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Boston sports the Hub of Hurt

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  January 14, 2010 01:32 PM

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It's painful to be a Boston athlete -- or sports fan -- these days. Maybe, there is something in the (dirty) water, but it seems like every time you peruse a story about one of the local professional sports outfits, it reads like the waiting list in the emergency room at Mass General.

Welcome to the Hub of Hurt, where the disabled list is only a day away.

We know that Boston has some of the finest medical facilities in the country, but that doesn't mean our local pro athletes have to use them. The NFL is planning to build a stadium to lure a franchise to Los Angeles in a place called the City of Industry, Boston has become the City of Injury. The injury bug has bitten the Hub like one of those vampires from the vapid "Twilight" series.

Let's assess the carnage.

The Celtics are at the point where they're going to have to start scouting local YMCAs to fill out their bench for tonight's game against the Chicago Bulls. Kevin Garnett has missed seven games with a hyperextended right knee and aptly named coach Doc Rivers said last night that the earliest Garnett could return is Wednesday against the Pistons. Rasheed Wallace was doing a bang-up job filling in for Garnett until he got banged up (sore foot). The Celtics ruled him out for tonight's game. Swingman Marquis Daniels had surgery Dec. 9 to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb and won't be back until after the All-Star break,

Let's not forget the mysterious knee infection that rendered Paul Pierce idle for two weeks. By the way, Pierce bruised his knee last night against the Nets. It was an omen for this Celtics season when forward Glen Davis broke his thumb in a fight with a friend on the eve of the season opener.
Maybe the Garden needs a triage set up because the Bruins have it just as bad, if not worse, than their arena mates. The Black and Gold are the Black and Blue. The Bruins have been playing shorthanded all year and what's left of the team is skating on the Left Coast.

The B's are without top center Marc Savard (sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee), leading scorer Patrice Bergeron (broken thumb) and defensemen Andrew Ference (torn groin) and Mark Stuart (broken sternum). All you need to know about the current state of the Bruins is that Milan Lucic is one of their healthy players.

The Patriots have plenty of time to heal up after being knocked out of the playoffs by the Ravens last Sunday. They'll need it. Quarterback Tom Brady had as many injuries (ribs, broken right ring finger, shoulder) as he did play-calling collaborators (Bill O'Brien, Bill Belichick, Nick Caserio). That terrible turf at Houston's Reliant Stadium robbed the Patriots of Wes Welker, who suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the regular-season finale, and won't be ready for the start of the 2010 season.

Even the Red Sox, who haven't played a game since last October, have felt the sting of injuries in recent months. The Texas Rangers rescinded a trade for Mike Lowell after determining that Lowell's thumb injury was more serious than anyone realized. Lowell had surgery on the thumb -- the hands-down winner of the most damaged digit award --  to repair a torn ligament Dec. 30. Last week, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka revealed he hid from the Sox that he injured his leg while training for the World Baseball Classic. So, technically that's a new injury.

Heck, even owners are not immune. Patriots owner Robert Kraft was spotted after New England's loss to the Ravens on crutches. Per Patriots policy, his injury is undisclosed, of course.

The way things are going around here I think I'm going to get carpal tunnel syndrome writing this sentence. It's a good thing that President Obama is overhauling health care using the Massachusetts universal model.

Injuries are the one great variable that can undermine the best-laid plans of any sports team. You can't see them coming, and you can't control them. The Patriots learned that the hard way in 2008, when Brady was lost for the season just 15 offensive snaps in with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee.

Looking back the turning point for the 1980s Celtics may have been Kevin McHale playing on a broken foot for the last three months of the 1986-87 season. He was never quite the same player and the Celtics never returned to the NBA Finals with the original Big Three.

The Red Sox might not have had to wait 86 years to break the Curse if it weren't for Vern Ruhle. Jim Rice missed the 1975 postseason after the Tigers' Ruhle plunked him with a pitch during the last week of the regular season, breaking his wrist.

Do you think the Bruins would still be working on a 37-year Stanley Cup drought if it weren't for Cam Neely's ossified hip? Probably not.

The team most in danger of having its season undermined by injuries is the Celtics. Unlike the Bruins or Patriots, they're a legitimate championship contender if healthy, but that is a big if. The Green already lost one opportunity to win Banner 18, after Garnett's knee relegated him to the role of spectator for the 2009 playoffs.

Rivers was asked what he'd like to see the team do at the trade deadline to improve. He reminded the media he hasn't seen his team yet.

I love our team. I dont think weve had our team intact all season, our top eight guys," said Rivers. "So Im looking forward to actually seeing that group. I think we will, and its going to happen really soon and Im really looking forward to that."

Hopefully, Rivers is right and the Celtics and their Boston pro sports brethren prove to be quick healers or it's going to hurt to be a Boston sports fan for a while.
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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news


...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.


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