Jeremy Lin

Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

MIAMI — Brooklyn's Jeremy Lin was horrified to see what happened to Gordon Hayward, whose season almost certainly ended in a most disturbing fashion five minutes into the Celtics' season-opener.

A night later, Lin met a similar fate.

Here's some of what should be celebrated from the opening nights of the NBA season: Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had a 37-point game, Cleveland's LeBron James was one assist away from a triple-double, Houston beat Golden State on the Warriors' ring night and Miami's Hassan Whiteside went for 26 points and 22 rebounds.

It all seems overshadowed by injuries.

No, this is not the start the NBA wanted.

"It's tough watching that happen to anybody in the NBA," said Golden State guard Shaun Livingston, whose horrific knee injury from 2007 -- so bad that doctors originally thought he could lose his leg -- was compared to the grotesque nature of Hayward's injury Tuesday night. "It's all a brotherhood. You want to see guys succeed."

Many members of the brotherhood are ailing, none causing bigger shock waves than Hayward.

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard hasn't played yet this season because of a quadriceps injury. The Warriors sent Draymond Green to get an MRI on an aching knee, which had knocked him out early in their season opener. Houston's Chris Paul missed a game at Sacramento on Wednesday with knee pain. Cleveland's Isaiah Thomas won't be back until January, at least, while recovering from a hip injury.

And those guys, along with Hayward, are just the hurting All-Stars from last season.

"There's no doubt we'll get him back to be better than he was before," said Mark Bartelstein, Hayward's agent.

Lin's injury was nowhere near as visibly horrifying as Hayward's, but the end result was the same -- a bad landing at Indiana on Wednesday left him in tears and saying, "I'm done, I'm done."

His personal diagnosis was officially confirmed Thursday morning: Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee, the Nets said.

"We feel awful that the injury will cost him the season," Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

Plenty of other teams are missing key players and would-be starters.

Among them: Utah's Dante Exum may miss the whole season with a dislocated left shoulder, Miami's Rodney McGruder had surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, Phoenix's Brandon Knight blew his knee out in the summer, San Antonio's Tony Parker (leg) is still several weeks from returning, Indiana's Glenn Robinson III (ankle) may miss half the season and Milwaukee's Jabari Parker (knee) has months of rehab work left.

"You worry about guys getting nicked up," Memphis forward Brandan Wright said. "Lot of big injuries ... You want to just take care of your guys."

Hayward had surgery Wednesday night and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, after breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle in Boston's opener at Cleveland.

Livingston had no interest in seeing the replay of Hayward's injury. He knows the road that awaits the Boston star.

"I'm not watching the video, but I've seen the pictures," Livingston said. "Prayers go out to him. It's going to be a long road back for him but if he puts his mind to it, is a man of faith, keeps good people around him ... it's going to be a long rehab for him but he's very capable of coming back and being the same player."

Sixers-Nets 5 things: Minutes restrictions and ping-pong balls

Sixers-Nets 5 things: Minutes restrictions and ping-pong balls

What's left of the Sixers will host the NBA-worst Brooklyn Nets Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center (7 p.m./TCN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Rookie restrictions
Dario Saric on Monday was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second straight month. In March, Saric averaged 18.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 31.7 minutes a game.

Joel Embiid and Saric are the first rookies on the same team to win the award in multiple months. Embiid appeared to be the runaway winner for the Rookie of the Year award, winning Rookie of the Month the first three months of the season. Saric is now the frontrunner, despite the strong play of Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon.

Saric was on a 24-minute restriction in Sunday's loss to Toronto because of a heel injury. He'll be limited to 24 minutes again tonight against the Nets. The 22-year-old Croatian appears to be fine. The restriction looks to be precautionary as the Sixers limp to the finish line. Saric was big in last week's win in Brooklyn, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds in over 36 minutes.

2. Cutting down the Nets
The Nets have been dreadful this season. They've won 18 games, four fewer than the next-worst team (Suns, Lakers). What's astonishing is that Brooklyn has had a late-season surge just to get to that total. The Nets have won two in a row and six of their last nine. They're also a respectable 10-10 since March 1.

A big part of Brooklyn's recent success has to do with veterans Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin. Lopez, the subject of several trade rumors around the deadline, has had a strong season. He's quickly approaching history. The 29-year-old big man needs just 61 points to pass Buck Williams on the Nets' all-time scoring list. He's played very well against the Sixers this season, averaging 24.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 blocks in three games.

