In Street Clothes...
By Jim Russo
RotoWire Injury Expert
Many Happy Returns
The injury story in the NBA this week is more about players getting healthy than anything else. With the exception of Caron Butler, the major players we have looked at the last couple weeks -- Kevin Garnett, Luol Deng, Josh Howard, Ben Gordon and Gerald Wallace -- all returned to game action this week.
A quick look at the stat sheet isn't about to blow anyone away, but the optimist would see the minutes they all played, and not the points and rebounds they brought down. Wallace scored only four in his first game back but played 32 minutes. Gordon and Howard didn't play anywhere near what we all expect but they both went for over 30. KG played only 21 in his first game back against the Nuggets, but a lot of players would have trouble coming back from a long layoff in Denver's thin air. His next game was the very next night, also on the road, and he logged 31 in that one.
Deng played the least number of minutes of the group: only 19, but he scored 13 points -- good production when you consider the time missed. And the Bulls play three more games in the next four so I'm sure the plan was not to ride him in his first game back.
The next week will reveal a lot about this group, and they are by no means finished with their rehab and time in the athletic training room, but the early indications appear that a return to form is not far off.
Devin Harris - NJN [PG]
The other story in the Association this week is the trade deadline, which really shouldn't figure all that much in an injury column, except for those wondering when Devin Harris will finally fill Jason Kidd's shoes. Harris sprained his left ankle during a game January 27th and was completely non weight-bearing in a walking boot and crutches for a little over a week. Right off the bat you're figuring at least a grade II ankle sprain, with considerable injury to the lateral (outside of the ankle) ligaments, which are always affected with inversion or "roll over" sprains. Sometimes the ankle can roll so far that the prominent bone that sticks out on the outside of the ankle, the lateral malleolus (the distal end of the fibula), can strike the ground and cause a bone bruise. An MRI the day after the injury revealed just that. Since then the trade was on, then off, then back on again and another MRI this week showed only the grade II sprain and no bone bruise, which shows me that he is improving. Reports are that he is still at least a week or two away from making his debut with the Nets; figure the longer estimate to be more accurate as the team is not about to risk the big return from the trade going out for a longer period of time. He's working out on the court, performing basketball drills, but there is probably still some swelling and pain with activity that should work its way out of there relatively soon. We will update this injury soon if we don't see major improvements; otherwise the first week of March looks like a realistic return.
Kobe Bryant - LAL [SG]
Obviously, anyone who saw the game against the new-look Suns would figure Kobe Bryant came out of his three minute stint in the All-Star game in good shape. You'll still have to pay attention to his situation to make sure there isn't any ongoing instability in that finger, but if he keeps putting up numbers like that, and get through the last two months of the season, and he could win the MVP.
Jim Russo is a certified athletic trainer with a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology.