NBA stars have embraced the league's return to an 82-game season by getting hurt early. Who knows when Derrick Rose will return for Chicago, and Kobe Bryant (foot) was in doubt right up to game time for the Los Angeles Lakers' opener on Tuesday. But these recent injury absences are likely to have the most impact early in the season:
5. Dirk Nowitzki (knee surgery), Dallas » Owner Mark Cuban thinks his Mavericks are better off without acquiring Deron Williams. Without Nowitzki for up to a month, they might not be better than a .500 team.
4. John Wall (left patella tendon), Nene (left foot plantar fasciitis), Washington » The Wizards have to play it safe over the first month. If they aren't in a big hole when their two most important pieces return, a push for the eighth playoff spot in the East shouldn't be out of reach.
3. Kevin Love (broken hand), Minnesota » The chances to end an eight-year playoff drought were hurt last year when Ricky Rubio blew out his knee. Love's knuckle push-up accident sets the Timberwolves back further.
2. Amare Stoudemire (left knee debridement), New York » The East is a mishmash of teams that could be in the playoffs, which suits the Knicks fine. But six to eight weeks is a long time, and the longer Stoudemire is out, the more discussion there will be about how well Carmelo Anthony plays when he's not there.
1. Danny Granger (left knee soreness), Indiana » The open East was supposed to help the Pacers' assault on the second seed behind Miami. Without Granger, who is out indefinitely, Indiana is no longer the favorite in the Central Division.
- Craig Stouffer