Mileage was a theme of my NBA analysis at the end of last season, and no two players epitomized the concept better than Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. That’s not a good thing either.
The term simply refers to the amount of wear and tear a player’s body can take before they inexplicably start to break down. As optimistic the Spurs and Celtics are about the 2009-10 NBA season, there’s no way they can blindly head in to the fray this year without some worries around their two big men.
Let’s step back and think about this for a moment. Yao Ming is just 29-years-old and he should be in the prime of his career. Instead, the 7-foot-6 center is nursing a foot fracture that could potentially end his career. In contrast, you have the 34-year-old Allen Iverson who has escaped major injury despite his burn-and-bash playing style. Back injuries are starting to emerge, but that’s expected for the six-footer. It’s a very simplified example, but the lesson here is simple: the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Enter Kevin Garnett and his supposed “right knee sprain”. We haven’t heard any word of how KG’s knee is actually doing. The reports are vague at best, and the Celtics are masking his injury to the best of their ability. What we do know is that Garnett is making $16 million next year, Rasheed is making nearly $6 million next year and Big Baby was extended to the tune of $3 million, all in 2009. That’s a lot of money for one position. What reason would there to be to bring in an over-the-hill Rasheed Wallace if KG was healthy?
The point is that KG’s knee might not be the only problem. He is a ferocious player, perhaps the single most competitive person in the modern NBA outside of Kobe Bryant. His emotions throttle him in to overdrive night in and night out. At 33-years-old and 6-foot-11, is his fire burning out? Hardly. What is flaming out, however, is his body. I just don’t think that this guy can last more than twenty minutes a night without wearing down completely. Last year was his worst season since his rookie year in 1995-96. KG ended with just 15.8 points, 8.5 boards and 57 games under his belt before bowing out to the knee injury that has everyone chewing their finger nails in Boston’s inner circle.
Switch gears to another 6-foot-11 power-forward in Tim Duncan, virtually the complete opposite in styles to Garnett. Tim Duncan is the soft spoken leader of the Dallas Mavericks team in the playoffs. Duncan is also 33-years-old, and while he doesn’t play with the emotional ferocity of KG, he is definitely prone to the mileage bug, having played in 899 games.
Consider the mileage factor for a second before you bank me as a lunatic. KG has logged 39,668 minutes on the hardwood in his 14-year NBA career alone. Duncan has banked 33,173 minutes in his 12-year career.
Both are 6-foot-11, both are 33-years-old, both of them are about 250 pounds and both of them have terrifying knee injuries that emerged from no one single play. These two men are simply breaking down in the exact opposite way that Hugh Hefner’s body isn’t. If you already spent serious cash on the Celtics and Spurs to win the NBA Championship in 2010, are you sweating yet?