Each NBA Team's Biggest Injury Question Entering 2012-13 Season

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistOctober 15, 2012

Each NBA Team's Biggest Injury Question Entering 2012-13 Season

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    Injuries are an inevitable part of sports, and the NBA has its share of high-profile injuries heading into the 2012-13 regular season.

    Some players have lingering effects from offseason surgery, others have new ailments that have cropped up already in the preseason.

    Not every squad has franchise-shaking situations like Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, but even the teams that are healthy have injury-prone players they need to monitor.

    Here's a team-by-team rundown of those injury concerns.

Washington Wizards: How Long Until John Wall Is Back to His Highlight-Reel Self?

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    Injury: Point Guard John Wall is out until late November with a stress injury to his left knee.

    The Washington Post reported on September 28 that Wall was recently diagnosed with a non-traumatic stress injury to his left knee and won't return until at least late November.

    This setback is the most disappointing in a series of injuries for the Wizards. Wall is the face of the franchise and the floor general as the team tries to get back to respectability.

    Now that he's out, Randy Wittman will have to use a committee of Jannero Pargo, A.J. Price and Shelvin Mack to run the point. Wittman shouldn't worry as much about when Wall will be back, but rather how explosive and effective he'll be.

    Wall's athleticism and elite creativity make him a threat to score 20 points and dish out 10 assists on any given night. He will be greatly missed.

Orlando Magic: How Serious Is Moe Harkless' Hernia?

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    Injury: Rookie forward Maurice Harkless is out of training camp due to hernia surgery and is questionable for the start of the season.

    Highly touted St. John's product Moe Harkless is kicking off his NBA career with hernia surgery. He's expected to miss the remainder of training camp and the first couple weeks of the regular season, according to Magic insider Brian K. Schmitz.

    Orlando received Harkless as part of the Dwight Howard trade, but now it won't get to see him develop until mid-November.

    The lack of training camp hinders the 19-year-old's growth as an NBA player and delays the development of the Magic as a unit.

    All of which raises the question: How will Harkless fare once his rookie year actually begins?

Miami Heat: Will D-Wade's Knee Derail Heat Early On?

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    Injury: Guard Dwyane Wade underwent left knee surgery in early July and is probable to start the season.

    Although Dwyane Wade is already back from knee surgery, the Miami Herald reported that he is playing limited minutes as Erik Spoelstra is being cautious.

    He should be back to his dangerous self early in the regular season, and the defending NBA champs hope the acrobatic guard can stay healthy and keep the Big Three intact.

    An explosive D-Wade makes for an unstoppable Miami club. When opposing teams prepare for the Heat, they often dedicate ample time game-planning for LeBron James, but not enough time preparing for Wade.

    Due to the attention on King James, teams fail to rotate enough when Wade drives, giving him several one-on-one opportunities per game. It's what makes Wade and the Heat so dangerous.

Atlanta Hawks: Will Pachulia Get to Full Strength Soon Enough?

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    Injury: Center Zaza Pachulia is still not 100 percent recovered from a groin injury he suffered this summer.

    He's not a starter for the Hawks, but as a center, Pachulia is still a key part Larry Drew's rotation.

    Pachulia is moving well at practice, but he's not quite at full strength, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    His consistent defensive contributions in the paint are crucial for the Hawks, who finally have Al Horford back after his lengthy absence last season.

    Horford is certainly more important to Atlanta's plans than Pachulia, but Pachulia's injury is a bit more of a question at this point.

    Neither center is in an alarming situation, but the Hawks will monitor both closely to ensure optimal production from the No. 5 spot.

Charlotte Bobcats: Can the Team Stay Healthy?

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    Injury: No worrisome injuries, not even to Tyrus Thomas.

    Aside from Byron Mullens hyperextending his knee, which should result in an easy recuperation, the Charlotte Bobcats are healthy.

    This is excellent news for 'Cats fans, considering Charlotte will need all the health and help it can get in the Southeast Division in 2012-13.

    Even though coach Mike Dunlap has several post players to choose from, none is terrific, and he needs each of them to chip in to form a productive 48 minutes.

    If someone like Mullens or Thomas goes down again, it puts a strain on the whole rotation and gives the Bobcats a tiny margin for error when in foul trouble.

New York Knicks: When Will Shumpert Return?

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    Injury: Guard Iman Shumpert is recovering from the ACL injury he suffered in April. He's aiming for December/January return.

