NBA Injury Report: Who's Hurting the Most?
Who's hurting? Let's take a quick look at the biggest injuries affecting the NBA this week. There's a bias to the star player, the injuries that will affect games and fantasy teams, so I apologize if I miss that backup power forward on your favorite team. I'll also skip injuries like Rajon Rondo's knee since I covered that earlier.
The Association did have a lot of missed games this week for "illness", proving that it does exist in the real world. With nasty cases of flu and the dreaded norovirus making its way around the country, it's no surprise that a group of men that spend most of their time in airports, arenas and the close confines of a locker room might see the spread of illness hit them. Players like Deron Williams and Kyrie Irving have missed time this week with "illness."
Heading into the All-Star break this year, the NBA has seen its share of injuries, though based on the data, there's not a significant decrease in overall injuries. The thought with last year's compressed schedule would increase fatigue and reduce practice time, but the overall injury statistics seem in line with previous seasons.
Thanks for reading—let's get to it.
Stephen Curry (Ankle)
The Warriors did not have a good week injury-wise. There are two more Warriors on later slides, but losing Stephen Curry for any period of time could be devastating to Mark Jackson's squad. The only hole in Curry's game in his first few seasons has been his tendency to get hurt.
His most recent issue is a simple ankle sprain. It is an ankle that he's injured before, so there will need to be some additional caution. Curry did try to play after the sprain with a brace, but he wasn't comfortable and stayed out. Watch to see if he's got the brace on (though it's impossible to see if there's tape under the sock, which can be as effective).
The Warriors rested him on Tuesday, but it doesn't appear that he'll miss any significant amount of time. There's a lot of leg in Curry's shot and his ability to get open for that shot relies on his quickness as well. Even a simple ankle sprain could have an effect on both. Chad Bergman really has his work cut out for him, but he's known as one of the better young athletic trainers in the game.
Chris Paul (Knee)
I warned you that Chris Paul could be out a while with this knee bruise. Now, Vinny Del Negro is telling the press that it could be even longer. Paul is out through Saturday, at least, while he undergoes more physical therapy.
The team is being cautious with his return after he aggravated it in his first game back. The Clippers have an upcoming road trip and there's some hope that he'll be back for that. Even so, look for Paul to lose some minutes as they protect the knee and give Eric Bledsoe an increase in minutes.
The big worry is that this problem leads to other issues with the knee. Patellar tendon and articular cartilage issues are the normal concerns. When Paul returns, watch to see if he shows any limp or declines activity on it, such as jumping or cutting.
Kevin Love (Hand)
The Timberwolves think they'll have Kevin Love back in mid-March, according to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The rebounding star is headed back to New York, where he had surgery on his fractured hand back in January. He'll spend 10 days undergoing rehab under the watchful eye of his surgeon Dr. Michelle Carson.
Love had the third and fourth metacarpal of his right hand fracture—actually re-fracture—while doing "knuckle pushups." With the fractures healing well, Love will focus on strength and function during the next 10 days. Much of the key to his return will be imaging, with the doctors keying on the healing of the bone in hopes of avoiding yet another problem down the line.
Carlos Boozer (hamstring)
The Bulls aren't saying exactly when Carlos Boozer injured his hamstring, but he is questionable for Wednesday's game. There's actually very little in the way of specifics about the strain, so it's impossible to get too much from this. In the short term, Boozer's availability is in question.
In the longer term, Boozer is not a player that is known for his running or athleticism, so once the leg is not painful and not at risk of further damage, he'll be able to get back to level quickly. The Bulls are also running less and do not figure to change that style with the return of Derrick Rose, who may be slowed after knee surgery.
Chris Bosh (Foot)
Chris Bosh might be the forgotten star on the Miami Heat, but his inside presence is big (literally) for the team and their success. Foot injuries in big men like Bosh can be a real issue, though they are more often seen in bigger big men—ones that have some added weight putting pressure on the feet.
That said, Bosh's foot soreness has to be taken seriously. The Heat's medical staff appears to have caught this one early and Bosh could be back on the floor as soon as Wednesday. The key will be if they can keep him there, as foot injuries have a tendency to linger. They're more dangerous as an annoyance than as a trauma.
Look to see if Bosh is guarding his feet or has trouble "bouncing"—going back up in the air quickly after jumping, a plyometric activity normally seen during rebounding.
Gordon Hayward (Shoulder)
I live in Indianapolis, so pardon me if I have a bit of a soft spot for Gordon Hayward. People here follow him closely, even if he is off in Salt Lake City. It made it that much tougher that Hayward injured his shoulder playing (and beating) the Pacers.
