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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Operation Shutdown

We've hit the point in the season when the status of several key players will be governed by the law of diminishing returns. Why force a player to hobble through 20 more games, when he can get a jump-start on surgery or treatment or rehab and increase the chances he'll be healthy for the start of the 2008-09 campaign?

The biggest name to initiate Operation Shutdown so far is Dwyane Wade. (We don't include Yao Ming in this count – it's not like Yao had a choice about sitting out the rest of the season.) We've been expecting this for several weeks - the Heat aren't winning games with him, he hasn't been 100 percent healthy all season - letting him heal seems like the most logical course of action.

Of course, like Yao, Wade is reportedly targeting the Olympics, and not the start of next season, for his return to the court. Expect that to be the subject of much controversy in the offseason, particularly if either superstar experiences any sort of setback in rehab.

The next player who might appear on this list is the Knicks' Eddy Curry. With Zach Randolph on the shelf, Curry was actually very productive for three straight games, scoring 19, 20 and 23 points. Apparently the exertion was too much for him; the New York Post reports that he has torn cartilage in his knee and may need surgery.

Other candidates: Milwaukee forward Yi Jianlian, who continues to suffer from an as-yet undetermined wrist injury, Washington swingman DeShawn Stevenson, who reportedly needs a cane to walk after games due to the pain in his knee, and Caron Butler, whose hip injury is still weeks away from healing.

As more teams are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, look for this list to grow.

Column continues on


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