J.P. Prewitt could probably make a killing on his homemade hyperbaric chambers if he was mass-producing them, and not a fictional character, today. After this weekend in the NBA, there sure seems to be a market for keeping players' hands safe from harm.
After news broke (sorry) that Anthony Davis and J.J. Redick will be sidelined with broken bones in their hands, the Brooklyn Nets joined the party on Monday, announcing that Paul Pierce "has been diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the third metacarpal of the right hand." The third metacarpal runs from the knuckle to the wrist below the middle finger.
The injury is expected to keep the 36-year-old forward sidelined for two to four weeks. That timetable would put Pierce out for the Nets' next seven to 14 games, possibly extending his shelving until New Year's Eve. Fourteen games also works out to be the average for the last 16 players who suffered metacarpal fractures that didn't require surgery, according to Jeff Stotts of Rotowire.
The Nets say the injury occurred during the first half of the team's Nov. 29 game against the Houston Rockets, but it's unclear exactly when; a review of the tape from Pierce's minutes in that game didn't turn up any plays that resulted in him obviously favoring his right hand. It had to have occurred before the 5:34 mark of the second quarter, though. That's when Pierce and Mirza Teletovic checked out for Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson with the Nets trailing by 16, and that's the last action Pierce saw in Brooklyn's blowout 114-95 loss to Houston. He finished with just two points on 1 for 6 shooting, four assists, two rebounds and two steals in 15 minutes in the loss, Brooklyn's 12th of the year; whether his second-half sitdown was related to his injury or shooting struggles remains unclear. He left the locker room without speaking to media following the loss to Houston, and he also sat out Saturday's 97-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Brooklyn's fifth of the season.
On one hand (sorry again), the Nets won't miss much in missing the version of Pierce they've gotten thus far this season. The longtime Boston Celtics star is playing perhaps the worst basketball of his 16-year NBA career, setting career lows in per-minute scoring (15.4 points per 36 minutes, down nearly five points from last season) and shooting percentage (just 36.8 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent from 3-point range) while turning the ball over more frequently than ever and looking a step slow defensively. Generally speaking, losing guys who can't make shots, who aren't playing game-changing roles on defense and in whose minutes your team gets outscored by 5.1 points per 100 possessions isn't the worst thing in the world.
On the other, though, the Nets will have to replace those substandard minutes, and they don't have particularly attractive options with which to do so. In a perfect world, head coach Jason Kidd would be able to turn to trusted and versatile combo forward Andrei Kirilenko to slot into the starting five and pick up Pierce's slack; in the world the Nets presently inhabit, the worst back spasms of Kirilenko's career have limited him to just 53 minutes of playing time over four games this season, and the Russian wing hasn't played since Nov. 5.
Instead, Kidd will likely have to give more minutes to reserve swingman Alan Anderson, who has shot the ball a bit better than Pierce this season but isn't nearly the playmaker Pierce is (or, rather, could be), who doesn't figure to offer much help in stopping the bleeding for the Nets' 28th-ranked defense and in whose minutes the Nets have been outscored by more than 10 points-per-100. Mirza Teletovic also figures to see a boost in burn with Pierce sidelined, and while he's shown some signs of life over the last three games — 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on 46.4 percent shooting and a 50 percent mark from 3-point range for the former Euroleague scoring champ — he, too, can be a defensive liability, and Kidd's got enough of those already.
Plus, getting Pierce on track figured to be an important part of turning things around for a Nets team already reeling from a bevy of injuries — to Kirilenko, to starting point guard Deron Williams, who could miss both Brooklyn games this week with his balky ankle, and to reserve guard Jason Terry, who's been sidelined by a bruised left knee. All of those players have played far below their billing this season, as has falling-off-a-cliff power forward Kevin Garnett; they all must begin pulling their own weight if the Nets are to have any prayer of resembling the contender many envisioned them to be this offseason. But considering Pierce's primary contributions were expected to come as a reliable spot-up shooter, secondary playmaker and late-game weapon, compounding his early struggles by breaking his shooting hand and having him sit in a suit for a month doesn't figure to make the chore of getting him back to his green-garbed heyday any easier.
The Nets' starters need repetitions to develop the rhythm necessary to clean up the horrendous execution that's marked their first 15 games, and it's awful difficult to see that rhythm coming together if the starters can't stay on the floor for long enough to get the reps needed to manufacture it. Given that, it's hard to see the Nets' fortunes growing considerably brighter until the gang's all here, and now that might not happen until New Year's. At this point, just about the only bright side for fans of the woefully disappointing Nets is that they're not fans of the even more woefully disappointing New York Knicks. It's cold comfort, I know, but cold comfort's better than no comfort, I suppose.
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