Hayward has a low-grade shoulder sprain, something that shouldn't keep him out too long. He'll need to show that he has his shot back and functional strength, but the Jazz showed how much they miss him, getting blown out by the Rockets in his absence.
Hayward is "rangy", a kind way of saying that he's skinny as heck. Look for teams to test him physically, especially if he's pushed inside defensively, until he proves that he's fully healthy. He may leave some shots short if the shoulder is bothering him, so that's one key to look for once he's back.
Chris Kaman (Concussion)
Concussions aren't just a football problem. Actually, the scholastic sport that saw the biggest increase in concussion incidence over the last decade was girls basketball. I didn't get it either until a friend invited me to watch a local high school game. The elbows and differences in height and talent caused major issues.
Chris Kaman understands this. Kaman hit his head during a shootaround, though the details are not clear about exactly what happened. It's impossible to predict the course of a concussion. It can range from days to years, so we'll have to wait until the Mavs medical staff thinks it's safe. I do wonder if some form of light helmet might help in these kind of returns, the way the clear plastic mask helps protect players coming back from fractured noses.
JaVale McGee (Shin)
Even a physical freak like JaVale McGee has to be healthy to help his team. The Denver Nuggets did get some good news after McGee's MRI. There is no fracture of any type in his tibia (shin) and so the medical staff will have to work to remove whatever is causing what they are terming "irritation."
This could be something as simple as a bruise, though the lack of swelling and discoloration would indicate that if it's that, it's not very serious. The Nuggets will continue treatment and keep a watchful eye, knowing that stress fractures are easy to miss, even with advanced imaging.
Currently, the Nuggets seem to think they'll have McGee back in the lineup in days. George Karl seems comfortable with Timofey Mozgov, so McGee could have a bit more time to heal up.
Tim Duncan (Knee)
The Spurs have never been shy about resting their stars. Add in that Tim Duncan is 36 now with a lot of mileage on his knees, being cautious with his sore knees is the smart play. Will Sevening and his medical staff have done some master work over the course of the Spurs' run of success, but it's very evident with just how available Duncan has been compared to other big men of the era.
Duncan is dealing with what seems to be simple soreness and perhaps some swelling. Keeping this kind of minor issue from becoming something more major seems simple, but many teams in professional sports have a hard time with it. It's a bit easier in basketball, with shorter rosters and clear hierarchy in talent and value, but it's still a strength for the Spurs.
Expect Duncan back shortly and in his normal role, though with the All-Star break coming, they may dial things back just a bit on his minutes.
Harrison Barnes (Knee)
Rookie Harrison Barnes has a sore knee and will miss a couple games. At this point in the season, a lot of rookies hit a bit of a physical wall. Forty-four games is a lot more than he was used to at North Carolina. Barnes had been dealing with a calf strain before the latest issue with the knee, so this is likely some sort of cascade.
For Barnes, it was a dramatic dunk that appears to be the proximate cause. He immediately grabbed his knee as the announcers discussed how dangerous the play was. The Warriors are being pretty vague with their description of the injury, but they're smart to be cautious. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of a connection between fatigue and knee injuries.
With the All-Star break coming up, buying Barnes a bit more rest is the smart play. Even being a bit short-handed in the short-term is better than losing Barnes for any extended period. The Warriors did get a bit of help, which we'll check on the next slide...
Jason Kidd (back)
At 39, most guys have a bit of issues with their back. Most guys don't still play in the NBA at that age, but Jason Kidd is doing just that and at a high level. Missing a game here or there is to be expected when you have a guy like Kidd around, so it's no big worry unless it turns into something more.
Back injuries are painful and linger, but they don't have to be disabling or alter a player's game. Kidd's game is about quickness and moving in the transition, so the Knicks' medical staff will have to work hard on maintenance to keep this at the annoyance level. They're already doing a lot of that to keep Kidd functional, so a lot of this will fall back on his work ethic. That's never been questioned.
Andrew Bogut (Ankle)
The oft-injured Andrew Bogut came back strong, but vanished again quickly. Bogut made his season debut after recovering from ankle surgery, looking like an immediate contributor. Unfortunately, the plan to limit his minutes might not be enough.
Bogut missed Tuesday's game with soreness. While it's not clear if this is soreness in the ankle or general soreness from the return, it's not a good sign for someone with Bogut's medical history. The Warriors say that the plan was to not play Bogut in back-to-back games, but it raises some questions about how well he'll be able to recover.
Keep a close eye on this one, with an eye to an expansion of his minutes and a gradual increase in how he's used—and when. The Warriors want to see him in uniform, not back on the bench like in this picture.
Will Carroll has been writing about sports injuries for 12 years. His work has appeared at SI.com, ESPN.com and Football Outsiders.