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NBA Injury Analysis: Preseason Notes

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.

Kobe Bryant
The excitement surrounding the Lakers and their additions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash has somewhat overshadowed an injury to the franchise's biggest star. A foot strain that has limited his court time during the preseason continues to linger and has made him questionable for the regular season opener. The strain is causing Bryant considerable amounts of pain and prevented the 2008 MVP from traveling with the team to San Diego for their final exhibition game. The injury serves as a reminder that while Kobe may still be a top player in the league, he is entering his 16th NBA season and has logged over 42,000 regular season minutes. If you factor in his 8,641 playoff minutes, you add an additional three seasons onto his legs. For comparison sakes, LeBron James has played 32,491 total minutes in his eight-year career. Do I suspect Kobe will miss much time? No, in fact I'll be surprised if he doesn't play on Opening Night. However given his age and mileage, any lower extremity injury must be handled with extreme care.

Dirk Nowitzki
The Lakers will face the Mavericks on opening night and while Kobe's availability remains a mystery, Dallas knows they will be without their MVP. After attempting the conservative approach with his chronically swollen knee, Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on October 19. All indications suggest the procedure was a simple scope to clear up the affected joint and that no surprises were discovered. However the surgery will knock Dirk out for a significant stretch of time. The initial timeline released placed his recovery at six weeks while recent reports hint it could be closer to three weeks. However, it is hard to predict at this point, and seeing how the knee responds over the next week will be key in determining when Nowitzki will return to the court. Fortunately the situation is set up for Dirk to succeed and return on the early end of the proposed dates. Nowitzki spent the offseason strengthening his legs which should help minimize muscle atrophy and help him bounce back faster. Furthermore, Nowitzki is extremely close to head athletic trainer Casey Smith and will have access to his knowledge and insight. Smith formerly served as a member of the well-respected and highly-touted Phoenix Suns medical staff and has been the athletic trainer for USA Basketball in both the Beijing and London Olympics. Consider me optimistic, but I think Nowitzki will be back before Thanksgiving. If you can stomach the wait, you should be able to snag Dirk and his fantasy-friendly game at a discounted rate.
In the meantime, veteran Elton Brand and Shawn Marion will be asked to carry more weight at the power forward position. Fantasy owners should also keep an eye on rookie Jae Crowder. The second-round pick has looked anything but during the preseason, averaging 11.4 points per game to go along with 2.1 steals.

Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire
The New York bigs are struggling to stay healthy as both Stoudemire and Chandler recover from knee injuries. Stoudemire will be sidelined for at least two more weeks as he recovers from a ruptured popliteal cyst in his problematic left knee. The left knee issues date back to the start of the 2005-2006 season when he underwent microfracture surgery to repair cartilage damage. Earlier in the preseason, Stoudemire suffered a bone bruise and further investigation revealed the ruptured cyst.
The scenario is a win-lose situation for the Knicks. The good news is he will not need surgery to drain or remove the cyst since it has already ruptured. Unfortunately cysts often reform and the threat of it recurring at a later point in the season remains high. The underlying cause of the fluid buildup should be determined and treated to better insure the problem does not become chronic. With all the other red flags surrounding the balky joint, Stoudemire remains a risky pick and should only be drafted on the cheap.
Chandler's injury is more direct. He suffered a bone bruise to his patella and is currently day-to-day. Bone bruises can be tricky as the body must repair the damage just as it would a broken bone. If the damage is minor, then it is reasonable to believe Chandler will be ready for the start of the regular season. However, should he overwork the joint or attempt to come back too early, he could enter a vicious cycle in which the damage never fully heals. Look for the Knicks to keep a mindful eye on his practice time to put him in a better position to play in the opener against Brooklyn.

Deron Williams
The Nets announced their All-Star point guard would miss the next two days recovering from an injection needed to treat ankle synovitis. Specific joints contain a synovial membrane, a layer of soft tissue that acts as a cushion between various spaces within the joint itself. Unfortunately, this tissue can become inflamed and disrupt the normal function of the affected area. The injection Williams received is likely an anti-inflammatory injection such as cortisone, which should help minimize the associated inflammation, and as a result any pain Williams is experiencing. There isn't serious cause for concern here yet but keep a close eye on how the ankle responds to the treatment.

Fast Breaks

Andrew Bynum: Bynum will not take the court until he is pain-free as he recovers from a bone bruise in his right knee. The injury occurred in an offseason workout and it seems likely he will not be able to make his 76ers debut when the regular season kicks off.
Lamar Odom: For the second straight season, conditioning problems have slowed Odom's start with a new team. After reporting to Dallas out of shape last year, the former Sixth Man of the Year reported to the Clippers behind schedule. The rush to get back apparently has been causing soreness in his left knee and the team is unsure of his availability moving forward. Odom is coming off the worst season of his career and isn't giving fantasy owners much hope that this year will be any different.
Austin Rivers: The Hornets rookie is nursing a sprained right ankle. He is currently listed as day-to-day despite the injury occurring to the same ankle that required offseason arthroscopic surgery to remove bone chips.
Kyrie Irving: Irving had four wisdom teeth removed but is expected to be fully recovered in time for the regular season. The timing may seem odd but quick removal could help with any associated symptoms like headaches as well as prevent an infection from developing.

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