    The New York Knicks thoroughly enjoyed Iman Shumpert's terrific rookie season in 2011-12, but they'll have to wait until winter for the sequel.

    Fortunately, it seems as if his rehab is going well, as he's poised for a possible December return, according to Nate Taylor of the New York Times.

    Although his recuperation and training are ahead of schedule, Mike Woodson and the Knicks' training staff won't rush Shumpert back. He's too talented and too important to New York's future. In the meantime, the Knicks have enough depth to win without him.

    If they handle his comeback properly, Shumpert's return could give the Knicks a fantastic boost on offense and defense.

Boston Celtics: When Will Avery Bradley Return?

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    Injury: Guard Avery Bradley is out until December, recovering from shoulder surgery.

    Emerging guard Avery Bradley is another young player who's ahead of schedule in the recovery process. But for this Celtics guard, the shoulder is the area of focus.

    Celtics web reporter Molly McGrath tweeted that Bradley feels no pain and has recovered even faster than expected from his mid-summer surgery.

    However, Doc Rivers doesn't want to bring him back prematurely.

    The 6'2" third-year pro shot better than 40 percent from three-point range and nearly 50 percent from the field during his sophomore campaign. The Celtics faithful hope his return goes smoothly so he can continue that kind of efficiency.

Philadelphia 76ers: Will Andrew Bynum's Knee Affect Team's Playoff Potential?

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    Injury: Center Andrew Bynum will have a procedure to lubricate his right knee, but he is projected to return for the start of the regular season.

    Bynum's status in Philadelphia isn't alarming, but the 76ers are starting to ask the same questions the Los Angeles Lakers used to ask: Is his injury going to prevent us from achieving our postseason goals?

    The only difference is that the Sixers don't have Kobe Bryant to rely on.

    CSN Philly reports that Bynum will have a "previously scheduled procedure" to lubricate his knee, but will be back to practice and full mobility before the regular season starts.

    Bynum is just 24 years old, but he already has an extensive injury history.

    The Sixers aren't too deep at the power forward and center positions, so they're crossing their fingers that Bynum's knee holds up.

Brooklyn Nets: Are Lopez's Ankle Issues a Thing of the Past?

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    Injury: Center Brook Lopez is returning from a second foot surgery and is apparently back to full strength.

    In order for the Nets to make on-court progress that equals the buzz they've created with their move to Brooklyn, center Brook Lopez must be in top form.

    He missed almost the entire 2011-12 season battling a broken foot and subsequent ankle sprain.

    Lopez's feet carry a lot of weight, and Lopez as a player carries a lot of expectations for the Nets. He's one of the few 7-foot centers in the league with the coordination to create in the post and make defenses pay with his midrange jump shot.

Toronto Raptors: Can Kyle Lowry Shed His Injury Early On?

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    Injury: Guard Kyle Lowry is set to return October 17 from a groin injury.

    The addition of Kyle Lowry makes Toronto's backcourt substantially more formidable, as he brings speed, strength and playmaking ability.

    But his first training camp as a Raptor has been interrupted by a strain in his adductor muscle, according to the Toronto Sun.

    Lowry is projected to be back in the lineup Wednesday, October 17, and it doesn't look like the injury will have any negative long-term ramifications.

    It's just a matter of seeing how strong and explosive he is upon returning.

Indiana Pacers: Will Granger's Knee Prevent Return to Stardom?

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    Injury: Forward Danny Granger is day-to-day, dealing with left knee irritation.

    The same knee that gave Granger trouble in the Pacers' playoff showdown with Miami is giving him trouble this preseason.

    Frank Vogel and Indiana's staff have kept him out of the last couple preseason games to avoid any unnecessary irritation, according to ESPN.

    Injuries have slowed Granger the last couple seasons, and it has chipped away at his ability to remain an elite scorer. Back in 2009 and 2010, he was playing 36 minutes per game and scoring between 24 and 26 points per game. Now, he's playing 33 minutes and only scoring 18.

    It seems far too soon for him to be falling out of his prime. If the Pacers want to own the Central Division and go deep in the playoffs, they need a healthy, elite Granger.

Chicago Bulls: #thereturn

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    Injury: Guard Derrick Rose is rehabbing from left knee ACL surgery. He is projected to return in spring of 2013.

