Injuries to stars are a disappointing part of life in the NBA, but it's those players' return from injury that oftentimes proves to be a catalyst for a struggling team.
With so many stars already being hobbled in the 2012-13 season, there are more than a few teams out there that have felt the pain of the injury bug.
All-Stars like Kevin Love and Dwyane Wade have returned after missing time for recovery, but guys like Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire are still rocking sport coats on a nightly basis.
When will injured stars like Nash and Stoudemire return? Here is a look at all the latest updates on injuries and possible return dates for star players.
New York Knicks point guard Raymond Felton came down with what many feared was a severe hand injury in Sunday's game against the Phoenix Suns.
Luckily, it wound up being just a bone bruise (per ESPN's Ian Begley). Felton stayed in the game, scoring 23 points and adding seven assists in the Knicks' 106-99 victory. Nevertheless, his status is still up in the air for Wednesday's game against the Bobcats, and the New York Daily News' Frank Isola is reporting it may come down to pain tolerance:
Raymond Felton's availability could come down to pain tolerance and perhaps adjusting to playing with a pad/wrapping on his left hand— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) December 2, 2012
Felton's play this season has been up and down, but it has essentially settled around his career averages. The former North Carolina star is averaging 15.1 points and 6.8 assists while shooting 43 percent.
Those are essentially replacement-level numbers, but the Big Apple may turn a little sour if Felton misses a few games. Jason Kidd, who would ostensibly slide over to the starting role in Felton's absence, has been out since Nov. 25 with back spasms.
Considering the only other pure point guard on the roster is Pablo Prigioni, Mike Woodson cannot be feeling too good about his depth at the moment.
The date for Amar'e Stoudemire's return to the Knicks lineup continues to get pushed back. Originally expected to miss just two to three weeks, that date was moved to six weeks. Now, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman, Stoudemire is looking for a return around Christmas:
Amar’e Stoudemire’s goal is to return around Christmas, with mid-December no longer a legitimate possibility, according to person familiar with the Knicks power forward’s thinking. The person said Stoudemire hasn’t begun running on the court following his surgery on Nov. 1.
At 12-4, you can't exactly say the Knicks have missed Stoudemire. In fact, you might find a few (or an overwhelming majority) of fans that are afraid that the star forward's return may disrupt team chemistry.
For now, it seems those fans can stop their white-knuckled worrying, as it will be at least three more weeks until Stoudemire returns to the floor. When he does come back, look for all eyes to be scoping Stoudemire's every move.
Business attire has become the norm for Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio this season. Still recovering from a torn ACL that abruptly ended his rookie season, Rubio was yet to even touch the floor with his teammates—at least until Sunday.
According to the Star Tribune, the 22-year-old guard made his triumphant return to the floor in Sunday's practice:
Rubio practiced on Sunday for the first time this season and said his knee responded well. There is still no timetable for his first game, and Rubio is trying to be patient to make sure that he is completely ready when he does return after the first major injury of his career.
Obviously, there is still no concrete timetable for Rubio's return. Knee injuries are notoriously tricky for basketball players, and there's no chance that anyone involved with the Timberwolves organization will risk their prized point guard's health by rushing him back.
Nevertheless, Rubio's return cannot come soon enough. Minnesota is scoring just 92.5 points per game on the season, good for 27th in the NBA, and the team's guard play has been especially putrid.
With all signs looking positive after Sunday's practice, perhaps Rubio will return sooner than expected.
It may be hard to believe, but it's already been over a month since we last saw Steve Nash on an NBA floor. While the Los Angeles Lakers knew it would be a waiting game as their point guard deals with a fractured shin, the days keep ticking away, and his status seems stuck in limbo.
According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said on Saturday that there is still no timetable for Nash's return:
D'Antoni w/ a Nash non-update update: "He's plugging along. I think he's getting better. But there's not a date yet. We're working at it"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 1, 2012
Unlike the Knicks, the Lakers' season has not gone swimmingly. The team has had three different head coaches since Nash's last game, and the Lakers are languishing around the .500 mark at 8-9.
And until Nash returns, it's unlikely that we can properly assess the 2012-13 Lakers roster. D'Antoni was brought in to speed up the pace with Nash's strengths in mind, and the other point guards on the roster have floundered in his system.
With no return date yet in sight, restless fans will have to be patient a little while longer.
Brook Lopez plus injured foot equals a cabal of petrified Brooklyn Nets fans. The star center, who missed all but five games last season due to fractures in his right foot, has missed the Nets' past two games due to a sprain in that same foot.
Fortunately, the injury is not related to the fractures in his fifth metatarsal. According to ESPN's Mike Mazzeo, Dr. Riley Williams III said Friday that there is no structural change in that particular part of Lopez's foot:
Team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Riley Williams III said in a statement Friday that Lopez has a mid-ligament sprain in his right foot and will be re-evaluated Monday when the team returns to New York.
"The area of Brook's previous fracture at the fifth metatarsal bone was unremarkable, and unchanged compared to prior films," Williams said.
You can release your held breath now, Nets fans. Lopez has been a bit of a revelation this year in Brooklyn, averaging 18.5 points and 2.5 blocks per game thus far, all by continuing his patented aversion to rebounds with just 6.8 per night.
With Andray Blatche excelling in Lopez's absence as well, the Nets frontcourt may wind up being a massive strength this season. But for that to happen, Lopez needs to return to the floor and stick around for the remainder of the campaign.