Health Concerns in the NBA Central Division

By DeArbea Walker

A smooth path to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals was in the sights of the Cleveland Cavaliers, or so they thought. What has happened to the Central Division over the past week? The health of Derrick Rose was just the start to other injuries, both physical and mental, among players in the Central Division. Teams affected include the Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, and now the Cleveland Cavaliers. On the flip side of things, the Indiana Pacers are gearing up for an interesting rest of the season as Paul George began practicing this week with the team.

The retirement of starting Milwaukee Bucks center, Larry Sanders, as brought a larger discussion to the NBA and around professional sports. Are players receiving the proper treatment? The mental health and depression of Larry Sanders has shown the “person”, Larry Sanders, rather than the athlete everyone is accustomed to seeing. The dominant big man on the court is not how Larry Sanders identifies himself. “I love basketball, and if I get to a point where I feel I’m capable of playing basketball again, I will. I’ve had to make the difficult decision to follow my intuition, and allow myself the space and time to explore my true purpose in life.” (The Players Tribune) The real struggles beyond the money and the fame are something a typical fan or media personnel wouldn’t be able to see.

Attention is now turning to the Chicago Bulls regarding the physical side of treatment for NBA players, such as Derrick Rose, with his second right meniscus tear. With Rose experiencing this injury for the second consecutive year it brings, about the question of was he treated correctly the first time? After the initial tear, Rose underwent surgery to repair and reattach the meniscus making for a long and strenuous recovery. This decision made wasn’t necessarily the wisest because of the style in which Rose plays and because he is a professional athlete constantly putting strain on that knee. There was no other option other than surgery. If he didn’t have the first surgery, its possible he would have been forced to retire. Players such as Russell Westbrook and Dwayne Wade could attest to this fact because both have undergone multiple meniscus surgeries over the span of their careers. Rose’s injury is a common one in NBA, so maybe it’s the manner Rose has dealt with the injury that has drawn so much attention to the point guard. Wherever the blame lies, the return of Derrick Rose to the Bulls can’t come any sooner. Since Rose’s absence, the Bulls have gone 2-1, but lost their most recent game at home to the Los Angeles Clippers (ESPN).

In addition to the Rose injury, the Bulls are now facing another major blow to their offense. Jimmy Butler hyper-extended his elbow in the teams’ loss to the Clippers Sunday when he was separated on a screen while defending Clippers point guard Chris Paul (ESPN). Butler is expected to be out between three to six weeks (ESPN). Jimmy Butler has been the heart and soul of this Bulls’ team this season. As a premier defender in the NBA, he has caused other teams havoc on offense, and is able to score however and whenever he wants. This Bulls team cannot, and will not, be able to fill Butler’s contribution of 20 points, 3 assists and 6 rebounds a game on the offensive end. Along with the loss Sunday, the team found out Taj Gibson will miss time due to a left ankle sprain he suffered earlier in the season. The team at this point can’t catch a break, with 3 of their 9 rotation players are out. Treatments for Gibson and Rose have to be questioned because Gibson dealt with this injury earlier this season. Why is he suffering from the same injury on the same ankle during the same season?

The Bulls sit atop the Central Division of the NBA Eastern Conference with a half game lead on the Cleveland Cavaliers, leading me to the injury troubles that have faced the Cavs in the past week.

Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving suffered a left shoulder injury in the teams’ win Thursday against the Golden State Warriors. He was ruled out for the Indiana Pacers game as he continued to receive treatments for the shoulder. He was then ruled out against the Houston Rockets Sunday, in which the team lost in overtime, developing an interesting question surrounding this team. Do they have to be at full strength in order to be considered a true contender in the Eastern Conference? This question was answered in the Cav’s loss to the Rockets. The focus now for the Cavaliers is getting every player healthy, within the next month and a half, for what’s assumed to be a long playoff run.

The point is that mental and physical health is something that needs to be taken more seriously among NBA players and athletes everywhere. With Derrick Rose on his third knee surgery in three years, his level of caution is at an all time high. In the NBA, health is only taken seriously as the league gets closer to the playoffs. In Larry Sanders’ case, mental health has been brought to the forefront, which has drawn injury concerns outside of the normal connotation “health” and treatment.

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