    After his torn ACL crushed the hopes of the Bulls franchise in 2012, Derrick Rose began one of the most highly anticipated rehabilitations in the history of basketball.

    Not only does the Chicago franchise have faith in him, but so does the city of Chicago and Adidas, as it launched its #thereturn campaign.

    The determination of Rose and the hope of the city are amazing to see. But we must keep in mind that recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery is a monumental task, and he may never be the same.

    Will we ever see an MVP-caliber season from him again?

Milwaukee Bucks: When Will Mbah a Moute's Knee Be Ready?

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    Injury: Forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has no timetable for return following right knee surgery.

    One of Milwaukee's key role players is without a concrete timetable to return.

    The Racine Journal-Times reports that Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is unlikely to return in time for the regular season as he continues to rehab his right knee.

    Offensively, the Bucks won't miss him at all, but on the other end of the floor, his absence will be noticeable. Mbah a Moute is the Bucks' lock-down stopper who gets almost all the tough defensive assignments.

    Until Thanksgiving, things could get a little dicey for Scott Skiles' crew.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Can Kyrie Irving Stay Healthy?

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    Injury: Guard Kyrie Irving, who is recovering from a broken right hand, is in the preseason lineup.

    No player on the Cleveland Cavaliers is more important than second-year star Kyrie Irving, who is still getting back into the swing of things after missing a lot of time this summer.

    Assuming that he breaks out of his preseason shooting slump and his hand fully recovers, Irving remains Cleveland's greatest injury concern.

    With the hand injury being his second major injury in two years (the first being his foot injury at Duke), there is reason for doubt about his long-term durability.

Detroit Pistons: Are Corey Maggette's Ailments Behind Him?

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    Injury: Forward Corey Maggette missed 34 games last season due to back and Achilles tendon injuries.

    As a relatively young squad, the Detroit Pistons don't have many injuries or looming health concerns.

    But one of the more "elderly" players on the team is coming off a rough 2011-12 season. NBA journeyman Corey Maggette suffered Achilles tendon and back injuries that kept him out of more than half the lockout-shortened season.

    While Maggette isn't the most vital piece to the Detroit puzzle, he does put pressure on opposing defenses and draw tons of fouls (6.9 free-throw attempts per game).

    If he stays healthy, it could take the load off younger teammates and make Detroit a tougher team to encounter.

Houston Rockets: Will They Be Hindered by Lin's Surgically Repaired Knee?

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    Injury: Guard Jeremy Lin is still struggling with his surgically repaired left meniscus. He's probable for the start of regular season.

    Knee surgery ended Jeremy Lin's sensational debut season in New York, and according to the Houston Chronicle, that same knee is somewhat impeding his first season as a Rocket.

    On October 9th, he told the paper how his knee was feeling:

    My speed and my explosiveness and my agility (are not) there yet. I’m still trying to recover from knee surgery and get to where I was pre-surgery. I probably won’t get to play too much. Hopefully, as the preseason goes on. I’ll get to play more and more to build that endurance.

    Houston has a substantial investment in Lin over the next three years, so his knee is one of the franchise's most important pieces of property.

Dallas Mavericks: Can Dirk's Knee Hold Up for One More Run?

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    Injury: Forward Dirk Nowitzki is battling swelling in his right knee.

    With apologies to O.J. Mayo (hand) and Rodrigue Beaubois (ankle), Dirk Nowitzki's swollen knee is the most concerning injury in Dallas.

    The 34-year-old Mavericks star is dealing with an unusual amount of swelling.

    He has had it drained a couple of times recently. If the swelling persists, he's open to the potential of arthroscopic surgery, the Associated Press reported.

    Monday night's preseason tilt against Houston will likely yield a lot of answers about Nowitzki's mobility, game-readiness and the possibility of surgery.

New Orleans Hornets: Will Eric Gordon Return to His Explosive Self?

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    Injury: Guard Eric Gordon has soreness in right knee. He's probable for the start of the regular season.

    The New Orleans Hornets didn't get a true sample of what Eric Gordon can do, as the dynamic guard missed all but nine games of the 2011-12 season due to right knee troubles.

    Even though arthroscopic surgery and rehabilitation is behind him, there is still soreness that will keep him sidelined for the next few days, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

    The Hornets improved their roster in the offseason, but Gordon is still by far their most important player. He needs to play 70-plus games at a high level if New Orleans wants to stay competitive in the Southwest Division.

