Two of the top teams in the league are without their power forward as both Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Boston's Kevin Garnett are sidelined with injuries. Both of the former MVPs are suffering from lower extremity injuries that occurred on routine plays.
Nowitzki was injured in Dallas' win over Oklahoma City when he stumbled over his own feet following a jump shot. After hitting his free-throw, Dirk limped back to the locker room where X-rays were carried out. The X-rays were negative and a subsequent MRI revealed a minor knee sprain in his right knee. The Mavericks are optimistic and do not feel the injury is serious but the team has failed to say how long Nowitzki is expected to miss. However it is a good sign that Dirk plans on traveling with the team for their two-game weekend road trip.
The prolonged absence is a first for Nowitzki as he has been somewhat of an iron man throughout his career. In his last 10 seasons in the NBA, Nowitzki has missed a total of 34 games due to injury, primarily to his ankles. While some may cringe at the thought of a knee injury to another big man, understand Nowitzki is different than Greg Oden or Yao Ming. First his frame isn't nearly as big so he doesn't put excessive amounts of weight and force through his knees. Second no seven-footer in the game has prepared his body the way the big German has. With the help of his mentor Holger Geschwinder the nine-time All-Star has systemically trained his body to withstand a grueling NBA season. Through a variety of drills that include walking on his hands, finger pushups, and exhaustive core training and stretching, Geschwinder improved Nowitzki's strength and flexibility. These workouts, combined with the skills and expertise of Dallas athletic trainer Casey Smith, have enabled Nowitzki to bounce back quickly. However like they did in the 2002-2003 NBA playoffs when Nowitzki sprained his left knee, expect Dallas to show extreme cautious with the face of their franchise. Fantasy owners may be frustrated not having Nowitzki over the weekend but should expect him back in the lineup within the week.
The city of Boston let out a huge sigh of relief when further tests revealed Garnett suffered a calf strain and not a knee injury following a dunk against the Pistons. Following the slam, Garnett crumpled to ground and was slow to get up leading many to fear he had reinjured his surgically repaired right knee. However a MRI showed the knee intact and instead revealed the strained muscle. A strained calf is nothing to scoff at but has a much shorter window of recovery than a torn knee ligament. The calf is actually a muscle complex, made up of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. Together these muscles are responsible for a motion known as plantar flexion. Plantar flexion occurs when the foot is moved downward and the toes are pointed, similar to stepping on the gas while driving. The calf is an integral part of acceleration and a necessary component of jumping. Strains to this area can be particularly troublesome in basketball and tend to be nagging. The Celtics will rest their star until the injury is completely healed and expect him to be sidelined for at least two weeks. In the meantime Glen Davis will see an increase in minutes and responsibilities while Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal stand to see more playing time as well.
The loss of Garnett will be somewhat eased by the return of point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo has sat out Boston's last six games with a sprained left ankle but hopes to return Friday against the Hornets. Hopefully the ankle has completely healed and we are not looking at a situation where Rondo is in-and-out of the lineup. However given his ridiculous assist numbers when he has played, plug the speedster back into your lineups immediately and hope for the best.
Portland's Brandon Roy will be sidelined indefinitely due to his ailing knees and the Trailblazers are contemplating shutting him down for the remainder of the season. As previously discussed, Roy is suffering from chronic inflammation that is the result of deteriorated cartilage in his knees. His menisci are virtually nonexistent and both femurs are making direct contact with his lower leg bones resulting in bone-on-bone grinding. The condition is painful and results in significant inflammation best treated with rest and anti-inflammatory medication. The Blazers have not ruled out surgery and the dreaded word microfracture has been tossed around, the same procedure that ended the season of teammate Greg Oden. The situation is difficult for fantasy owners because it is hard to cut ties with a player of Roy's potential. However it doesn't sound like he will be playing anytime soon and it may be time to consider dropping Roy. Wesley Matthews continues to play well in Roy's absence.
Charlotte power forward Tyrus Thomas was one of many Bobcat players to benefit from a coaching change. In his one game played since Larry Brown resigned and Paul Silas was hired, Thomas scored 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, one steal, and five blocks. However a sprained wrist has slowed the explosive big man and he is expected to miss Friday's contest with the injury. Wrist sprains are a common injury but very difficult to manage. Ligaments are located on both the anterior and posterior aspect of the joint. These ligaments not only brace the joint but also protect and stabilize the various blood vessels and tendons in the area. Repeated injury can disrupt the flow of blood, decreasing the blood supply to the hand and carpal bones. Taping can help support the injury site by limiting range of motion but this can negatively effect a player's shooting mechanics. Look for Thomas to miss a game or two more and return with the injury heavily taped. Expect a slight decrease in productivity initially as he adjusts to the tape or brace.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.