A long season is coming to a close and the frequency of injuries seems to be on the rise. Several big names including Deron Williams, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Love are abandoning fantasy owners just when they are needed most.
Williams has been a spectator for New Jersey's last three games nursing a strained tendon in right hand. The All-Star point guard initially injured the wrist in a late January loss to the Spurs while still a member of the Jazz. He then aggravated the injury in a recent game and the Nets elected to rest him in hopes of an improvement. The team does not feel surgery will be needed and Williams has expressed a desire to play again this season. However the injury is clearly affecting his shooting mechanics. Williams was shooting 46.7 percent from the field prior to the initial injury and has shot 36.4 percent in the 15 games since, including a 1-of-12 outing against the Bulls.
By opting not to shut Williams down, the Nets are putting fantasy owners in a peculiar spot while risking the future of their franchise. If he does suit up Williams is too big of a name for fantasy owners to drop. However endless questions about his availability and his erratic play make him a risky option going forward. Furthermore playing with any kind of injury increases the probability of another, perhaps more serious injury, occurring. The Nets reevaluated Williams' wrist Friday and will hold him out for two more games. However New Jersey should do fantasy owners and themselves a favor and rest Williams for the remainder of the season, as unpopular as that decision may be. Jordan Farmar will continue to man the point in Williams' absence. Even if Williams were to return, Farmar is expected to receive a healthy dose of minutes with Sundiata Gaines out for the remainder of the year with a fractured right hip.
The top team in the NBA, the Spurs, are expected to be without their defensive anchor for least three more games after Duncan suffered a sprained left ankle in a recent win over Golden State. A MRI and X-ray revealed no fractures. The Spurs are calling the injury a sprain that would fall somewhere between a Grade I or Grade II sprain. A Grade I sprain is considered minor with minimal swelling and microtearing occurring at the ligament. A Grade II sprain means the stress that resulted in the injury was greater than the effected ligament's yield point resulting in deformation. Grade II sprains are often painful and have a considerable amount of associated swelling. They generally require a longer period of time to heal, as the partially torn ligament needs to completely mend.
With a six- game lead for the top seed in the West, it is hard to imagine the notoriously protective Gregg Popovich would rush Duncan back. TD hasn't had an outstanding season by his standers, in fact he is on pace to finish with career-lows in points and rebounds. However he remains a top-50 fantasy player and his absence is sure to impact several teams headed to the playoffs. Veteran Antonio McDyess seems like the Spur most likely to benefit from the injury with Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair in line for more minutes.
Love will not be in the lineup Friday when Minnesota travels to Oklahoma City due to a groin injury. The league's leading rebounder suffered the injury in a game against the Jazz and head coach Kurt Rambis hinted the team could elect to shut Love down for the remainder of the league. The groin muscles are responsible for lateral movement and play a key component in balance. A strain to the area would not only hamper Love's ability to gain position down low but also hinder his jumping capabilities. With his double-double streak over and the Timberwolves lottery bound, expect the team to protect the face of the franchise.
With Love injured, Anthony Randolph started in Thursday in a loss to the Mavericks and finished with a career-high 31 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Fantasy owners shouldn't be surprised by the outburst either. Remember Randolph is the same guy who emerged from Don Nelson's doghouse late in the 2009 season and averaged 13.5 points and 10.6 rebounds in 11 starts to finish out the year. Pounce on the third-year player if Love is shelved for the remainder of the season.
New Orleans forward David West will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee in a win over the Jazz on Thursday. West slammed home a game-tying dunk but landed awkwardly on his left leg. The knee buckled and West crumpled to the ground before being taken off in a wheelchair. X-rays performed in the arena were negative but a MRI performed Friday revealed the tear. The timing not only impacts this season but will also have a carry-over effect into next year.
A torn ACL generally requires six to eight months of rehabilitation and even then a full year is often needed before the graft is at 100 percent. For example, Washington's Josh Howard underwent ACL surgery in March of 2010 but didn't return to the court until December. He has since yo-yo'ed in and out of the lineup while dealing with soreness and tendinitis in his surgically repaired knee.
West will undergo surgery sometime in the near future and his availability for the start of the 2011-2012 season would be iffy even on the most optimistic of timelines. Carl Landry will step into the starting power forward spot and instantly increases his fantasy value. In 16 starts this season, all while still a member of the Kings, Landry has averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Point guard Chris Paul will shoulder more of the load on offense and Emeka Okafor can expect an increased role as well. The Hornets have 10 games remaining on their schedule including two games against the fantasy-friendly Phoenix Suns.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.