    His regular-season return isn't in question, but his athleticism and playmaking skills will be.once he does come back.

San Antonio Spurs: How Many Games Will Duncan and Ginobili Play?

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    Injury: No significant injuries at this time.

    Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs are one of the few outfits with no major injuries.

    Nevertheless, the age of guys like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili has the training staff on injury alert 24/7.

    If the two of them can stay healthy for a combined 140 games, they figure to  team with a presumably healthy Tony Parker to earn a top-four seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs play such a fluid brand of basketball that 50 wins is almost inevitable.

    Despite the Spurs' depth, Duncan's efficiency, positioning and impeccable timing can't be underestimated. Nor can Ginobili's versatility and knack for being a wild-card swingman.

Memphis Grizzlies: How Soon Can Selby Chip In?

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    Injury: Guard Josh Selby's ankle isn't back to full strength after he sprained his ankle in September.

    Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless should get most of the point guard/combo guard playing time in Memphis, but Josh Selby will be competing for reserve minutes if he can get himself healthy soon.

    He sprained his ankle while playing pickup ball with Monta Ellis, according to the Memphis Commericial Appeal.

    Selby is ready to get back into the thick of things, even if his ankle isn't at full strength. Let's not forget that he had a fantastic summer league and had the look of a potential sixth man or 20-minute reserve.

    Will he bounce back and regain his summer form in time for the regular season?

Oklahoma City Thunder: Will Perry Jones Be a Pain?

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    Injury: Rookie Forward Perry Jones may need meniscus down the road.

    That this is the Oklahoma City Thunder's biggest injury question speaks to how healthy they are.

    Aside from a few minor sprains or bumps and bruises, the team is ready to defend its Western Conference title.

    The one area of long-term concern is Perry Jones' potential meniscus issues, which raised red flags during draft week, causing him to plummet to the bottom of the first round despite his talent.

    It's nothing the Thunder are overly concerned worried, and it would be a routine procedure when the time comes, but it's nonetheless something for them to monitor.

Utah Jazz: How Many Games Will Jefferson and Williams Play?

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    Injury: No significant injuries at this time.

    The Utah Jazz don't have any significant injuries at the moment. The biggest injury-related question is how many games the point guard-center duo of Mo Williams and Al Jefferson will play.

    Mo Williams is 29 years old and has already missed 149 games in his career, while Jefferson is 27 and has already undergone ACL surgery.

    That's not a great injury history for your starting floor general and pivot man.

    Williams is the Jazz's best combo guard and decision-maker, while Jefferson has the most polished interior footwork. Utah has the personnel to deal with potential injuries on the short term, but a long-term  injury to either player would squash the Jazz's playoff aspirations.

Minnesota Timberwolves: How Is Ricky Rubio Progressing?

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    Injury: Guard Ricky Rubio is aiming to return from his left ACL and LCL injury in December or January.

    After suffering a doubly devastating injury to his left knee (tore ACL and LCL) in March, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio has steadily rehabbed himself on schedule.

    An Associated Press report from September 27 describes Rubio's promising, yet modest recovery and training process:

    Rubio started running three weeks ago, at about 6 mph on a treadmill. Jumping is still prohibited, so his shooting is essentially limited to the free-throw line for the next few months. Agility work will come in three or four weeks. He's at that point in the anterior cruciate ligament recovery when patience becomes even more difficult to maintain.

    The Timberwolves went 5-20 after Rubio went down in March. Even with an upgraded cast of forwards in 2012-13, they won't make the playoffs unless he comes back in January and is immediately effective.

    For every Minnesota fan, the burning question is: When exactly will he return, and how productive will he be?

Denver Nuggets: Will Chandler's Hip Hold Up?

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    Injury: Forward Wilson Chandler is in final stages of recovering from hip surgery. He is probable for the start of the regular season.

    The Denver Nuggets are extremely close to getting multi-talented forward Wilson Chandler back, as he's just a couple preseason games away from returning to the court.

    Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reports that Chandler is predominantly using the Stairmaster and participating sporadically in contact drills in practice. 

    The Nuggets have been lauded for their depth, especially at small forward, entering the 2012-13 season. But they're not truly that deep if Chandler can't give 100 percent on both sides of the ball.

    Hip injuries can be precarious, and a rough recovery could prevent him from contributing the solid defense and double-digit scoring the Nuggets have come to expect from him.

