The NBA's injury situation is comparable to the game. Sometimes things go back and forth. Sometimes they're fast, sometimes slow and sometimes, it goes in several directions at once. It looks like a mess until you see the pattern, the athleticism and the hard work.
A lot of the hard work is going on off the floor right now as medical staffs are fighting to get players back on the court, either to fight for a playoff spot or maybe for a career. We have chronic injuries, traumas and even a bit of the unmentionables this week in the 10 biggest injuries of the week.
This is not an exhaustive list, so while I see your comments each week, there's only so much time in the day, just like there's only so much time in the season to get some of these players back. Pau Gasol isn't back this week and neither is Derrick Rose, so once either of those players—or many of the others—gets closer to a comeback or gives me some real news to riff on, I'll share it.
In the meantime, here are the injuries around the NBA.
The Sixers might have waved the white flag on their season, and if so, Andrew Bynum's visit to New York might be the reason. Bynum visited Dr. David Altchek, his personal orthopedist, and may be preparing for further surgery on his chronically painful knees.
The question now is what changed between the time the Sixers brought Bynum in and the start of the season? Did a franchise once owned by a physical therapist really miss the diagnosis and physical so badly, or did they take a gamble, realizing that Bynum was an expiring contract with a bit of possible upside? It's impossible to tell from the outside, but it's time to cut bait.
Bynum simply hasn't made any visible progress in getting past his knee issues this season. At just 25 years old, he fits the pattern of all too many big men whose lower bodies couldn't hold up to the stresses of the NBA. A number of these came in the high school draftee era, including Kobe Bryant, so there's something to the concept that damage done early revisits the knees more quickly.
Until we get new techniques, beyond even microfracture, we'll have more Andrew Bynums. That lost talent may be the NBA's biggest "what if."
The Danny Granger return didn't last long.
Granger didn't come back before the All-Star break, as expected, and when he did return, his playing time was limited. It was a very bad sign when he was having trouble coming back in the second half. With many inflammation injuries, it works like we often see with sprained ankles. Once a player stops and the blood begins to flow to the area, it's difficult to break the cycle.
Granger was having problems with in-game inflammation and recovery between games. That's a deadly combination for someone dealing with long-term inflammatory response and with changes to the very structure of his knees. Reports are currently stating that Granger will miss a week, though this could extend much further than that.
Granger has been ineffective in the minutes he's played, and while reports vary on whether the latest setback is day-to-day or indefinite, the signs aren't positive for this season or for Granger's future.
Kobe Bryant's injuries aren't funny. His knees have been a problem for years, but now a chronic inflammation in his ulnar nerve, also known as the funny bone, is causing problems as well.
Bryant got hit on the already inflamed nerve early in Tuesday's game against Oklahoma City, according to ESPN.com. He was able to get treatment and come back to the game. Since he scored 30, we'll have to assume the treatment worked.
Bryant doesn't get to rest. The Lakers have a game Wednesday against the Hornets and Bryant is expected to play. He'll continue to fight through all his injuries as he tries to play the Lakers into the playoffs. Watch to see if the Lakers can figure out a better way to protect it than a light sleeve without affecting his game.
A Grade II ankle sprain could keep Tony Parker out for up to a month, but early signs are positive. Parker is off crutches and even out of the boot, but does that mean he'll be back early? Probably not.
The Spurs will be worried about two things. First, they'll want Parker to be at or near full function. He's a quickness player who needs lots of lateral motion, especially on defense. Parker has dealt with injury throughout his career, so he could adjust. But at this stage in the season, there's no reason to rush.
Second, they'll want to make sure he doesn't re-injure it. The Spurs' medical staff will keep him out until they're sure he doesn't have a setback that pushes this into the playoffs or worse. Parker doesn't need a lot of time prior to the playoffs and their position is pretty set, so there's no reason to do anything outside a long-term horizon.
At this stage of the season, it's sometimes difficult to determine a player's injury status because of the different ways teams in and out of playoff contention handle an injury.
Once a team is out of the playoff hunt, there's no need to rush players back, and often, we'll see them being shut down to make sure they're ready for next season. You'll see those clean-up surgeries and things that players have been playing through handled more aggressively.
That's partially the case with Andrei Kirilenko. The Timberwolves are out of playoff contention, but Kirilenko's calf strain is a significant one, so missing at least six games would have happened anyway. It's what happens with him beyond that that will be affected by the Timberwolves' fate.
Kirilenko needs his legs both for his deep shooting and for his positioning-based defense, so he can't play through an injury that saps both of those. It should be about a two-week injury, given what we know about the severity. Anything beyond that and we can just look at the calendar for reasoning.
