The Dallas Mavericks could not have picked a worst way to enter the All-Star break.
Dallas has lost four of five heading into much-needed near-two-week hiatus, and Gordon Hayward's buzzer beater on Tuesday was the best way to sum up the basketball Dallas has played as of late — just when hope was on the horizon, all is lost.
There may be a silver lining for Dallas, though, and it comes with another loss — a big loss in the form of Memphis Grizzlies star center Marc Gasol, who may be out for the year with a broken right foot.
Gasol scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds on Feb. 6 in the Mavericks' 114-110 overtime win in Memphis. The win looked to be a huge step forward for the Mavericks. Now having won two of three in the season series, the Mavericks won't play the Grizzlies again until April 8. Memphis, at 31-22, is three games up on Dallas (29-26), and one more win would secure the tiebreaker should the two teams come down to a head-to-head record for the No. 5 seed that Memphis currently holds. With Gasol out of the picture, this becomes even more important, for several reasons.
First, the obvious: Memphis will be without its leading scorer for quite some time. Gasol leads the Grizzlies at 16.6 points per game and while his rebounding is down — averaging seven per game — his absence will still be glaring.
As far as recovery goes, it depends on the foot itself. Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant suffered a "Jones fracture" last year. Durant missed the first 17 games of last year before undergoing season-ending surgery at the tail end of March.
Barring any complications, let's say Gasol is out six to eight weeks which is the initial recovery time. A March 23 return would be the best guess and that's in time for a home-at-home against the San Antonio Spurs. If it takes the whole eight weeks, Gasol might not be back until the April 8 meeting against the Mavericks or April 5 against the Chicago Bulls and his brother Pau. It's possible the injury could keep him out the entire season, too.
The Grizzlies may be able to brave the storm initially after the All-Star break. Memphis begins with four of six on the road, but the Toronto Raptors are the only playoff team they'll see during that stretch. By the time the calendar turns to April, Memphis will have played 12 games away from FedEx Forum and are 12-13 on the road so far this season.
The center position after Gasol is not a good look for the Grizzlies. Backing up Gasol is 25-year-old JaMychal Green, who is 6-foot-9 and in his second year in the league. Green has played well in stints, scoring double figures five times including a season-high 13 points in the Nov. 24 win over the Mavericks. But with Gasol out, as well as Dallas favorite Brandan Wright recovering from knee surgery, the Grizzlies may resort to a lot of small ball. While Zach Randolph can shoulder some of the load offensively, he's no rim protector.
Dallas begins its post All-Star break festivities with two games against the Orlando Magic and one more meeting with the Philadelphia 76ers. Eight of the Mavs' 10 first games are at home. The key stretch for Dallas will be around that six-week mark starting March 18 — home against Golden State, home against Portland, at Portland and then at Golden State.
If the Mavericks can leapfrog the Grizzlies by that point, a win in that final meeting between Memphis could push Dallas ahead of them for good. Not many chances like this come around often. The Mavericks need to take advantage of it.