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NBA Injury Analysis: NBA Injury Updates

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

It is hard to believe in a summer that gave us "The Decision" Joe Johnson ended up with the most lucrative contract. Atlanta resigned the four-time All-Star to a six-year $119 million deal but unfortunately their investment will be sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks. Famed orthopedist Dr. James Andrew performed an arthroscopic procedure known as a debridement on Johnson's right elbow Thursday to remove a "loose body". In a debridement, inflamed or damaged tissue or bone is surgically removed resulting in a decrease in pain and often an increase in range of motion. The procedure also creates an environment more suitable for healing. The loose body removed from the elbow was likely a piece of calcified cartilage that was acting like a doorjamb in the joint. The tiny body was causing Johnson pain and discomfort and is likely the culprit behind his early season shooing woes. Through 18 games, Johnson is shooting 41 percent from the field and 26 percent from three-point range, easily his lowest percentages since joining the Hawks before the 2005-2006 season.

Elbow debridement is uncommon in basketball and generally occurs in baseball, especially pitchers. For example, New York Mets ace Johan Santana has undergone several elbow debridements in his career. The recovery timeline for Johnson is much smaller than it would be for Santana since basketball players do not put nearly the amounts of force through their elbows as MLB pitchers. Expect Johnson to return sometime in early 2011.

Maurice Evans has joined the Atlanta starting lineup but holds little fantasy weight. Instead Marvin Williams and Jamal Crawford will be asked to shoulder more responsibilities, particularly on the offensive end of the court.

Lakers power forward Pau Gasol continues to play despite a left hamstring strain. The hamstring is a group of muscles that includes the semimembranous, semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris. These muscles cross two joints and play a role in movement at both the hip and knee. They help extend (move back) the hip and flex (straighten) the knee and lower leg. Furthermore the hamstring muscles control deceleration of the leg when an athlete is running. The hamstrings are often strained if overstretched following an awkward fall or excessive contraction of the quadriceps muscles. Hamstring injuries tend to linger as athletes fail to address the muscle imbalances.

Gasol's history complicates the situation as hamstring issues have bothered the Spaniard multiple times in recent seasons. He missed the Lakers first 11 games during the 2009-2010 with a Grade II strain of his right hamstring as well as six more games with a Grade I strain of his left hamstring. Gasol has stated the current injury is not as serious as last year's strain and that he does not plan on missing any time. However he did struggle in LA's recent loss to Houston, scoring a season-low eight points on 2of-8 shooting.

Another factor in the injury may be fatigue. With Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff nursing injuries of their own, Gasol has seen an increase in his workload. He is currently averaging a career-high 39 minutes a game and has played over 40 minutes in 10 of the Lakers' first 19 games. While a two-minute bump in playing time may seem insignificant, keep in mind Gasol has racked up a lot of miles on his body over the last four years including three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, the Beijing Olympics, and other various tournaments with the Spanish National team. Andrew Bynum's impending return should help limit Gasol's minutes and buy him some much needed time off to rest the aggravated muscle. Gasol is considered day-to-day and could sit out one or both of Los Angeles' two weekend contests. If he is active, start the three-time All-Star but scale back your expectations for Gasol until the hamstring is no longer an issue.

New Jersey fans let out a sigh of relief after an MRI on Devin Harris' left knee revealed nothing more than a mild strain. Harris was injured earlier in the week during a loss to the Knicks when teammate Kris Humphries fell into him leg. The Nets initially feared Harris had suffered a torn meniscus before the MRI revealed the strain. Harris was a spectator for his team's triple-overtime thriller against the Thunder and is slated to once again be in street clothes Friday when the Nets travel to Charlotte. He will be re-evaluated prior to Sunday's game against the Celtics. Cross your fingers that Sunday's eval goes well and Harris is able to return next week for New Jersey's three scheduled games.

Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant missed Wednesday's overtime game as well nursing a knee injury of his own. While Harris was sidelined with a strain (a muscular injury), Durant sat with a minor knee sprain (ligamentous injury). Durant suffered the sprain when he awkwardly caught his knee underneath his body in Oklahoma City's previous game. The Thunder do not seem overly concerned with the injury so neither should fantasy owners. However the NBA's leading scorer remains day-to-day. Russell Westbrook should continue to shine.

Milwaukee forward Drew Gooden remains limited by plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The plantar fascia is a dense group of connective tissue designed to support the bottom of the foot. Inflammation of the plantar fascia can be extremely painful and equally difficult to manage. Continued irritation at the injury site can lead to the development of a heel spur where the plantar fascia connects to the calcaneus (heel bone). If this were to occur surgery is the best option. Gooden has returned from a two-game absence but played sparingly in his first game back, scoring four points in 10 minutes of action. Don't be shocked when Gooden misses several more games down the road with the same ailment. Plantar fasciitis limited Chicago's Joakim' Noah throughout all of last season and could easily do the same to Gooden. Ersan Ilyasova assumed Gooden's starting role and has performed well, averaging 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals as a starter.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.