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Injuries Send Several NBA Teams Limping Out of the Starting Gate

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Barely two weeks into the new season, several NBA teams are wondering if injuries have already knocked them out of title contention.

Several key players have been injured, which could have a major effect on the league’s balance of power.

Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta all suffered double blows.

Roy Tarpley, off to a great start for the Dallas Mavericks by averaging more than 20 points and 11 rebounds per game, will miss the entire season because of a torn ligament in his knee.

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Ditto Philadelphia 76ers point guard Johnny Dawkins, another budding star.

Also sidelined with less serious knee injuries were Fat Lever of the Mavericks and Philadelphia’s Rickey Green, who is Dawkins’ replacement at point guard.

Green is back, but the 76ers’ other starting guard, Hersey Hawkins, struggled when Dawkins left the lineup.

“When you play with a guy for a full season, you learn about each other,” Hawkins said. “We automatically know where we’re going to be on the court. We had a certain chemistry. Now I have to find that chemistry with someone else, and quickly.”

Maybe he has. Green, at 36 one of the oldest guards in the NBA, returned to the floor Monday night and Hawkins celebrated with 31 points as the 76ers beat Charlotte, 109-101. Still, 76ers Coach Jim Lynam said it has yet to be decided if a trade will be made to find another point guard.

“Having your point guard injured is a problem,” Lynam said. “He’s the guy who sets up the offense and finds the open man. However, it’s overstating the case to suggest that it’s a devastating setback. The other guys have to keep up their production and adjust.”

Lever, expected to miss up to six weeks, was the key man in Dallas’ off-season trading spree, while the Mavericks were hoping Tarpley could come back from drug rehabilitation.

“If we don’t get people stepping in and helping, these two injuries could be real killers,” Dallas Coach Richie Adubato said.

The Mavericks, expected to contend in the Western Conference, last week became the first team to lose consecutive games to the Florida expansion teams, Miami and Orlando.

Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins sprained his right thumb against Charlotte on Friday and joined starting guard Doc Rivers, who pulled a groin muscle, on the sideline for the Hawks. Wilkins is expected back tonight against Charlotte, which Monday played without leading rebounder Armon Gilliam, who has tendinitis in his left knee.

Mitch Richmond, averaging nearly 25 points for the surprising Golden State Warriors, had consecutive games with 12-for-15 shooting from the field before he fractured the tip of his left thumb on Thursday and was placed on the injured list.

Golden State started the season 7-2 and won five consecutive games, but on Sunday night the injury to Richmond caught up with the Warriors as the Lakers won easily, 115-93.

The Clippers also have two players on the injured list with knee problems. Ron Harper is still recovering from last season’s serious injury and is expected back in January, while Danny Manning has tendinitis in his right knee.

John (Hot Rod) Williams, who signed a seven-year, $26.5-million free-agent contract with Cleveland during the off-season, sprained his left foot on Friday. He will miss four to six weeks.

Among other players injured this season but expected back soon are Denver’s Michael Adams, hamstring; Seattle’s Dale Ellis, nerve problem in the ankle and foot; Minnesota’s Tod Murphy, sprained ankle, and New York’s Kenny Walker, twisted knee.

ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL

Fat Lever, Dallas Mavericks; out up to 6 weeks after knee surgery.

Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks; sprained right thumb.

Hot Rod Williams, Cleveland; out 4-6 weeks with sprained foot.

Doc Rivers, Atlanta Hawks; pulled groin muscle.

Mitch Richmond, Golden State; fractured tip of left thumb.

Ron Harper, Clippers; still recovering from knee injury.

Danny Manning, Clippers; tendinitis in right knee.

Dale Ellis, Seattle; nerve problem in the ankle and foot.

Kenny Walker, New York Knicks; twisted knee.

Tod Murphy, Minnesota Timberwolves; sprained ankle.


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