Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 4/13/12
A lockout-infused NBA season of stupendous incongruity has provided basketball observers with plenty of head-scratching issues. For example, most of us are wondering when that sneaky UFO will come back and return the real Dwight Howard. The creepy Dwight replicant almost abducted Stan Van Gundy in front of several media witnesses. Anyway, a few of you may have noticed our wacky season also has included extended absences from some of the league's greatest players. OK, that's not exactly mind-blowing, but we've been provoked to wonder why some of the teams affected have managed to thrive while performing without a particular superstar. Thanks to the timely grace of a national TV schedule, Thursday's Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls showdown offered two dandy examples of such overcoming-the-odds behavior. Let's start with the Bulls, who managed to rally against Miami and win in overtime without much assistance from 2011 league MVP Derrick Rose. The Bulls actually scored a 12-2 knockout in OT with Rose sitting on the bench ... with no fouls, one field goal in 13 shots from the field and very few pain-free body parts. With Rose on the floor, Chicago was a hands-over-your-eyes minus-27. But the Bulls -- who have won 16 of the 23 games they've played without their superstar point guard -- were able to prevail with situational defense and a bench whose go-to guy happens to the next open teammate. That's become pretty typical. Their dates for the evening were playing as close as it gets to full strength at this time of the year, which -- based on some easy-to-manipulate numbers -- may not have been to Miami's benefit. How's that? Well, the healthy Heat lineup included superstar Dwyane Wade, who's been unable to answer the bell in 11 games this season. Miami won 10 of those. To varying degrees, similar abnormalities have been springing up all over David Stern's league. The Atlanta Hawks have remained competitive while playing most of the season without Al Horford. The San Antonio Spurs refused to crumble during another injury interlude for Manu Ginobili. The Memphis Grizzlies didn't stagger as much as expected without Zach Randolph. The New York Knicks rode Lin-sanity to temporary enlightenment with an offense that flowed and a defense that crowed when Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were gone. We even witnessed the Los Angeles Lakers winning in San Antonio without the rapid-fire stylings of Kobe Bryant. Before we search for a common thread to pull our train along, let's coax some perspective from an assistant coach who works for an Eastern Conference team. "Rubbish," he said. For specifics, please know that our contributor was asked if some of the aforementioned superstar-free uprisings could be embraced as evidence that some of these teams may be better off without a big-ticket player or two. For the record, I wasn't buying it, either. "But you really do have to give a lot of credit to the teams who have been able to win while short-handed," the coach said. "That said, it's a lot easier to get away with playing without a star player during the regular season." Please explain. "Through scheme, ball movement, team defense and so forth, you can put another team on its heels if they're only going to see you for that one game," he said. "Without much practice, it's hard for short-handed teams to put in anything tricky, but it's also hard for the opponent to prepare. In the postseason, on the other hand, a long series with a day or two or more between games allows coaches to be fully prepared for sets and coverages. That's where having elite talent -- guys who can make plays despite going against defenders who know exactly what you're going to do -- can make a big difference." Got it. It's like the rebel fighters doing some damage in "Star Wars" but needing that crunch-time greatness from Luke Skywalker during the Darth Vader round. Translated to the NBA, this means that if the Lakers run into the Spurs next month, they'll be in much better shape than they were when Kobe was experiencing One Shinning Moment ... right? "Don't get too excited over that win," our coach said. "The Lakers really are trouble when they pound it inside without Kobe. But with the schedule, some teams just don't have it on certain nights. And don't forget that without Kobe, the Lakers were ripped by Phoenix and barely beat New Orleans. There's really no pat explanation for why some teams do well when a star is down ... I mean, you do see more ball and player movement, by necessity, when a star is out. That goes away somewhat in the playoffs when us coaches micromanage every possession. If a guy is out a long time, good teams eventually find a way. But you have to look at each situation by itself." So that's what we'll do. Let's go back to the Bulls, who have that 16-7 mark without Rose. Looking a bit more closely, we notice that only nine of those games were played outside Chicago. Only six of the 16 victories were scored against teams currently sitting on a playoff seed. The Heat check also tells us Miami's 10 wins without Wade include only three road triumphs. The one loss was administered by the Milwaukee Bucks in Miami on a night when the Heat were working the second of a back-to-back set. Miami's home success includes two solid wins against the Philadelphia 76ers and one each against the Indiana Pacers and L.A. Lakers. Beyond geography, it's also no secret that playing without Wade provides more show-running opportunity for LeBron James and far more early-shot-clock touches for Chris Bosh. With Bosh fully engaged, Miami is no picnic regardless of venue. But with LBJ still carrying the burden of late-game Finals proof, having Wade figures to be a big deal in the postseason. What's happened in Atlanta, where Joe Johnson was a short-time goner during this season without Horford? That's not too tricky: Josh Smith happened. The Spurs kept rolling without Ginobili because they've had to on several occasions. They also have a culture of scouting and player development that allows the coaching staff to plug in employees to fit their on-court system. And it should be noted that San Antonio's crucial-position continuity includes decent health at point guard (Tony Parker) and in the post (Tim Duncan). Without Stoudemire, the Knicks have more room for Anthony to operate and a more committed defense from anyone taking Amar'e's minutes. And in Memphis, no post touches for Randolph translated to an All-Star appearance for center Marc Gasol. If it makes you feel like the league hasn't gone entirely cuckoo, rest easy in the knowledge that the Minnesota Timberwolves have dropped like a stone since losing hotshot rookie Ricky Rubio. But you probably don't need to know that the T-wolves' greatest post-Rubio issue is defense (dribble penetration is killing them). There's enough peculiar basketball going around without asking you to chew on that.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Kevin Durant has...RUSSELL MANIA!
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Eagles rookie nixes anthem protest after talking to agent

Report: Romo has no ligament damage, to resume training soon

Michael Phelps to be honored with unique Wheaties box

Woman suing Brewers after being struck by foul ball

Report: ‘Strong chance’ J.J. Watt will play in Week 1

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Broncos name Trevor Siemian their Week 1 starter

Report: Jets fielding calls for Geno Smith

Report: Bryan Stork fails physical, rights revert to Pats

Eric Berry signs franchise tender, returns to Chiefs

Brandon Jennings takes swipe at Reggie Miller's career

Report: Kaepernick facing ‘uphill battle’ to make roster

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

Six NFL quarterbacks the Cowboys must consider

Dwight Howard trying new way to improve free throw shooting

Eight players who have stepped up in NFL preseason so far

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

WATCH: John Randle on the first time he talked trash in the NFL

The hottest hitters in MLB heading into September sprint

Who has the most to prove at the US Open?

A sports history of not standing up for the national anthem

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

10 great moments in the career of Roberto Duran

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker