ATLANTA —This 2014-15 NBA season has been defined by so much greatness: Steph Curry's wonderful, joyful MVP season. James Harden's marked improvement. Anthony Davis' scary-good emergence. Jimmy Butler's unforeseen growth. Russell Westbrook's triple-double spree. John Wall, Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, Draymond Green, Kawhi Leonard. The list is longer, too, as a new generation of stars finds its place in the league.
But as much as that has been the case, injuries all season long – and now in particular during the playoffs – have dimmed the tone of fantastic performances.
The latest: Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll who sustained a sprained left knee with 4:59 remaining left in the fourth quarter of Cleveland's 97-89 victory over Atlanta Wednesday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 2 is Friday in Atlanta, and Carroll, who left Philips Arena on crutches, is expected to undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the extent of his injury.
If he misses any time, Atlanta's chances of advancing to the NBA Finals decrease. Carroll is the Hawks' leading scorer in the playoffs and he is the team's best perimeter defender. He has morphed into a two-way player who is vital to Atlanta's success.
"He's such a great teammate. Everybody's just concerned for DeMarre, and I'm hoping that he's healthy and ready to help us as soon as possible," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. "That's how we feel about each of our teammates, each of our players. I know there's that same feeling for DeMarre, and it's the playoffs. So everybody would like him to come through this as healthy as possible."
Think about just these injuries in the playoffs: Kevin Love is out for the season with a shoulder injury); Wall missed a portion of the Hawks series with five non-displaced fractures in his left hand; Chris Paul missed games against Houston with a bad hamstring; Mike Conley needed facial fracture surgery; Kyrie Irving is obviously hampered by a strained right foot and tendinitis in his left knee; Pau Gasol missed two games against the Cavaliers with a hamstring injury; Dallas Chandler Parsons couldn't get through the playoffs.
That's just the playoffs and doesn't include regular-season injuries or ailments to Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Westbrook, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Wesley Matthews, Patrick Beverley, Donatas Motiejunas and Thabo Sefolosha who sustained a broken fibula and ligament damage in an altercation with New York police.
The Cavs are without Love, Anderson Varejao and a limited Irving, who played just 27 minutes in Game 1 – 3:05 in the fourth quarter and wasn't on the floor in the final 8:39.
"This is the moment he's been waiting for," LeBron James said. "This is the biggest stage. Physically, he's not capable of doing what we all know he's capable of doing. … . For me, that's my role at that point, to let him know when he's on the floor, no matter what he's going through, we need him to be aggressive, as aggressive as he can be with the injury, and not worry about things that he cannot control; only worry about the things that he can control."
And now the Hawks could be without Carroll. For comparison, Houston center Dwight Howard, who also has a sprained knee, is listed as questionable for Thursday's Game 2 against Golden State.
"Somebody has to step up," Hawks guard Jeff Teague said. "DeMarre's been our glue guy all year, been playing well in the playoffs, been our best player in the past couple of series. Hopefully, he can get back healthy soon, but one of the guys in there has to step up."
Budenholzer said reserve Kent Bazemore would likely receive more playing time if Carroll had to sit out.
We'll see what we learn tomorrow and figure out what gives us our best chance," Budenholzer said.
The results of Carroll's MRI loom large. Even with Carroll on the floor, Atlanta had trouble defending James, who was intent on posting up and using his size advantage. James took just one three-point attempt and all but eight of his 26 attempts were in the paint. He finished with a game-high 31 points and also had eight rebounds and six assists. He now has 52 playoff games with at least 30 points, five assists and five rebounds – more than any other player in NBA history.
Even before Carroll left Game 1 with the injury, Cleveland was on its way to a road win and a quick steal of home-court advantage in the series opener.
The Cavs tightened their defense in the second half, shutting down Atlanta's three-point shooting and Teague's penetration, and J.R. Smith did what J.R. Smith does best: score ruthlessly.
Smith had a playoff career-high 28 points, making 10-for-16 shots, including 8-for-12 three-pointers. During a 22-4 Cavs run stretching from the third quarter to fourth quarter, Smith had 17 of those points – 15 coming on three-pointers.
"Once I start shooting, whether I make or miss, everybody tells me to keep shooting," Smith said.
He even had a line that cracked up James.
"It's kind of hard hitting the shots I was hitting to try and pass the ball, but you've got to figure out a way," Smith said.
His eight three-pointers is the most for a Cavs player in the playoffs, and he also had eight rebounds, prompting Cavs coach David Blatt to say, "I'd love to know when the last time a guy made guy made eight threes and got eight rebounds."
Since 1985, it's only happened three other times in the playoffs, according to Klay Thompson in 2013, Jason Richardson in 2010 and Gary Payton in 1997. Love and Harden were the only two players to do it during the 2014-15 regular season.
"When he gets hot, he gets smoking hot. He was terrific," Blatt said. "Probably overlooked in his great shooting performance was the fact that he defended as well as he did and he got eight rebounds."
So now, the Hawks have work to do with or without Carroll. He was driving for a layup when he planted his left foot and the leg didn't give. He went down in obvious pain.
As Hawks players and training staff helped Carroll off the court, James walked over and tapped him on the head.
"At the end of the day, we're all a brotherhood," James said. "NBA is a brotherhood, and you never want anyone to get injured, even in combat. So that's what went through my mind. Obviously, I love competing versus anybody who loves to compete as well. He's one of those guys that was competing throughout the night, throughout the postseason. I'm not sure the severity of the injury right now. But I hope he has a recovery, whatever it is. You just don't want anybody to get hurt like that."
That brotherhood has been special – and injured – this season.

