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NBA Injury Analysis: In Street Clothes...

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

We definitely are at the point of the season -- and probably have been there for some time, where you can bet who's going to play and who won't based just as much on injury reports, as the standings. Those teams with spots locked up for the post season will be understandably protective of some of their star players until the games really count. Others teams who have no plans for the playoffs other than watching at home on TV also have injuries to deal -- and usually easier decisions to make.

Stephen Jackson

One such player is Golden State's Stephen Jackson. He's had pain in his left big toe for the better part of the last two seasons. It was first diagnosed back in 2007 as a fracture, but has been treated most of the time as a turf toe, a hyperextension injury to the first or big toe. The confusing diagnosis is probably due to a small bone called a sesamoid located in the spot most refer to as the "ball" of the foot.

A sesamoid bone is one that is located inside a tendon, the most obvious being the patella or knee cap. But we also have them in that spot on the foot and they can present real problems for athletes. Sometimes that bone anatomically grows in two pieces, and that has potential to worsen over time. Other times the fracture can develop from repeated irritation but there can also be acute trauma to the area which causes a fracture. No matter the progression of the injury it can be extremely painful when pivoting and jumping off that foot so Jackson has decided to shut himself down for a while to get a better idea of what lies ahead.

Obviously the Warriors are on the outside looking into the playoffs this year so why not? He could potentially be put in a walking boot for a few weeks so that inflammation has a chance to settle down, but surgery may also be an option. Either way I think we have seen the last of Jackson this year and his recovery will bear watching in the offseason.

Josh Howard

Another player who may be facing surgery this offseason is Josh Howard. His ankle obviously has never fully recovered from the sprain he suffered earlier this season and his return is still in doubt. Recently I have read that surgery is possible but he's hoping to put it off until the season ends for the Mavs.

The difference between him and Jackson is that Dallas still holds the 8th spot in the conference with a 3.5 game lead so they should get in and you never know, we have seen eight seeds beat number ones before. There's not a tremendous amount of hope but at least they should be going to the party with or without Howard.

Devin Harris

From one player who's definitely out to one probably in, we move on to Devin Harris of the Nets, who better come back soon or his team will be watching the post season as well. Harris sprained his left shoulder, likely an AC sprain, during a nasty fall a few weeks ago and has missed the last six games. New Jersey is two-and-four in those games and is facing an uphill challenge with a few teams in their way to regain the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Optimistically, for a low grade AC sprain to his non-dominant shoulder, a player usually can recover in a week to 10 days so Harris should be a game time decision for tonight's matchup with the Lakers. If he remains out of the lineup, you have to assume the injury was a little more intense, and you can probably say goodbye to the Nets chances of moving up in the standings.

Troy Murphy

Another who is out is the Pacers' Troy Murphy who sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the team's shoot-around prior to their game March 25th. We have covered the MCL before, it's a big ligament on the inside of the knee that stabilizes that side of the joint. Usually, for a minor sprain there, you're talking a couple weeks minimum so Murphy may have played his last games this season but this type of thing usually results from a contact injury, not likely during your routine shoot-around. Apparently coach Jim O'Brien had to answer that question because he made the comment that his shoot-arounds are really full contact practices and the injury resulted from Murphy running through a screen. That make more sense, but either way, it doesn't sound promising for him to make big contributions the rest of the way.

The Pistons

As for the Pistons, they continue to deal with injuries to some significant players as they cling to the last spot in the conference. Rasheed Wallace is still out with a calf strain. That's nine straight for him. And Allen Iverson remains on the shelf with a somewhat confusing back injury that some have speculated has noting to do with his back at all, more so his disinterest in coming off the bench when he is available to play.

The real problem to me is Richard Hamilton who is dealing with a groin strain, a muscle injury that causes huge headaches for basketball players. He's been out since March 17th with the injury and is only showing slight improvement at this time. That's one injury that generally makes any lateral running or cutting impossible. You can try playing basketball under those restrictions... but it's not easy. So we will continue to wait.

Luol Deng

The Bulls, the team the Pistons are locked up with at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, have likely lost Luol Deng for the remainder of the year. Deng is dealing with a stress fracture in his right tibia, an injury that probably will only get worse if he attempts to play at this point. But the team has won five of six in his absence and gone 8-5 overall since he's been out. Earlier this week there was reports that he wanted to up his workload a bit and try to get back on the court for some basketball specific activity, but I think caution will win out here.

Peja Stojakovic

As for Peja, if I was a betting man I would say he's had a recurrence of some disk problems that may or may not be in the same area that has bothered him in the past... whenever you hear a player detail shooting pain from his lower back down his legs, that's a safe bet. He may be able to play some off the bench for the Hornets down the stretch and in the playoffs, but I wouldn't expect a significant contribution.

Jim Russo is a certified athletic trainer with a Master's Degree in Exercise Physiology.
Article first appeared on 3/27/09