An 11-year NBA veteran, Chris Wilcox Is Still a Playoff Rookie

It was about a month ago last year,  Chris Wilcox received the news he would need heart surgery and miss the remainder of the 2011-12 season.

The Boston Celtics were headed to another postseason, but would have to do so without their reserve big man.

Another month came and went, and the Celtics defeated the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. There they battled the Miami Heat through seven games, losing the deciding contest in South Beach.

Chris Wilcox watched all of that, and it was an all too familiar sight.

Since entering the NBA in the 2002 draft, as the No. 8 overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers, Wilcox has played in just as many playoff games as you (probably) and I (definitely).

It is almost as if winning the 2002 NCAA championship with the University of Maryland came cursed with a postseason bug.
That is a mammoth suit

Wilcox was taken one spot in front of Amar'e Stoudemire, who has logged 60 playoff games. Just in front of Wilcox, the Denver Nuggets got Nene, who has made 44 postseason appearances. Even Yao Ming, 2002's No. 1 overall pick, who retired two years ago, played in 28 playoff games.

In case you were wondering, the Celtics gave their first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns and came out of the 2002 draft with Darius Songaila at No. 50. Songaila, himself, has played in 27 postseason games, but hasn't seen an NBA court since 2010. He never actually suited up for the Celtics, as his rights were sent to the Sacramento Kings.

It is a rarity for a player to be both talented and hard-working enough to stay in the league this long, and not see a postseason berth. Of those taken ahead of him in the 2002 draft, only Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Nene remain viable NBA players. Drew Gooden played 16 games with the Milwaukee Bucks this season, but is mostly an assistant coach.

After three learning years with the abysmal Clippers, from 2002-05, Wilcox was rounding into a fine young big man.

Finally, the Clippers were looking good in the 2005-06 season. Wilcox was swallowed up by a rotation that included Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Cuttino Mobley, Corey Maggette and Sam Cassell.

That Clippers team went on to upset Carmelo Anthony's Denver Nuggets, and fall in seven games to the Phoenix Suns. Two great playoff series!

But, wait. Wilcox was dealt a couple months before the postseason, in a trade with the Seattle Supersonics. The 47-35 Clippers sent him away for Vladimir Radmanovic, leaving Wilcox on the 35-47 Supersonics.

Stuck with lowly Seattle, Wilcox made the best of the opportunity. He worked himself into a regular starter for the franchise, averaging 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds over two-plus seasons.

Plus, sweet corn rows!
Wilcox was the team's starting center the year they drafted Kevin Durant. Even with Durant's 20.3 points per game, the Supersonics finished 20-62. As a result of multiple failures, the team was moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder the following year.

The team took Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in the draft and continued building. The following February, Wilcox was again traded. This time he went to the New York Knicks for Malik Rose.

While the Thunder finished with only 23 wins that season, we all know how things turned around the following year. Once again, Wilcox missed out on some serious playoff glory. Instead, he finished out the year on the 32-50 Knicks.

Wilcox left the Knicks in free agency, signing a deal with the Detroit Pistons before the 2009-10 season. Naturally, the Knicks were in the playoffs two years later, and have been ever since.

The Pistons that Wilcox agreed to join had been to the postseason for eight-straight years.  Unfortunately for all involved, that was the year the descent from the cliff began for the proud franchise.

Wilcox was a solid role player for the team, but they suffered through two of the worst seasons in franchise history, winning 27 and 30 games, respectively.

With that contract expiring, Wilcox finally signed with a contender prior to the 2011-12 season, the Boston Celtics. After 28 solid games, a heart problem was detected during a routine check-up.

The Celtics waived him, and as we know, went on to the Eastern Conference finals. Boston brought him back before the 2012-13 season, as a fully healthy backup big. He averaged 13.6 minutes over 61 games, and has worked his way into the frontcourt rotation.

Now, Wilcox will finally get his chance to taste postseason competition at the professional level.

After playing 12,473 minutes in 628 NBA games, for Chris Wilcox, 3pm Saturday cannot come fast enough.

You can follow Mike Walsh on Twitter @3rdStringWalsh