Los Angeles Clippers: What's the Status of Blake Griffin?

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    Injury: Is Blake Griffin a career catastrophe waiting to happen?

    I'm more sure of Chauncey Billups' return and Chris Paul's thumb recovery than I am about Blake Griffin's next potential spill.

    The Los Angeles Clippers' biggest injury question is about Griffin's fragile knees.

    Yes, he's looking great this preseason after recovering from his summer knee injury. But that was his second knee-related injury since becoming a Clipper.

    Griffin's high-flying, sprawling style of play is not conducive to keeping those knees healthy for the next five years.

    I hope Lob City can live on. But with two knee procedures  before his 24th birthday, every game is a risk.

Portland Trail Blazers: How Durable Will Aldridge Be?

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    Injury: Forward LaMarcus Aldridge had hip surgery over the summer. He's active and healthy now.

    According to CBSSports.com, LaMarcus Aldridge "showed no signs of lingering effects from offseason hip surgery" in his Wednesday preseason game against the Lakers.

    Portland Trail Blazers fans are breathing easy knowing their powerful post-up man is back to normal.

    Aldridge was never a particularly athletic player. He didn't rely on his athleticism, so we aren't looking to see if he's as explosive as he was before.

    What everyone should keep an eye on is how durable Aldridge will be after another full season of physicality in the paint. His skills are up to the task, but can his body hold up?

Phoenix Suns: Can Bigs Fill in for Frye?

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    Injury: Bigs will battle for playing time in the wake of Channing Frye's season-long departure.

    With Channing Frye out for the year due to an enlarged heart, the injury question for the Phoenix Suns is who's going to step up in his absence.

    Frye's departure leaves more playing time for forward/centers Ike Diogu, Jermaine O'Neal and Markieff Morris, depending on how camp goes.

    Marcin Gortat is the team's unmistakable anchor in the post, flanked by talented forwards Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Jared Dudley. So filling the scoring void left by Frye's departure shouldn't be a problem. 

    But who's going to come off the bench and provide the most rebounding and defense? Will Diogu and Morris let the old man (O'Neal) outdo them?

Los Angeles Lakers: What's Up with Dwight Howard?

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    Injury: Dwight Howard is returning from back surgery. He's probable for the start of the regular season.

    The Los Angeles trio of megastars isn't quite a whole trio yet, as new Lakers behemoth Dwight Howard is still resting his back.

    The all-world center is still not 100 percent recovered from his offseason back surgery and was kept out of the Lakers' exhibition game against Utah, Lakers reporter Mike Trudell tweeted.

    Howard's importance to the Lakers is far greater than Andrew Bynum's used to be, especially because Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol are now older, and power forward Jordan Hill is experiencing back issues.

    Hill might miss a couple more games than Howard, but Howard's readiness and explosiveness are still a much bigger question for the fans in Tinseltown.

Golden State Warriors: When Will Bogut's Ankle Be Ready?

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    Injury: Center Andrew Bogut is recovering from a left foot injury and is questionable for the Warriors' opener on October 31.

    One ankle down, one to go for the Golden State Warriors.

    Andrew Bogut's foot is almost done healing from January's left foot fracture, but CSN Bay Area reports he isn't cleared yet for 5-on-5 and full-contact activities.

    It has been a long road to recovery for the Australian big man, and the Warriors' hopes were for him to be back for the start of the regular season.

    Considering how valuable he is and how cautious teams are nowadays, I highly doubt that he will play on opening night or even in the opening week.

    Bogut has been rehabbing for so long, we wonder when it's going to end.

Sacramento: Will the Kings Limit Cousins' Wear and Tear?

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    Injury: Center DeMarcus Cousins has minor ankle and wrist bruises.

    Cowbell Kingdom King's blog revealed that center DeMarcus Cousins was icing and treating wrist and ankle injuries after the October 11th practice.

    Indications are that these are nothing more than minor bumps and bruises, and head coach Keith Smart said that keeping Cousins out of certain drills was simply a precautionary measure.

    Cousins' combination of size and skill is matched by only a small handful of NBA post players. He will continue to be the featured post player for Sacramento.

    The Kings' staff knows how important he is to the future, so they want to make sure he's in top form heading into 2012-13. He only missed two games in 2011-12, and the Kings would love to keep him injury-free for the next few years.