vs Toronto) of his shots in both games. Even though we won’t see vintage-Gordon anymore with Davis now healthy again (he had only 11 points vs New York), it was great to see that Gordon can still be a lead-scorer and that he’s still healthy.

Victor Oladipo: Guard, Orlando Magic:

@ Indiana (L 97-84): 15 points (7-18 FG), 7 rebounds, 2 assists, steal, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 38 minutes.

Vs Los Angeles Lakers (W 101-99): 3 points (1-2 FG), 2 rebounds, assist, personal foul, 7 minutes.

We hear about concussions all the time in football, but they are just as devastating in basketball. While you don’t get hit in the head as often in basketball, you also don’t have a helmet and you play on a really hard court. Add the fact that the NBA has a very strict concussion protocol (you must be symptom-free while resting, then you are subjected to increasingly harder physical tasks and then finally you must get the okay from the director of the NBA’s concussion program) and it’s unknown when we will see Victor Oladipo back on the court. It could be the Orlando Magic’s next game or it could be two weeks from now. I’m not exaggerating about the two weeks either, as Oladipo’s teammate Nikola Vucevic was out for three weeks during last season after he sustained a concussion.

It’s never a great time to suffer an injury as serious as a concussion, but this could really hamper Oladipo’s aggressiveness on defense when he does return. It seems silly to think Oladipo won’t play aggressively, but players who sustain concussion are a lot more aware of situations where concussions occur as well as the risks on sustaining multiple concussions. Head Coach Scott Skiles has lauded Oladipo for his defensive intensity and for good reason as Oladipo is playing the best he has ever played on that side of the ball so it would be a shame to see him lose that progress.  I think Oladipo will eventually regain that aggressiveness; I just hope it doesn’t take him awhile to regain it.

Noah Vonleh: Forward, Portland Trail Blazers:

@ Denver (L 108-104): 0 points (0-3 FG), 2 rebounds, personal foul, 13 minutes.

Vs San Antonio (L 113-101): 2 points (1-2 FG), 2 rebounds, personal foul, 7 minutes.

@ Memphis (L 101-100): 0 points, 2 personal fouls, 7 minutes.

@ Charlotte (L 106-94): 9 points (3-6 FG)(3-4 FT), 6 rebounds, assist, 2 turnovers, 3 personal fouls, 24 minutes.

When Meyers Leonard dislocated his shoulder, which will keep him out a month, the question was whether Ed Davis or Noah Vonleh would take his starting spot. At first, the answer was neither as Chris Kaman started against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, Noah Vonleh received the start (his first of his career) against his former team the Charlotte Hornets.

Unfortunately that was more likely Head Coach Terry Stotts letting Vonleh get a chance to prove himself against the team that drafted him than an endorsement for Vonleh to be the starter going forward. When it came to crunch time in the Hornets game, it was Davis who played power forward. Regardless of if he is starting or not, Vonleh still benefits from Leonard’s absence, especially when considering that Vonleh’s minutes were dwindling over the last couple of games. As long as Vonleh plays well the Trail Blazers will find ways to put him on the court.

Cody Zeller: Forward, Charlotte Hornets:

@ Minnesota (W 104-95): 14 points (5-8 FG)(4-6 FT), 6 rebounds, assist, 2 steals, turnover, 4 personal fouls, 24 minutes.

Vs New York (W 95-93): 12 points (2-6 FG)(8-15 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, block, personal foul, 25 minutes.

Vs Portland (W 106-94): 1 point (0-4 FG)(1-2 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, turnover, personal foul, 21 minutes.

It was quite the week for Cody Zeller as he recorded back-to-back double digit scoring games for the first time this season, set a career high for free throw attempts (Zeller alone attempted more than twice as many free throw as the opposing Knicks 15-7), and hit a game-winning layup on an inbound play. However, Zeller also missed the Charlotte Hornets’ game against the Chicago Bulls due to a sprained ankle. Zeller returned for the Hornets’ next game against Portland but he only mustered one point. He was still great defensively, blocking a season-high two shots.

Now there is no need to worry about Zeller losing momentum from his injury; the worry comes from the idea that if Zeller was to miss an extensive amount of time he could lose his spot in the rotation to either Frank Kaminsky or Tyler Hansbrough. Zeller was able to beat out both of them before the season, but as I stated injuries give other players a chance to show their potential and that includes second chances. Zeller’s ankle should be fine, so let’s hope he doesn’t sustain anymore injuries.

Season averages:

Eric Gordon: 19.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.8apg, 0.90spg, 0.20bpg, 1.7tpg, 2.8fpg, 42.0% FG, 37.8% 3FG, 82.8% FT, 35.7mpg.

Victor Oladipo: 14.7ppg, 6.9rpg, 3.9apg, 1.56spg, 0.78bpg, 1.7tpg, 1.9fpg, 38.2% FG, 27.9% 3FG, 88.9% FT, 35.1mpg.

Noah Vonleh: 2.5ppg, 2.6rpg, 0.4apg, 0.27bpg, 0.8tpg, 1.7fpg, 32.3% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 70.0% FT, 13.2mpg.

