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News » NBA players protect bodies


NBA players protect bodies


NBA players protect bodies
Walk into any NBA locker room a couple of hours before tip off and you might be confused. It appears NBA stars are preparing to play football instead of draining 3-pointers or throwing down rim-rattling dunks.

Thigh pads. Hip pads. Chest pads. Before players pull on their jersey and lace up shoes, they first put on their pads.

"Guys hit the floor a lot," said veteran point guard Chucky Atkins. "You get bruises all the time. They're just like regular tights. Almost everyone is using them."

Imagine baseball-like sliding pants that feature permanently bonded compression pads worn underneath those baggy shorts.

"They're really light weight. They don't hinder you at all," said Nick Collison. "The game is so physical. You get random knees to the thigh or an elbow to the hip. Little things like that are avoided."

McDavid Inc., an Illinois-based manufacturer of protective sports apparel, has been the Basketball "pad" leader. Other companies, including the shoe giants that sign players to lucrative deals, are investigating manufacturing padded shorts that help absorb shock.

"You really started seeing players start to use them two or three years ago," said forward Desmond Mason. "Now almost everyone wears them. Why wouldn't you? They help minimize injuries."

The only restrictions are shorts and tops must use soft padding. Hard or metallic pads are prohibited. Padded shorts and tops also can't be visible when a player is standing still in his natural position.

Shaquille O'Neal took NBA "pads" to a whole new level during the 2004-05 season.

After suffering a rib injury on Christmas Day, O'Neal asked Miami Heat trainer Ron Culp to borrow a flak jacket from the Dolphins. A couple of weeks later, O'Neal was presented with a lighter, less restrictive padded shirt he wore underneath his jersey.

Athletes in all sports have benefited from modern-day equipment. Golfers have benefited the most with titanium shafts and modern balls that do everything but dance on a green.

Baseball players have benefited from better gloves to maple bats that have raised controversy because they splinter more than traditional ash bats. Football equipment has come miles since those leather helmet days.

Basketball is no different. It's now rare to see someone break a backboard. Wood floors are state of the art. But padded pants and shirts are a relatively new technology that has swept through the NBA and college programs.

Thunder rookie guard Russell Westbrook wore compression padded shorts underneath his sky-blue UCLA shorts.

"I always get hit. I'm taking hard falls all the time," Westbrook said. "It helps coming off screens. One of the bigs (centers) can hit you with their knee. I can't imagine playing without them."

THE Q&A

Kobe Bryant Lakers guard

How much are you motivated by last year's loss in the NBA Finals?

It's a big carrot for us as a team, something I use to drive us when we're not focused or kind of falling asleep. It pushes us and reminds us where we were last year.

What's your reaction to everyone debating your game with LeBron James'?

LeBron is a great friend of mine. I think the world of him. He's an incredible Basketball player.

What's your relationship with Shaquille O'Neal these days?

Shaquille and I had a good time (at the All-Star Game) in Phoenix. It was fun. It was the first time we've played together in years. It felt good.

Can you Jabbawockee dance like Shaq?

I can. But I choose not to.

Do you feel you're playing as well as your MVP season last year?

I do. My role obviously is a little different. For us to improve as a team I've had to step back myself and allow other guys to develop, allow them to make plays. That's where my game has improved the most even though it might not show up on a stat sheet.

Is it important to prove each night you're the best player on the court?

I just try to play my best. I don't need motivation. I just enjoy playing. I love kicking (tail). It's not like I need to psyche myself up night in and night out. If some player throws something out there I can use as motivation, you might kick it up another notch.

MIKE BALDWIN'S MONTHLY NBA RANKINGS.

1. LA Lakers: Have beaten Boston and Cleveland twice.

2. Boston: The schedule is manageable while Kevin Garnett is sidelined.

3. Cleveland: Losing Ben Wallace makes landing top seed more difficult.

4. Orlando: Point guard Rafer Alston isn't Jameer Nelson but should help.

5. San Antonio: The Spurs are the biggest threat to the Lakers in the West.

6. Denver: Lopsided home loss to Celtics a bad omen or aberration?

7. Portland: Young Trail Blazers own terrific home-court edge (23-5).

8. Houston: Rolling along despite McGrady's season-ending surgery.

9. Utah: The Jazz are finally getting healthy and could be dangerous.

10. Dallas: Not a championship-caliber team but another solid season.

10. New Orleans: The Hornets have been hit and miss all season.

12 .Atlanta: A .500 team the past three months but could get first-round bye.