If you happen to trade bonds for a living, it is entirely understandable if you are feeling a little anxious these days.
Prices for United States Treasuries, German bunds and most other securities on the multitrillion dollar global bond market have been exceptionally volatile in the last couple of months. In this environment, someone who buys and sells them for a living could lose a fortune by taking an ill-timed bathroom break.
But what happens in bonds matters for the rest of us, too. Bond prices translate into the price to borrow money for practically every family and business on earth, which, in turn, determines savings and investment patterns. In the latest bout of volatility, long-term interest rates in the United States have climbed by almost 0.4 percentage points. Since the interest rate is in an inverse relationship to a bond’s price, the value of bond investors’ portfolios has taken a hit.
And that helps explain why there has been so much hand-wringing over the ups and downs of the market in the last few weeks, as my colleague Peter Eavis has reported.
Frank Masiello, a specialist trader, at work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday. Credit Brendan McDermid/Reuters
Bankers are warning that tighter regulations may preclude them from playing their traditional role of stepping in to buffer the ups and downs of markets. Regulators worry that asset managers are engaging in herd behavior that will fuel an unnecessary roller coaster in markets. And there is plenty of worry out there that years of central bank interventionism have dulled the proper functioning of markets.
These arguments all have merit, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. And when you look closely at what has been happening with bond prices, what it says about the economy is pretty much benign. What it says about how some of the markets at the core of the global financial system are working is far scarier.
So first, what does the shift mean for the economy?
Ten-year U.S. Treasury bonds were yielding 2.26 percent Wednesday, up from 1.87 percent in late March; those higher rates have also rippled through to higher mortgage rates and corporate borrowing costs. Some international long-term interest rates, particularly in Germany, have climbed steeply. Some economists are even raising the possibility that a generation-long shift toward ever-lower global interest rates might have finally run its course.
Not so fast. Interest rates are still extraordinarily low by any historical standard and still below where they were in the fall of 2014. Viewed in a longer time horizon, it looks as if the bond boom of late 2014 and the start of 2015 went too far and is now partly reversing, not that some new trend of higher rates is taking hold.
The factors that fueled those low rates to begin with — very low global inflation, vast pools of global savings looking for a place to be parked, central banks trying to use easy-money policies to restore growth — have changed after all.
You don’t have to believe there is an epochal shift going on, only modest changes in the last couple of months that can justify the move.
It looks as if higher rates are coming. The Federal Reserve appears relatively committed to its plans to raise short-term interest rates sometime this year. Oil prices have risen after falling to recent lows over the winter, so inflation should be a bit higher than it had seemed in February. And the dollar has weakened on currency markets, which also signals higher inflation.
Those all point to higher bond yields, and that’s exactly what we’ve gotten, with no major mystery.
Continue reading the main story

Bond Yields Increasing, Along With Volatility

Yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds
What is more of a mystery is why we’ve seen such abrupt turns in a market that historically has been slow-moving and not prone to overreactions.
Usually it’s the stock market that is always rising and falling for reasons that are hard to explain (or justify). The bond market, dominated by sophisticated, grown-up institutions like pensions and sovereign wealth funds as opposed to individual investors, has traditionally seemed less prone to irrational jitters.
In other words, there are perfectly plausible, fundamental reasons the 10-year Treasury yield should be 2.26 percent right now. But reasons it should have risen by half a percentage point since the start of February, with many jaw-dropping days in between? They are hard to fathom when nothing terribly dramatic about the economy or policy outlook has changed since then.
And that’s where we get to those explanations mentioned above involving the technical details of the bond market: things like banks being restricted from trading operations by new regulations, and asset managers crowding in and out of trades.
We’re in a world where the supply of bonds is relatively fixed. It has always been true that governments don’t quickly adjust their deficit spending plans based on a move in rates. But in a normal state of affairs when prices rise, private bondholders are more willing to sell, helping restrain the size of swings.
But now global central banks, having bought trillions of dollars’ worth of bonds in executing their quantitative easing programs, are not inclined to exploit price moves opportunistically. Rather, they are moving glacially, based on economic fundamentals, and with lots of advance communication on their intentions.
Count other institutions that hold bonds as insurance against economic catastrophe — not because they are hoping for meaningful return — and the number of players in the market responding to prices in an economically rational way is small.
This is a long way of explaining the common term of art in markets: There is less liquidity than there once was.
One result is big swings based on small pieces of information, as the buffers that would normally sell into price increases and buy into price drops are nowhere to be found.
And there’s not much reason to think that the forces driving this — the expansive role of central banks in the market, the structures of banks and asset managers and so on — are going to change anytime soon.
In other words, bond traders may just want to get used to postponing those perilous bathroom breaks.