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NBA Injury Analysis: Rubio's Return

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.

Ricky Rubio
With Kevin Love back in the lineup, the Timberwolves now anxiously await the return of their young point guard. Rubio has been out since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his left knee in early March but did participate in his first practice on Sunday. Reconstructive surgery was performed two weeks after the injury occurred and Rubio has spent the last nine months rehabbing.

ACL surgery has become commonplace in sports with the recovery time shrinking as advancements in the procedure and rehab are made. Several years ago a torn ACL meant at least a one year recovery with the chances of setbacks relatively high. However today's athletes are pushing the limits and returning to high levels of competition in as little as six months. NFL running back Adrian Peterson and Thunder center Kendrick Perkins are perfect examples of athletes who defied the odds and retuned ahead of schedule. However not everyone is able to bounce back quite as quickly and there are reasons to temper your early expectations for Rubio. Studies have shown that the graft utilized in the surgery may not completely become a part of the injured individual's knee until one year post op. Also Rubio utilizes his lateral moves much more than a big like Perkins and insuring the knee is stable may take longer. The torn LCL only complicates that issue.

Rubio has a realistic chance to return in a week or two and he is definitely worth rostering in all formats. However it seems likely his minutes will be closely watched in his first few games back and he will need time to improve his conditioning and timing, meaning fantasy owners should remain patient in the early stages of his return.

Richard Hamilton
The Bulls are all too familiar with the rehab process associated with ACL surgery as their MVP Derrick Rose is hard at work recovering. Unfortunately their backcourt has taken another hit as Hamilton suffered torn plantar fascia in his left foot. He suffered the injury Saturday in non-contact fashion, feeling the connective tissue pop in the third quarter of Chicago's win over Philadelphia. Hamilton has said his ability to play is dependent on the symptoms associated with the injury and if that truly is the case he's in for a long season.

We detailed the plantar fascia last week when we discussed the plantar fasciitis that has been troubling Wizards' center Nene. However a torn plantar fascia is handled different and some feel it's actually better to tear the tissue than to have plantar fasciitis. Surgery is not warranted for torn fascia and treatment will instead focus on managing the associated symptoms like pain and swelling. Insuring the new scar tissue laid down is aligned properly is essential but this often takes time. For example, Denver forward Al Harrington suffered a tear to his plantar fascia last season and missed two weeks during preseason. He missed several other games throughout the year as plantar fasciitis developed in the injured foot. Furthermore, Pacers forward Danny Granger missed 16 games two years ago with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot providing fantasy owners with another example of what to expect with Hamilton.

It should also be noted that Hamilton's game is predicated on his ability to continuously move without the ball. A plantar fascia tear will make that extremely difficult and could warrant extra recovery time. In the meantime, the Bulls will turn to Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler at shooting guard but neither has done much to earn fantasy consideration at this point.

Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd
The backcourt for the Knicks has been spending some extra time with head athletic trainer Roger Hinds. Felton played well in Sunday's win over the Suns, scoring 23 points to go with seven assists. However he left the game early with a hand injury. X-rays and a MRI were performed and the injury was diagnosed as a bone contusion and soft tissue bruise. Persistent swelling would be the most likely symptom to force Felton to miss any games but a break in the schedule will provide him with some extra time to rest and recover. Look for Felton to be a question mark up until Wednesday's game against the Bobcats.

Felton's veteran teammate, Kidd, has missed the team's last four games dealing with a back injury. The team hopes they can control and prevent the spasms associated with the injury, allowing Kidd to return Wednesday. However Kidd will be under strict minutes supervision given his age and the mileage on his legs. Teams in weekly leagues would be wise to look elsewhere until Kidd has been given time to prove he's moved past the injury and ready to resume his normal responsibilities.

Fast Breaks

Anthony Davis: The Hornets will rest Davis for at least one more week while he recovers from a stress reaction in his left ankle. Given the dangers accompanying the injury, I warned that New Orleans would take the conservative approach with Davis so this move should not come as much of a surprise.

Steve Nash: The Lakers are also playing it safe with Nash and do not expect their point guard to return in the next week. He is out recovering from a fractured fibula.

Kyrie Irving: Irving has participated in practice, but has not been cleared for contact drills as he recovers from a broken finger. However he is progressing nicely and should be back in the next two weeks.

Dion Waiters: Irving's rookie teammate suffered a sprained left ankle and is questionable for Monday's game against the Pistons. It seems like this will be a true game-time decision but with four games on tap this week utilizing him in weekly leagues is a calculated risk.

Derrick Favors: Favors is slated for a MRI on his ailing right foot and reports suggest he's dealing with plantar fasciitis. He's likely to miss a game or two in the early portions of the week and don't be surprised if it lasts a bit longer.

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