Jrue goes down: We mourn while selfishly celebrating (but not too much)

Jrue goes down: We mourn while selfishly celebrating (but not too much)

The injuries in the NBA are now piling up to near-historic proportions, particularly in the point-guard ranks, where the extended absences of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe have robbed the NBA at least an eighth of its overall watchability. Now, the lame can add another newcomer to their ranks--Pelicans point guard and former Sixer great Jrue Holiday.

Jrue has been ruled out indefinitely by Pelicans brass with a right ankle injury--a stress fracture in his tibia, if you must know. The loss to injury is tough for Holiday, who has been durable for most of his four-plus-year pro career, not yet missing ten games in a season. It might be even tougher for New Orleans, who was already missing sharpshooter Ryan Anderson for an indeterminate amount of time, and has also seen fellow young core players Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and future superstar Anthony Davis shuttling in and out of the lineup with various maladies over the young season.

As NBA fans, we hate to see the league lose a talent like Jrue for any time period, and as Sixer fans our heart obviously goes out to our former floor general. However, the latter allegiance also forces us to consider how this news might end up impacting the Liberty Ballers, who own the Pelicans' first-round pick in the upcoming loaded draft, and have reason to wish temporary ill upon the fortunes of New Orleans.

And the impact will likely be rather sizable. Jrue wasn't likely to be an All-Star again this season--more of a comment on the level of elite backcourt talent in the West than anything--but he was still having a very solid year in New Orleans, averaging 14 and eight on 45% shooting and 39% from deep, while developing a particularly nice chemistry with Davis. Without him, the Pellies will have to either shift combo guard/forward Tyreke Evans to the starting lineup, leaving the second unit almost entirely bereft of scoring, or promote either steady backup Brian Roberts or (shudder) one-time prospect Austin Rivers to the first unit, none of which are particularly attractive options compared to the Damaja. The offense, already reeling from the loss of Anderson, will undoubtedly suffer even further.

The Pelicans currently reside at 15-19, and would have the 12th best lottery chances if the season-ended today. Their injury woes seem likely to push them back even further, possibly falling out of the just-outside-the-playoffs tier of the Wolves, Nuggets and Grizzlies and into the when-does-next-year-start? tier of the Lakers, Kings and Jazz. They'd have to do some serious losing to out-tank the dregs of the East, where they currently have a better record then even our seventh-seeded Bobcats, but nothing is impossible in this most unpredictable (and injury-stricken) of NBA seasons.

Good news for the Sixers, right? Well, to a point. Obviously we'd rather have the eighth or ninth pick in this historic draft than the 12th or 13th--though with the Eighth Samurai Sam Hinkie making the final proclamation, you gotta like our chances at either--but it's a slippery slope at that point, because if the Pelicans actually get drawn in the top three on lottery night (or more incredibly, tank their way all the way to the bottom five), we don't get to pick at all, as the selection remains top-five-protected. Ideally, we want the Not-Hornets to slip another rung or two, but tread water from there, to avoid risking anything more than a single-digit-percent chance of the Pelicans getting to hold onto their pick.

The important thing for us is that the Pelicans not get into the playoffs. If they did, it'd probably mean they had a better record than all but two or three of the Eastern playoff teams, which means their pick would fall all the way to the 20s in the draft--still valuable, but not nearly as. As long as we're picking in the lottery, the depth of this draft should allow Hinkie to find us a player to be a valuable contributor on the team for a long time to come. With their recent spate of injuries, we should now be relatively safe on that one, and that is good news.

Most importantly, we don't want karma to come back and bite us on this one. So let us wish nothing but get-well-soon thoughts to our once-and-future boy Jrue, and hope the Pelicans get back on track before too long. We'll bandwagon for you guys super-hard next season, promise.

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

NHL Playoffs: Penguins beat Senators in 2OT of Game 7 to reach Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris Kunitz beat Craig Anderson 5:09 into the second overtime to give the defending champions a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

Kunitz scored twice, his first two of the playoffs. Justin Schultz added the other in his return from an upper-body injury, and Matt Murray stopped 28 shots on his 23rd birthday.

The Penguins are trying to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1998 to win back-to-back titles. They will host Western Conference champion Nashville in Game 1 on Monday night.

Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel scored for Ottawa. The Senators rallied twice to tie it, with Dzingel making it 2-2 with 5:19 left in regulation.

Craig Anderson made 39 saves, but couldn't get a handle on Kunitz's shot from just outside the left circle. The Senators are 0-6 in Game 7s in franchise history.

The Senators forced a return trip to Pittsburgh -- where they lost 7-0 loss in Game 5 on Sunday -- by leaning heavily on Anderson in a 2-1 Game 6 victory, putting both teams at odds with history.

Ottawa came in 0-for-25 years in winner-take-all games, while the Penguins were 0-7 in Game 7s at home in series in which they also dropped Game 6.

Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told his resilient team to not get caught up in the big picture but instead focus on the small ones, a recipe that carried the Senators throughout a bumpy transition under their first-year head coach to the brink of the franchise's second Cup appearance.

The Penguins, trying to become the first defending champion to return to the finals since Detroit in 2009, came in confident they would advance if they could replicate their dominant Game 6, when they were undone only by Anderson's brilliance.

Pittsburgh has been nearly unflappable in the face of adversity under Mike Sullivan, going 12-2 in playoff games following a loss over the last two springs. He encouraged his team to "just play," code for fighting through Ottawa's neutral zone-clogging style and the bumping, grabbing and pulling that comes along with it.

A chance to play for their sport's ultimate prize on the line, the sheets of open ice the Penguins found so easily in Games 4-6 closed up. For most of the first 30 minutes, loose pucks hopped over sticks to spoil some scoring opportunities while Anderson and Murray gobbled up the rest.

Kunitz, relegated to the fourth line since returning from injury in the second round, picked up his first postseason goal in a calendar year when he completed a two-on-one with Conor Sheary -- a healthy scratch in Games 5 and 6 -- by slipping the puck by Anderson 9:55 into the second period.

The momentum lasted all of 20 seconds. Ottawa responded immediately with Stone -- who stretched his left skate to stay onside -- fired a wrist shot that handcuffed Murray.

Pittsburgh kept coming. Schultz, returning after missing four games with an upper-body injury, zipped a shot from the point through Kunitz's screen and into the net with 8:16 left in the third.

Once again, the Penguins could not hold the lead. Dzingel set up at the right post and banged home a rebound off Erik Karlsson's shot that hit the left post and caromed off Murray's back right to Dzingel's stick.

Notes
The home team is 21-20 in overtime Game 7s in NHL playoff history. ... Pittsburgh F Patric Hornqvist skated during warmups, but was held out of the lineup for a sixth straight game with an upper-body injury. ... Karlsson had 16 assists in the playoffs to set a team record. ... The Penguins are 10-7 in Game 7s. ... It was the fifth one-goal game of the series.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).