Lin has been Brooklyn's X-factor. After signing a three-year, $38-million deal in the offseason, Lin has been limited to just 32 games (29 starts). Eleven of the Nets' 18 wins have come in games Lin has started. Lin struggled from the field against the Sixers last week (4 of 14) but still finished with seven assists, six rebounds and four steals.

3. Ping-pong balls
The Nets have the best odds to get the No. 1 overall pick, which would be great if that pick didn't belong to the Boston Celtics as a result of arguably the worst trade in NBA history. According to Tankathon.com, Boston has a 25 percent chance to get the top pick.

The Sixers' situation is a little trickier. As we all know, their draft position(s) will rely on two other teams. The Sixers currently have the fifth-worst record in the league, giving them an 8.8 percent chance at the first pick and 29.1 percent chance to crack the top three. Add to that the pick swap with the Sacramento Kings and those chances improve to 13.1 and 44.1, respectively.  

And then there's the Lakers' top-three protected pick. As of right now, the Lakers have the third-worst record in the league. Their odds to land in the top three are at 46.9 percent. Of course, if that pick doesn't convey, it'll be unprotected in 2018.

4. Injuries
Joel Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot), Jahlil Okafor (knee), Robert Covington (knee), and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are all out for the season. Point guard Sergio Rodriguez (hamstring) is out tonight.

Gerald Henderson (hip) and Tiago Splitter (calf) are probable.

For Brooklyn, guard Joe Harris (shoulder) is done for the season. Rookie point guard Isaiah Whitehead (ankle) is questionable.

5. This and that
• Former Delaware 87er Sean Kilpatrick is the Nets' third-leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points a game.

• In his first NBA game, undrafted forward Alex Poythress scored 11 points (4 of 8) and grabbed three rebounds in the Sixers' loss to Toronto.

• Chester native Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has become a staple in Brooklyn's starting lineup, starting the last 29 games for the Nets, averaging 9.5 points and seven rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game.

Sixers-Nets 5 things: How will bigs be rotated vs. Jeremy Lin, lowly Nets?

Sixers-Nets 5 things: How will bigs be rotated vs. Jeremy Lin, lowly Nets?

The Sixers (6-20) will try to snap their eight-game skid at home when they host the Brooklyn Nets (7-18) at the Wells Fargo Center on Sunday night (6 p.m./TCN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Center City is crowded
Any suggestions?

The Sixers should be open to them regarding their ongoing dilemma at center after Nerlens Noel's recent outburst.

Noel, in just his second game this season, was limited to 8:02 of playing time — all in the first half — during the Sixers' 100-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. That caused the big man to lash out about the situation at center and say, "They need to figure this s--- out.”

Noel had a meeting with head coach Brett Brown  on Saturday to discuss his role with fellow centers Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor currently eating up minutes in the starting lineup (see story). While both parties expressed that they need to handle their end better, there still doesn't appear to be an imminent end to the problem.

With that in mind, we'll see how Brown manages the bigs against the Nets and their conventional frontcourt.

2. Staying on point 
Jeremy Lin is back in New York City, but with a different address this time as a member of the Nets.

That hasn't exactly worked out well for him so far this season as the oft-injured point guard has been limited to just seven games with hamstring and back injuries.

However, when Lin has been on the court for Brooklyn, he's been able to produce. He's averaging 14.6 points per game, which matches the career high he set with the New York Knicks in 2011-12 at the height of "Linsanity." He's also putting up 5.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 steals a night.

The Sixers would be wise to keep an eye on the veteran PG. Lin has had some of his best performances against them over the years. In 10 career games against the Sixers, Lin has averaged 16.5 points for his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Try to keep up
The Nets are racking up just as many losses as the Sixers this season but they come at a much different speed.

Brooklyn is No. 1 in the NBA in pace with 104.07 possessions per game (the Sixers are 15th at 98.80).

Playing at such a high tempo combined with their affinity for three-pointers (33.2 attempts per game), it's no wonder the Nets rank eighth in the league with 106.7 points per game.

Throw in the fact that the Sixers and Nets are tied for last with 17.0 turnovers per game, and Sunday's matchup could be a blur to follow.

4. Injuries
Hollis Thompson (knee) is probable. Ben Simmons (foot) is out for the Sixers.

The Nets don't have any players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• One team's skid will end on Sunday as the Sixers have lost eight straight home games and the Nets have dropped eight consecutive road games.

• The Sixers and Nets split their four-game series last season.

• Okafor averaged 22.0 points and 13.5 rebounds against the Nets a season ago.