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NBA Injury Analysis: In Street Clothes...

In Street Clothes...
By Jim Russo
RotoWire Injury Expert

A slow injury week in the NBA is never a bad thing, unless you write an article every week detailing significant injuries and their affect on fantasy leagues. It does however give us a chance to update some of the injuries we have already discussed and hopefully paint a clearer picture of when some of these stars will make it back on the court.

Monta Ellis

One of those players is Warriors point guard in waiting Monta Ellis. Ellis was injured back in September in what he said was a pick up basketball game. We covered it at the time and in the pre-season magazine. He suffered a high ankle sprain, an injury to the syndesmotic ligament that wraps around the lower end of the tibia and fibula, and a third degree sprain or complete tear of his deltoid ligament, a strong triangular ligament on the inside of the ankle. This is a significant injury to say the least, one that required surgery to repair, but that was only half the story.

No, this type of injury is not all that common in basketball, and yes, there was some doubt that is how it happened. A routine ankle sprain is one thing, but a high ankle sprain surrounded by tons of little cuts and abrasions is something completely different, and not likely to happen on a basketball court. That doubt turned out to be warranted as the team recently learned that Ellis in fact hurt himself in a moped accident, an activity not allowed by the recent $66 million contract extension he signed this summer.

The Warriors ended up suspending Ellis for 30 games without pay, a knock to the wallet for sure, but he would have missed them anyway due to the surgery so it really didn't affect his status with the squad. Best case scenario he's not playing again until late December anyway so why not? If his injury was far worse, potentially career threatening, they might have been able to void the contract completely. But this way the team saved face, Ellis' teammates can't complain that he got off easy, and he'll be given the proper amount of time to recover from the surgery. In the end it should all work out, except for those fantasy owners out there who expected Ellis to put up big numbers over 82 games this year. But at least he came clean and didn't make a bigger mess out of a bad decision. You have to give him credit for that, and again, hope he can make it back out there before we see 2009.

Mike Dunleavy

Another player to update is the Pacers Mike Dunleavy, who we covered last week. Dunleavy is said to be battling patella tendonitis in his right knee, but a recent report from coach Jim O'Brien tells us he may have a bone spur in there as well. That makes sense because he really hasn't improved over the last few weeks, and he is still unable to practice with the team, let alone start playing in games. Tendonitis, as we will see all year, is a chronic condition that affects the point a tendon attaches to a bone. In this case it's the patella tendon, which runs from the bottom of the kneecap to a spot on the tibia a few inches below it. Bone spurs can develop anywhere in the body when there is a constant pull or irritation placed on bone. In response the bone actually grows out from where it should be anatomically in an attempt to cover more space and protect the injured area. It's a defense mechanism the body uses to help stabilize joints, especially in aging people, but it can be extremely limiting and painful to an athlete if those spurs irritate soft tissue around it. In this case the spur could either be on the kneecap or the tibia, but either way, it's obviously causing pain. Supposedly surgery is not an option yet, but be prepared because it very could be. You can take all the anti-inflammatory medication you want, and do all the rehab possible, but once a spur forms, its there for good. He might be able to play after some more rest. He may learn to tolerate the pain, and get through games with reduced workload in practice in between, but this doesn't sound like something that is going to go away soon. Needless to say, stay tuned.

Deron Williams

Along with Dunleavy, Deron Williams is another player we looked at last week who remains out of the lineup indefinitely. His left ankle sprain, originally suffered October 18th, is not progressing as the team had hoped. The first reports after the injury predicted he would miss only 2 or 3 weeks, now it looks like 4 or 5. Perhaps the grade two sprain first detailed was more like a grade three sprain. That makes sense because the higher the grade, the longer the recovery process. According to reports he still has mass of fluid in there, which is common after any ankle sprain, and one of the biggest reasons they take so long to heal. He may have had a setback when he started running last week which led to more swelling or there could be something completely unexpected in there that we have yet to learn the details about. Either way, his plan is simple…continue to rehab the heck out of it, continue to increase his range of strength and range of motion, and get that swelling out of there. Then hope he can start running and cutting, finally leading up to practice. The Jazz apparently can wait, enjoying a 4-0 jump on the season even without their starting point guard, but fantasy owners I'm sure want him back yesterday. Unfortunately they will have to wait a while longer.

Luol Deng

The Bulls hope Luol Deng's ankle injury Wednesday in Cleveland won't be that bad, and obviously, it shouldn't be. You never know how those ankles will look the day after, but he was able to play the second half of that game after injuring it in the first and heading to the locker room…that's always a good sign. He ended up logging 40 minutes in the loss to the Cavs, scoring 18, and should be back on track soon after a relatively slow start this year.

LeBron James

And by the way, LeBron James turned his ankle in that game Wednesday night as well. No worries here though as he completed the game and put up his usual monster numbers in the process. For Cavs fans and King James owners, consider yourselves lucky.

Jim Russo is a certified athletic trainer with a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology.

Article first appeared on 11/7/08