Cody Zeller: 7.1ppg, 5.3rpg, 1.0apg, 1.00spg, 0.56bpg, 0.7tpg, 1.8fpg, 41.7% FG, 0.0% 3FG, 63.2% FT, 22.1mpg.

Hoosiers In The NBA: How Noah Vonleh Fits In Portland

NOTE: Hello everyone and welcome to a new edition of Hoosiers In The NBA on its new site! Please try to spread the word by liking it on Facebook or retweeting this on Twitter if you enjoyed it. Of course doing this is completely optional but is greatly appreciated. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this latest edition and for more coverage follow me on twitter at @QTipsForSports or just for the hashtag #HoosiersInTheNBA:

Welcome to part 2 of the inaugural edition of Hoosiers In The NBA! If you missed part 1, which detailed how the 2015 NBA Draft affected teams that currently have former Hoosiers on the roster, you can click here to read about it. Unlike prior editions this one will be structured a little bit differently than usual as we are only focusing on one Hoosier, Noah Vonleh. These will take a more traditional column approach and will be announced ahead of time usually on my regular Monday column. Without further ado, let’s dive into Vonleh’s new situation and try gauge how it will work out:

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written Wednesday night so a couple of things have changed since then, such as some players having signed with other teams.)

Things in Portland are in flux. After two seasons of being legit title contenders in the brutal western conference, the Trail Blazers might be thinking that their window has closed at least for their current group of players. The trade that brought Vonleh to Portland, and sent Nicolas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets, was the first domino. Now with LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, and Arron Afflalo all free agents and all garnering interest from other teams, there is a real possibility that next season’s Blazers will be radically different from the team of the past two seasons.

Now could some or maybe all of them return to Rip City? Probably unlikely considering the moves the Blazers have or are on the verge of making. In addition to trading for Vonleh, the Blazers have also acquired Gerald Henderson (part of the same trade as Vonleh), Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton via trade. They’ve also already signed small forward Al-Farouq Aminu to a four-year $30 million contract. Add in the fact that Portland is close to giving their young and promising point guard Damian Lillard the max contract and it’s quite easy to see that the Blazers are looking to the future.

All of this sounds really promising for Vonleh, who is looking for a chance to bounce back after a lost rookie season. Vonleh spent most of last year sitting at the end of the bench, only getting to see the court if the game was a blowout. Hornets Coach Steve Clifford called Vonleh “too raw” to be on the court. Yet his most-developed skills (rebounding and three-point shooting) were so valuable that the Hornets had to have him on the roster when their big men started getting injured one after another. I know at times last season it sounded like I was criticizing the Hornets for their usage of Vonleh but the reality is they were forced due to unfortunate circumstances. If Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller never got injured, Vonleh would have played 30 minutes a night in the NBA D-League getting valuable playing time and developing his in-game skills. Sometimes you’re drafted into the wrong situation and what you need is a do-over. Portland is Vonleh’s do-over.

What’s most exciting about Vonleh being a Blazer is him partnering up with Lillard in the pick-and-roll game. Lillard is an awesome pick-and-roll ball-handler, being able to drive and shoot threes at a high level. This versatility matches Vonleh’s, who has a decent post game and a developing jump shot. Lillard’s also able to accurately find the screener while drawing in two defenders, making Vonleh’s three-point attempts become uncontested or his layup attempts easy buckets. Vonleh could also form a good inside-out combo with Plumlee down on the block. One switch on the baseline and Vonleh has a slow-footed center trying to close out on three-point attempt or Plumlee can bully a smaller defender to the basket.

However, while the path to the starting power forward position looks clear now, there are many obstacles ahead and by the time the season starts we may see Vonleh as the backup. If there is one free agent from the four I listed that Portland really wants to return, it’s Aldridge. Not only do they want Aldridge back, they want to pair him with free agent Greg Monroe. Monroe visited the Blazers Wednesday and by all accounts the meeting went well. General Manager Neil Olshey’s plan seems to be a front court of Monroe and Aldridge with Plumlee and Vonleh as their respective backups. Honestly, if Vonleh has to play backup this season it might be for the best. Vonleh will be just 20 years-old by the start of the season, and getting to learn behind Aldridge and/or Monroe could be called a best-case scenario.

The problem is the potential logjam in the front court if this happens, particularly Meyers Leonard. Leonard, who will be entering his fourth year removed from Illinois, is also a former lottery pick who has slowly developed his game and has become a serviceable backup big man. Fairly similar to the situation in Charlotte when Clifford had to decide between Vonleh and Zeller, Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts will potentially have to decide between Vonleh’s upside and Lenoard’s stableness.

Overall I think being traded to Portland was really good for Vonleh. Sure there may be potential obstacles but Vonleh will love playing under Stotts, who loves to have his players constantly moving around. Add in the fact that he and Lillard make an excellent pick-and-roll combo and the sky is the limit for Vonleh as he is now in a situation that can showcase his true talent.