13. Phoenix: Up-tempo style a big hit, but can they survive without Amare?

14. Miami: Jermaine O'Neal will help inside. Wade having a terrific season.

15. Philadelphia: Hasn't played well as of late but could earn No. 6 seed.

16. Detroit: Falling apart. Probably will get in but no longer a playoff lock.

17. Chicago: Deadline deals make them favorites for final playoff berth.

18. Milwaukee: Hanging tough despite rash of injuries. Can they keep it up?

19. New Jersey: If Vince Carter turns it around, Nets could steal final berth.

20. New York: D'Antoni has done a terrific job but playoffs a long shot.

21. Indiana: Hanging around. but Granger's injury squashes playoff chances.

22. Charlotte: Offense is abysmal. Scoring a league-low 92.3 points a game.

23. Golden State: Improved. Has played close to .500 the past two months.

24. Toronto: Big disappointment. Marion will help but hole is pretty deep.

25. Minnesota: Improved, but Jefferson's ACL injury derails momentum.

26. Memphis: A decent February, but Grizzlies only 6-25 since Dec. 16.

27. LA Clippers: Several ugly, blowout losses, but four wins in February.

28. Oklahoma City: Defensive struggles made for a rough February.

29. Washington: Wizards and OKC only teams without 3-game win streak.

30. Sacramento: Kings 4-23 in 2009; an unfathomable 0-22 vs. the East.

SNEAK PEEK

Dallas' only trip to OKC

The Thunder plays three of its next four games at home before leaving town while the Big 12 men's tournament takes center stage in the Ford Center.

→Monday: Dallas. Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks make their only Ford Center appearance.

→Wednesday: Washington. The Wizards and Thunder are among the contenders for worst record in the league.

→Saturday: at New Orleans. Besides winning the first three meetings, Tyson Chandler is reminding Thunder fans what could have been.

INSIDE SCOOP

Williams' guarantee

→Cleveland point guard Mo Williams guaranteed the Cavaliers will play in the NBA Finals. Williams said he isn't concerned about providing bulletin board material for the Celtics.

Jermaine O'Neal and Dwyane Wade form a potent inside-outside tandem. One scout said if the Heat faces the East's top seed in the second round of the playoffs "it could be very interesting."

→Former Jazz owner Larry Miller, a car mogul who recently died at age 64 after a prolonged battle with type-2 diabetes, is revered in Salt Lake City. When Miller bought the Jazz in 1985 the franchise was in debt and threatening to move.

Kevin Garnett downplayed any bad blood with Stephon Marbury when they were both in Minnesota. Garnett said he's in favor of adding anyone who will give the Celtics a chance to repeat.

Tracy McGrady underwent season-ending microfracture knee surgery to resurrect his career. McGrady hopes to return to his old self, but there's an outside chance the surgery could end his career.

→The Lakers shed cap space by trading Vladimir Radmanovic and Chris Mihm, but cap issues remain. Insiders say they might have to "settle" for Trevor Ariza instead of Lamar Odom but would like to re-sign both.

BY THE NUMBERS

82.0

Free-throw percentage for the Nets' Brook Lopez. He's on pace to record the best mark by a rookie center in league history. Yao Ming (81.1) owns the record. Lopez, who some feel has played well enough to merit Rookie of the Year consideration, is averaging 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds and is sixth in the league with 1.9 blocks a game.

TEMPERATURE GAUGE

Who's Hot

Utah. Don't be surprised if Utah makes a run at overtaking Denver in the Northwest Division. After going 14-15 in December and January, the Jazz was 9-1 in February heading into Saturday night's game. With Carlos Boozer returning from a knee injury that sidelined him 45 games, Utah could join San Antonio as the biggest threats to the Lakers in the Western Conference.

Who's Not

Vince Carter. New Jersey's seven-time All-Star is shooting 34.9 percent and averaging only 13.2 points the past four games. Rookie center Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are playing well. If Carter gets back on track, the Nets can make a run at the playoffs.

BEHIND THE SCENES

An assist from the TV truck

Devin Harris' bobbled, half-court, game-winning shot that lifted the Nets to a 98-96 win over Philadelphia is the runaway leader for Play of the Year, but a key figure involved with Harris' buzzer-beater wasn't even in the arena.

YES Network producer Frank DiGraci, who has won six Emmys, was sitting in a TV truck on the loading dock at the Izod Center.

Referee Derrick Stafford's crew originally waved off Harris' basket until they saw YES network's replay.

DiGraci said his crew accidentally got the conclusive shot. Pete Stendel, a cameraman under the goal, was supposed to shoot a wide shot but instead zoomed in for a tight shot of Harris. It proved to be the definitive angle with the shot clock on the scorer's table in the background.

Wait, there's more. Modern technology played a role.

"High def is four or five times clearer than regular def," DiGraci was quoted in the Newark Star Ledger. "It's super-slow mo that records three times as fast. ... Devin got the shot off by one-thirtieth of a second. You cannot be any closer to zero."

WORD ASSOCIATION

The Brooklyn Nets

Thunder players and others from around the league were asked to comment on hot NBA topics. Each was instructed to give a short response. The first edition is the Nets attempting a move from East Rutherford, N.J., to Brooklyn, N.Y.

Kobe Bryant: Jay-Z

Chucky Atkins: not very likely

Grant Long: good move

Byron Scott: crazy

Kevin Durant: would be exciting

David West: interesting

Derek Fisher: Why? If ever?

Robin Lopez: like the idea

Jeff Green: would be weird

Desmond Mason: don't like it

Scott Brooks: I like New Jersey

Jason Richardson: won't happen

Nick Collison: good for New York

Greg Oden: never been to Brooklyn


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 4, 2009

 

 
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