NBA’s All-ER Team Coulda Been a Contenda

I’m not sure whether to be thankful for the dress code, or happy no one’s had to yell, “Code Blue!” At least not yet.

Though the way the ’09 NBA season is flowing, no telling.

We’re still a month before the start of the playoffs – already the most grueling postseason in sports – and it’s clear that whichever team wins the title this season may not be the best team but the healthiest.

Hardly a night has gone by when one or more of the contenders hasn’t had one or more of their top players on the bench in street clothes (or in the training room) rather than on the floor.

The Lakers’ Andrew Bynum (21 games missed and counting); Utah’s Deron Williams (14) and Carlos Boozer (45); Tracy McGrady of Houston (35, out for the season); San Antonio’s Manu Ginobilli (29 games); Boston’s Kevin Garnett (16); Jameer Nelson of Orlando (26 games, out for season) are among the all-ER team.

On Wednesday, they were joined on the bench by Miami’s Dwyane Wade, Boston’s Ray Allen and Cleveland’s Wally Szczerbiak. One night earlier, the Spurs sat Tim Duncan to let him rest his sore knees.

The bug was not confined to top contenders, either. Elton Brand was already struggling to fit in with the Philadelphia 76ers before his season ended with a shoulder injury. Portland center Greg Oden returned Wednesday, but the Trail Blazers can never be sure how long their young center will stay in the lineup. And the loss of Amare Stoudemire is just one of many tales of the Phoenix Suns‘ lost season.

At least they’ve all looked good. Sartorially resplendent, today’s young ballers may have been initially irked by David Stern’s edict requiring jackets on the bench. But they’ve since embraced it, making varying fashion statements reflecting a broader cultural shift, one where your personal fashion statement doesn’t have to be falling off your behind.

No one’s thus far called for a trend or extra hazard-duty pay. But you have to wonder whether the last team standing this year will actually be standing at all.

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