The Jazz have had their fair share of injuries this season and are limping to the finish line with two starters hobbled. Both Devin Harris and Andrei Kirilenko have been MIA for the past week with Harris missing Utah's last four while Kirilenko has missed three straight. Harris is nursing a strained right hamstring that occurred in early in the first quarter in a matchup against the Grizzlies. The injury bug has followed Harris throughout his career, and this year has been no exception. A laundry list of injuries has slowed down the former All-Star this season including a quadriceps contusion, a sprained left shoulder (twice), and a left knee strain. Looking at that list it's hard to pinpoint one specific reason for Harris' inability to stay healthy. It doesn't appear as if there is a weak link in his kinetic chain or a muscle imbalance at the root of the problem. Instead it seems more likely his fast-paced, haphazard style of play contributes to his frequent trips to the athletic training room. Harris relies on his speed to attack the rim and play aggressively on offense, and this often puts him in the air against a bigger defender. These bouts with a more rugged player could explain the shoulder sprain and the quad contusion.
However, the muscle strains including his current hamstring strain are likely the result of his repeated sudden bursts of speed. When a player begins to sprint at a high speed, the power generated by the hips substantially increases. The hamstrings increase their activity as they work to extend the hip, flex the knee and constrain the opposite motion eccentrically. Because of the high demands placed on these muscles during sprinting the likelihood of injury is increased. To combat these risks Harris must find a way to properly prepare his lower extremity muscles so he can continue to play at a high level. Unfortunately guards like Harris that rely on speed, are made more susceptible to injury by the very thing that allows them to be successful. Utah has upgraded his status for Friday's tilt against the Lakers to questionable, but Harris remains an unpredictable option going forward. Earl Watson has started each of the four games Harris has missed and has been mediocre at best, averaging 9.8 points and 5.8 assists per game.
While Harris could return, Kirilenko has already been ruled out for the Lakers game, and the remainder of his season is in jeopardy. AK is battling a bruised peroneal nerve suffered after he banged his knee in a game against the Thunder. The Russian is currently experiencing pain and weakness in his lower extremity. The peroneal nerve is an offshoot of the bigger tibial nerve and runs along to outside portion of the lower leg. It wraps around the head of the lower leg bone, the fibula, and is poorly protected at this site. As in the case of Kirilenko, a bruised peroneal nerve will produce pain and numbness (similar to when you hit your ulnar nerve AKA the "funny bone") and weakness in the foot. The weakness occurs because the peroneal nerve innervates the muscles responsible for pointing the toes and turning the foot inward.
The injury is particularly problematic because nerves are often slow to heal, and the Jazz and fantasy owners have little time to spare. With seven games remaining, and the team currently sitting six games out of the playoffs, it seems probable that Utah would elect to shut down Kirilenko for the remainder of the year. CJ Miles continues to start at small forward and has shown a propensity to hoist shots. Still, he is averaging 17.1 points per game and 1.6 made three-pointers for the month of March and could help bolster a fantasy team in need of scoring.
Hawks guard Joe Johnson is dealing with a sprained right thumb. While he only missed one game due to the injury, he has admitted the associated pain and soreness are going to linger and will be an issue going forward. Johnson played 44 minutes against Orlando in his first game back, playing with the thumb padded and taped. Continue to start Johnson as you normally would, but expect a slight dip in his shooting percentages for the remainder of the season.
Trading Kendrick Perkins at the deadline was a risky move for the Boston Celtics. And they now sit in a more precarious situation as the lone big man that Boston acquired in the trade with Oklahoma City, Nenad Krstic, could be done for a while with what appears to be a serious knee injury. Krstic's knee buckled in Thursday's game against the Spurs, and a MRI is pending.
The center position for the Celts has been in flux all season, largely because of injuries. There is a small glimmer of hope on the horizon in the form of two aging O'Neals. Jermaine O'Neal returned to action Thursday after missing Boston's last 36 games recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He scored five points in 11 minutes and, with Krstic sidelined, could see his minutes increase faster than Boston had hoped.
The Big Shamrock could also make his return just in time as Shaquille O'Neal is on pace to return sometime in the next few games. O'Neal has been dealing with a strained Achilles tendon. As previously discussed with Shaq, the Achilles is the common tendon of two muscles, the gastrocnemius and the soleus. These muscles play a key role in pointing the toes and are needed in running and jumping. I stated then that Shaq's girth and previous hip injury could result in a lengthy recovery time, and here we sit 26 games later.
The Krstic injury leaves a huge void in the Boston lineup; one Doc Rivers will attempt to fill with Glen Davis and the O'Neals. However with the Celtics focused on the playoffs, it would be unwise for fantasy owners to invest heavily in either O'Neal and should instead consider adding Davis. Big Baby is owned in just over half of Yahoo leagues and could be a sneaky addition in the final weeks of the basketball season.