The Great Equalizer

By Alex H.
Another victim of the current outbreak of injuries in sports, Kentucky's Nerlens Noel will be out for the remainder of the season.

When it comes to any sport, there’s one thing that players, coaches, fans and bettors alike dread: injury.

Call it an indictment of the stress and strain today’s modern athletes are expected to put their bodies through. Call it misfortune. Call it karma coming back to haunt you. Anyway you spin it, injuries are the great equalizer. Injury can turn a championship contender into a chump in the time it takes to tear a ligament or pull a rotator cuff.

You need only look at the aftermath of the whole RGIII injury saga to see the devastating impact injury can have on a player and team. Alternatively, staying in the capital, recall the Stephen Strasburg lockdown scenario that played out during last year’s pennant race. How about Peyton Manning’s neck injury that turned the Colts from perennial contender into two-win doormats?

Basically, injuries stink! Which is why this week’s headlines have pretty much stunk the joint out.

Nerlens Noel Out for the Remainder

On Tuesday night, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel innocuously came down from swatting yet another shot away. His collision with the support station behind the basket caused him to hit the deck screaming. It didn’t look good then. It looks even worse now.

An MRI scan revealed on Wednesday that the freshman has torn an ACL in his left knee. Recovery time for such an injury is anywhere from six months to a year. That means Noel will miss the rest of Kentucky’s SEC campaign as well as the NCAA tournament (if the Wildcats do in fact make it to the tourney).

It also means that it’s unlikely Noel will be picked No. 1 in this summer’s NBA Draft, as many pundits suggested. Actually, the chances are Noel will not go at all this year, and there’ll be a lot of GM hesitation when he does finally get drafted.

For now, Kentucky – 40/1 to win the NCAA tournament before the extent of Noel’s injury became clear – looks like an outside shot to win come March.

Derrick Rose ‘Far Away’ from Return

Fans of the Chicago Bulls and the NBA as a whole are no strangers to torn ACLs. Three-time All-Star point guard and 2011 MVP, Derrick Rose, remains inactive due to the injury he sustained in Game 1 of last season’s playoff first round. Those expecting a return soon had their hopes doused earlier this week.

In an interview with USA Today Sports, Rose described his return as ‘far away’, stressing that he would only return when he was ‘110 percent’. Many had been expecting the fifth year guard out of Memphis to return shortly after this weekend’s All-Star Game in Houston.

Of course, Rose’s estimation of ‘far away’ was suffixed by the nugget that he didn’t know exactly when that was. Weeks? Months? Next season? For now, it remains a waiting game.

With the Bulls in the thick of playoff contention, and a top four playoff spot at that, Rose’s injury is looking less debilitating. Of course, that will change when a seven-game series with Miami looms.

Current odds of Chicago winning the 2013 NBA championship stand at 16/1, sixth in the league.

Rondo Goes Under the Knife, Barbosa Tears ACL

Tuesday saw Boston’s Rajon Rondo undergo surgery for a torn ACL suffered in a game against Atlanta on Jan. 25.

The surgery was completed by renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, who’s most recent patients have included then St. Louis Cardinal, Albert Pujols (elbow), WWE superstar C.M. Punk (meniscus), and this year’s NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson (ACL, MCL).

All parties involved hope for a speedy recovery but Rondo is done for the season, as is his Celtics teammate, Leandro Barbosa.

This past Monday, Barbosa tore his left ACL. The veteran guard will be out for the season, as will rookie Jared Sullinger, who underwent surgery on his lumbar disk on Jan. 31.

The Celtics inexplicably won seven straight games after Rondo went out of the lineup, but a 94-91 loss in Charlotte on Monday suggests that this extensive injury list may just have caught up with the side.

Still, the Celtics are currently considered 20/1 to win this year’s NBA title. Expect those odds to drop off sooner rather than later.

Injured Howard to Play in ASG?

One player not out for the season is Dwight Howard, although Laker fans (and former Laker, Rick Fox) might tell you that his attitude has been AWOL all season.

Earlier this week, Howard expressed his intention to play in this Sunday’s All-Star Game in Houston, despite currently playing through pain from a torn labrum in the right shoulder. You can bet the Laker brass almost blew a gasket.

Fans voted Howard in as a starter (or he wouldn’t have been on the team) so Howard is almost obligated to play, but what are odds that the big man will go down injured as a result of the exhibition game? Ordinarily we’d say slim, but this season has thrown all too many injuries out there already.

As an aside, what are the odds Howard is injured on Mar. 12? Why this date in particular? That’s the day the Lakers are due in Orlando. Just saying…

Injury Least of A-Rod’s Concerns?

For one man at least, injuries are the least of his worries.

New York Yankees third-baseman, Alex Rodriguez, should only be worrying about recovering from last month’s hip surgery, but with more PED accusations swirling around the three-time MVP, it’s hard to focus on just rehabilitation.

Surgery has shelved Rodriguez until after July’s All-Star game – at Citi Field in New York – at the earliest, but talk is that he could be done for the entire year. The Yankees have plugged the gap by acquiring the services of former enemy, Kevin Youkilis, who spent last year with the White Sox after eight years in Boston.

Wednesday also saw reports that Yankees catcher, Francisco Cervelli – another player that knows all about injuries – was also linked to Biogenesis, the anti-aging clinic currently under investigation for PED supply. This is exactly the sort of drama the Yankees had hoped to avoid, and exactly the sort of drama that has sent Brian Cashman and Co. into preventative mode, which has included trying to get an early deal signed with second-baseman, Robinson Cano.

As it stands, the Yankees are 14/1 to win the 2013 World Series. But, as we’re all too well aware, all it takes is an injury here or an injury there and all bets are off. Or rather, all bets are flung up in the air the sports betting world becomes a crapshoot.