With the NBA season just 10 days away and numerous fantasy drafts underway or scheduled in the next week, now more than ever it is important to pay attention to a team's injury report. Fantasy owners can protect themselves from selecting a player who is battling an injury that could carry over into the start of the regular season by paying attention to medical information and educating themselves on the severity of any ailments.
Chris Bosh is the last Miami superstar standing as Dwyane Wade nurses his strained hamstring and LeBron James now battling leg cramps. James came up clutching the back of his right leg in Miami's preseason win over CSKA Moscow. The former MVP downplayed the incident and the team is calling the injury a cramp. However it is worth keeping an eye on for the remainder of the preseason and into the early weeks of the regular season.
A cramp is defined as an involuntarily muscle contraction that results in pain. They are often the result of muscle fatigue from over conditioning or lack of water and electrolytes. Cramps can be classified into two groups, clonic or tonic. If a cramp rapidly contracts and relaxes it is considered clonic but if the contraction is long and constant it is tonic. James likely suffered a tonic cramp in his hamstrings and experienced some associated soreness. While the injury is minor, the incident should be taken into consideration for fantasy owners because cramps or spasms can increase the likelihood of a more debilitating muscle strain. King James sat out Miami's latest preseason game and should be ready to go for the regular season. James' teammate Wade is also reporting improvement in his right hamstring and is expected to play opening night against the Celtics.
In a twist of irony, Gilbert Arenas limped off the court with an actual injury just one game after lying about being hurt. Arenas missed Washington's preseason game against the Hawks with what he claimed was a left knee injury. However after the game, Arenas admitted he faked the injury to give Nick Young more minutes. Arenas was back in the lineup on Thursday but lasted just three minutes before leaving with a mild groin strain.
Last week I detailed a groin injury when evaluating Marcus Camby. I noted the groin is a group of muscles rather than an isolated muscle and together they are responsible for pulling the leg inward in a motion known as adduction. Unfortunately for those looking to add Arenas, know a strained groin presents a bigger problem for guards than it does for centers like Camby. Guards often rely more on their speed and quickness to be productive on the court. They must quickly accelerate and decelerate to fight through screens, pursue or elude defenders, and drive toward the basket. However a groin strain decreases an athlete ability to move laterally, making all these actions difficult. The team is likely being cautious with Arenas but the situation is much more complex given his recent history. Already considered an injury risk beforehand, Arenas remains a high-risk, high-reward player in all fantasy formats.
Denver's big offseason acquisition, Al Harrington, will miss the next two weeks after an MRI revealed a partially torn plantar fascia in his left foot. The plantar fascia is a fibrous band of connective tissue that provides supports for the arch of the foot. The fascia is normally durable and able to withstand the increased forces associated with walking, running, and jumping. However if the forces become repetitive or excessive, the plantar fascia can become inflamed and in some cases tear. In some extreme instances a heel spur will develop at the attachment site of the plantar fascia requiring surgery.
Harrington hopes to be back in time for the start of the regular season but plantar fascia injuries tend to linger and cause considerable pain. Pacers forward Danny Granger missed 16 games last season with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot while Chicago's Joakim Noah and San Antonio's Tony Parker both missed considerable amounts of time with plantar fasciitis. Tread cautiously with Harrington going forward. The injury gives Shelden Williams and Renaldo Balkman a chance to make an impact as Denver is also without Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, both recovering from offseason knee surgeries.
After being acquired in the offseason in a four-team trade, Troy Murphy has yet to suit up for New Jersey. He missed all of training camp with a strained groin and has now been shut down indefinitely with a strained and inflamed lower back. Lower back strains are common in basketball players, particularly taller forwards and centers. Once strained, the back muscles become inflamed and irritated and force the injured athlete into the vicious pain-spasm cycle. When the muscles of the back are injured following trauma, pain results and the muscles become tight and go into spasm. Spasms increase the pain resulting in more tension, which leads to more pain. The New Jersey medical staff must aggressively work to get Murphy's inflammation under control and end the cycle. Furthermore a back strain also causes an imbalance in the core musculature that work together to maintain static and dynamic functionality in the body. Simple activities like walking and going up stairs become difficult and basketball-related activities can be unbearable. The issue is compounded by Murphy's track record including a lower back injury sustained while with the Pacers.
Murphy is a viable fantasy option when healthy, providing double-digit rebounds while shooting a high number of three-pointers. Unfortunately staying healthy is the issue. He missed two weeks in the early portion of last season with a bruised lower back. Murphy has also missed time in various points throughout his career with injuries to his foot, knee, and ankle and has not played in 82 games since his rookie season in the 2001-2002 season. Stay away from Murphy early on and hope you can snag him later rounds. Kris Humphries and rookie Derrick Favors will get a chance to impress new head coach Avery Johnson as they steal some of the available minutes left from Murphy's absence.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.