The Miami Heat have been unable to utilize the preseason like they had hoped as injuries have limited the playing time of both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Now with the start of the season just days away, another member of the Heat has suffered an injury and will likely be shelved for several weeks. Sharpshooter Mike Miller suffered a significant thumb injury during practice on Wednesday when he caught the thumb in a teammate's jersey. The 11-year player is out indefinitely.
The thumb is comprised of three bones, the first metacarpal, followed by the proximal and distal phalanxes. The primary joint of the thumb is the carpometacarpal joint located where the metacarpal connects with the carpal bone known as the trapezium. This joint is classified as a saddle joint because it allows for multiple movements including rotation and a specific motion known as opposition. Opposition allows the thumb to touch the tips of the other four digits and is a key component in gripping. If motion at this joint becomes restricted due to injury, a player often struggles to successfully grip a basketball ball and effectively control the ball while dribbling and shooting.
The next bone in the thumb is the proximal phalanx. It attaches to the metacarpal bone to form the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint. The MCP joint is stabilized by a ligament known as the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). The UCL is more often injured in baseball players than basketball players as the athlete overstretches the ligament when they attempt a headfirst slide and get hung up on the bag. Fantasy owners who play fantasy baseball in addition to basketball may recall that several notable names including Jason Heyward and Chase Utley missed time last season nursing sprained UCLs.
Miller underwent an MRI on Thursday but the team remains tight-lipped regarding a specific diagnosis as they contemplate their various options. However, based on the mechanism of injury it seems likely that Miller has also injured his UCL. If he suffered a compete tear, Miller would need surgery to repair the ligament and could miss up to two months. Boston's Shaquille O'Neal needed surgery to repair a torn UCL last season while with Cleveland and missed the last seven weeks of the regular season before returning for the postseason.
Whatever the official diagnosis, Miami expects Miller to miss at least a few weeks. The injury is further complicated by the fact that it occurred to his shooting hand. When he is able to return expect Miller to wear a brace or tape job that could alter his shooting mechanics. Miller's absence will be eased by the return of Wade, who has been cleared to practice after dealing with a hamstring strain. James Jones remains the likely candidate to see extended minutes until Miller's return.
A virtual unknown entering the year, Beaubois surprised many last season with his explosive play and ability to fill up the scoreboard. He dropped 40 points on the Warriors and scored 16 points in 20 minutes to lead a Mavs rally against the Spurs that ultimately came up short. His promising play had many believing he would join the Mavericks' starting five this season and become a legitimate fantasy weapon. Unfortunately the plan was derailed when Roddy B. suffered a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot while training with the French National team over the summer.
Fractures to the fifth metatarsal commonly occur in basketball when pivoting and can be a tricky injury to handle. The bone itself is located on the lateral or outside aspect of the foot and serves as an attachment site for several muscles. Fortunately it is not considered a major weight-bearing bone. However the blood supply to the area is poor and, depending on the location of the fracture, these injuries can be slow to heal. Beaubois' break required surgery to repair and was performed by team physicians in early August. In the procedure, a pin was inserted to stabilize the bone allowing for a stronger, more complete union to form.
Beaubois has been in and out of a walking boot as the team limits his activity. He is currently 11 weeks removed from surgery and will hopefully begin running sometime within in the next week. While the timeline derails coach Rick Carlisle's plans to use Beaubois as the starting two-guard, it should allow him to return sometime in mid-November. Shawn Marion and Jason Terry remain the most likely players to start in his place. However opportunistic fantasy owners may be able to stash Beaubois in deeper leagues and enjoy his numbers upon his return.
Beaubois' newest teammate is dealing with an injury of his own. Chandler, acquired in an offseason trade with Charlotte, suffered a minor laceration on his right thumb after he cut it on the rim during a block attempt. The cut require two stitches to close and has put Chandler's availability for opening night in doubt. However it does not appear the injury is severe and should be completely healed within the next 10 days. Fantasy owners willing to draft Dallas starter Brendan Haywood should consider adding Chandler as insurance as both players have a history riddled with injury.
Like Chandler, Jefferson also avoided serious injury after X-rays on his sore right index finger came back negative. Utah will limit his activity in practice to allow the bruised digit to heal and expect Big Al to be ready for his Utah debut when the Jazz travel to Denver to take on the Nuggets.
Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry
Two sophomores looking to build on last year's success came up gimpy in preseason as both Sacramento's Evans and Golden State's Curry suffered sprained ankles. Evans turned his left ankle in a preseason game but returned to action less than week later. He scored 17 points and handed out seven assists in his return and is a safe bet to start on opening night. Curry sprained his right ankle in an exhibition contest against the Lakers and will sit out the Warriors' preseason finale. However like Evans, the sprain is considered minor and Curry remains a must-start in all formats.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.