Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Steve Nash
It seems like every week brings a new injury for the Lakers as they continue to fight for the final playoff spot out West. They will continue their push without the services of World Peace. The rugged forward underwent surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.
The menisci are cartilage discs that act as buffers and shock absorber between the upper leg bone and the lower leg bones. Meniscus tears are common in sports and basketball players seem more prone to tears of the lateral or outside disc. Surgery is generally required and while the surgery is often called a repair, more often than not the torn cartilage is simply shaved down and removed.
World Peace is expected to miss four to six weeks, ending his fantasy relevance for the year. He could return in time for the postseason, should the Lakers sneak in, but that's no guarantee. Houston's Jeremy Lin suffered a torn lateral meniscus at the same time last season and missed New York's last 17 regular season outings and their five postseason games as well. The long-term effects should be minimal and there is no reason to believe World Peace will miss any time next season.
Nash is dealing with a hamstring issue that's a bit more problematic. The injury flared up in a loss to Milwaukee and limited the point guard to two minutes in LA's next game against Sacramento. The injury has been listed as multiple things including a back injury, a hip injury, and finally the current diagnosis of a hamstring strain. However a look into Nash's past injury history may provide clues that the injury is in fact all three.
Nash has a well-documented condition known as spondylolisthesis, a displacement of a vertebra in the spine. The displacement can result in pain and physical changes that can limit an athlete's performance. Nash first began dealing with the issue while with Dallas and played a factor in Mark Cuban's decision to let him leave for Phoenix. The Suns staff, led by head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson, worked with Nash to help correct muscle imbalances and biomechanical issues. However Nash still has a problem with the condition at least once a season. When the back flares up, Nash is prone to back spasms and hamstring weakness, symptoms all commonly associated with a spondylolisthesis. The injury Nash is currently managing is likely the result of his preexisting condition, making it difficult to establish a reasonable return date. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues should consider other options while those in daily leagues should cross their fingers that the two-time MVP starts feeling better quickly. Veteran Steve Blake will become a fantasy player of interest but his numbers as a starter do not instill much confidence. In five starts Blake is shooting 32.1 percent from the field, including 38.9 percent, from behind the arc.
If these injuries were not enough, Bryant is dealing with a bone spur in his left foot. He seems poised to play through the injury but he runs the risk of the foot becoming painful and inflamed like it did in the loss to Milwaukee. However he moved well in the team's win over the Kings, scoring 19 points while collecting 14 assists and nine rebounds. He did struggle with his shot, connecting on just 5-of-18 attempts. Expect Bryant to remain in the lineup but don't be surprised to see his efficiency dip with Nash sidelined and the foot still an issue.
The Rockets plan on protecting their All-Star down the stretch to insure he's as healthy as possible for the postseason. Harden has missed three games this season, all due to a troublesome right ankle. He has sprained the ankle on several occasions and has also dealt with soreness in his left knee. Fatigue could be a major factor in his problems as he has shifted from a sixth man role with Oklahoma City to top dog in Houston. He's already played over 700 more minutes this season than last year and nearly 500 more minutes than during the 2010-2011 season when he played all 82 games for the Thunder. His shooting percentage has taken a decline since the All-Star break, dropping to 38.9 percent from the field for the month of March. Heavy legs and chronic injuries are not a good combination so scale back your expectations for Harden for the final nine games of the year.
Kevin Garnett: The Celtics will be without their most vocal leader for at least another week as KG is suffering from left ankle inflammation. He sprained the joint and the inflammation has lingered. A sprain and a muscle injury often occur simultaneously so there's nothing shocking about what's going on but the fact that they shut him down so quickly is a good indicator it's significant.
Al Horford: A stomach bug has sidelined Horford for back-to-back games and ended a nice hot streak for the All-Star center. He should be back sometime this week, though his conditioning could suffer from the missed time.
Kyrie Irving: Irving returned from an eight-game absence to score 31 points in a loss to the Hornets. The point guard is still recovering from an AC sprain to his left shoulder and will sit Monday for extra rest. Expect him to bounce in-and-out of the lineup until the shoulder is 100 percent.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade: James and Wade were late scratches for the Heat on Sunday. James was reportedly resting a right hamstring strain while Wade dealt with a right ankle sprain. Don't expect these two superstars to miss much time but with the top record in the East already locked up, don't be surprised to see them receive another game or two off for rest.
Joakim Noah: Noah continues to battle plantar fasciitis and remains day-to-day. He has missed five consecutive games and remains a risky play for the week. Jimmy Butler has played well in his absence and is worth a look for teams scrambling to add healthy bodies.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.