Mo Williams has been out since late December. He could be back as early as Wednesday in Cleveland, but the Jazz medical staff and coaching staff haven't made that final decision as of Wednesday morning.
The fractured thumb required two surgeries, one to inserts pins to guide the healing and another to remove them once the injury heals. Williams is right on schedule and has been practicing, but the question is whether the hand will able to withstand contact.
Williams will come off the bench, a role in which he's always excelled, when he returns. But once he and the team get a bit more confidence in his health, he'll be asked to do a lot more. The Jazz need all the help they can get in trying to hold onto the No. 8 seed in the West.
Zach Randolph was "limping badly" on his sprained ankle, according to reports on Tuesday. That puts his Wednesday game in real jeopardy. Expect Randolph to be out and Ed Davis in for the matchup against Portland.
The Grizzlies are in fourth and fighting for position in the West, which means they'll need their big man back as soon as he can contribute. But that means getting him at least another game off.
Randolph's history of knee issues also factors into this, as the team will want to make sure that a simple ankle sprain doesn't cascade into something more serious.
Kobe Bryant isn't the only Laker hurting. Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard are also dealing with injuries, though both are expected to play in Wednesday's game in New Orleans.
Peace was part of both injuries with his coming late in the game. Peace came down on an opponent's foot and rolled it hard. He told ESPN.com that "he did the Harlem Shake, then I twisted my ankle." It's good to see that his name is not the only ridiculous thing about the former Ron Artest. The ankle did make a hard roll, but the degree of "twist" isn't a good indicator of degree of injury. Peace had imaging done, all negative, but it will be his response to treatment that allows him to play or not Wednesday.
Peace also injured his own teammate, unintentionally. Early in the game, he and Dwight Howard got tangled up, putting pressure on Howard's injured shoulder. Howard noted that he had injured his shoulders on rebounds previously and that this one his arm was in a different position. He was still in pain, but played through it. The Lakers and Howard seem to have gotten to a functional place with his torn labrum and that shouldn't change because of one minor episode.
It's not an injury that will have Jermaine O'Neal out for at least three games, but it is medical. His daughter is having open heart surgery, so O'Neal will be leaving the team to be with her.
This serious but controllable situation gives us a chance to remember that these men we watch are also just people, with some of the same problems we have. They are just taller and much richer.
Heart surgery has come a long way in a short time. Advances include keyhole surgery that removes the "open" in open heart surgery and even the use of robotic surgical aids that can have a surgeon in a remote site performing the procedure. We don't see the giant scars we used to, and the results have gotten better as well.
O'Neal's absence will create issues for the Suns. They've been emphasizing strong post play, so it's unclear who will take on his role in the interim.
Bradley Beal is unlikely to play on Wednesday night. He said on Tuesday that his sprained ankle was getting better, but he was unable to "do anything mobile." That sounds like basketball might be on that list.
Beal's sprained left ankle isn't thought to be significant—he's already off crutches—but there's no reason to rush anything with the Wizards out of contention.
Beal has put up significant minutes in his rookie season, so they'll need more than just Garrett Temple to take those, meaning there's some deep bench potential if you're looking for fantasy filler.
The term "flu-like symptoms" is one that is used as a euphemism for many things. Some think of this as a cover-up or even misdirection, but occasionally, we are reminded that we probably don't want to know the details.
Dion Walters is missing time with vomiting so severe that he had to be hospitalized. Since Tyler Zeller has had similar symptoms, it's believed to be the norovirus that has been such a problem around the country.
Walters should be back once he's past these initial symptoms, which normally is a matter of days in a strong young man like him. Dehydration is the biggest issue, so the Cavs will watch him closely to make sure he doesn't get overtaxed, leading to a muscle strain or worse.
The only real update since my Tuesday article on Carmelo Anthony is that he is not expected to play on Wednesday. That's expected and shouldn't be long term. The New York Daily News is also reporting that Anthony has some fluid build up on the knee, which again shouldn't surprise anyone.
Mike Woodson's comments after the injury, that Anthony was asking out but was left in, are more intriguing and frankly troubling.
The "play through it" culture isn't as apparent in basketball as it is in football, or even baseball, but it's out there. A player who is injured, or even sore, but is forced to continue playing is a situation that trickles down and is counterproductive.
We'll have to see if this causes Woodson to be a bit more cautious when Anthony does return, which could limit his minutes a bit as they head into the playoffs. Woodson is saying the right things, but the tight Eastern Conference race for playoff position could force Woodson's hand again.
Will Carroll is the Lead Writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report. He has written about sports injuries and related topics for 12 years.