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NBA Injury Analysis: Team Triage

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.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks were one of four teams to bring in a new head athletic trainer this year, and so far, Scott Barthlama has had his hands full. Forward Carlos Delfino entered training camp recovering from a broken bone in his foot and was recently ruled out for the remainder of the year when it was discovered he will need additional surgery. Other key members of the Milwaukee rotation have missed time with an assortment of injuries, including Brandon Knight (hamstring), Luke Ridnour (back spasms) and Ersan Ilyasova (ankle soreness). The hits keep coming as another starter went down and another went under the knife.

Forward Caron Butler suffered a left shoulder injury Wednesday in a loss to the Heat and was slated to visit with a specialist in Los Angeles over the weekend. An MRI revealed a minor sprain, but the need for an additional evaluation suggests there's more to the injury. He did return to practice Monday, but there's been no indication how limiting the injury will be for the former All-Star. Consider benching Butler this week to insure his injured shoulder doesn't affect his shot and worsen his already low shooting percentage.

Center Larry Sanders needed surgery after tearing a ligament in his right thumb. The injury reportedly occurred in Milwaukee's first game of the season but Sanders later admitted to injuring the digit in a nightclub fight. The thumb is comprised of three bones, the proximal and distal phalanxes and the first metacarpal. The primary joint, the metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joint, is located where the proximal phalanx attaches to the metacarpal bone of the hand. At the base of the MCP joint sits its primary stabilizer, the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Basketball players generally injure this ligament when the thumb gets caught in a jersey or jammed by an oncoming basketball, but clearly, that wasn't the case for Sanders. The treatment remains the same regardless of the mechanism of injury, and Sanders will need at least six weeks to recover. He will likely need to wear a brace upon his return. Sanders will able to maintain his conditioning over this stretch, but his shooting and rebounding will likely need additional time to come around.

The numerous injuries have had a carryover effect on the remainder of the Bucks roster. Ekpe Udoh continues to serve as the starting power forward, though he missed the first three games of the season recovering from offseason knee surgery. His minutes have remained low as the medical staff eased him back into the rotation, though he played a season-high 38 minutes Saturday in a loss to the Thunder. Udoh could be at risk for re-injury if he assumes a workload his body isn't ready for, so try not to overinvest at this time. However, John Henson is worth a look as he's seen more minutes recently and performed well, averaging 11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in his last five outings. Henson doesn't have the associated injury risk of Udoh and will see plenty of minutes for the foreseeable future.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets were surprisingly healthy until Friday's game over the Suns. The team outlasted Phoenix in overtime but starters Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Paul Pierce were all unavailable Saturday after sustaining injuries. Garnett and Lopez suffered sprained ankles on the same play. While both players have managed previous lower leg injuries, their recent ankle injuries involved the opposite leg. For example, KG missed nine games with a lingering left ankle sprain last season. His latest injury is to his right ankle. Lopez has dealt with well-documented injuries to his right foot, including multiple surgeries to repair a fractured metatarsal. However, he sprained his left ankle Friday, avoiding any complications with the existing hardware in his right foot. The avoidance of re-injury is big here, especially for Lopez, and should allow both players to return relatively quickly. Garnett is questionable for Monday's game against Portland while Lopez has already been ruled out. Consider Lopez day-to-day, but he seems likely to miss another game or two.

Pierce's injury reportedly was an issue for several games prior to the Suns game, but the extended run left him sore leading Coach Jason Kidd to rest the veteran forward. He remains day-to-day but seems poised to play Monday against Portland.

D-Will's injury is the most severe of them all and could be even more problematic given his injury history. He entered camp with a sprained right ankle but had issues for the majority of last season with both. During the 2012-13 campaign, Williams received at least eight cortisone injections and underwent a PRP procedure to treat tenosynovitis in both of his ankles. His problems go back even further as he has dealt with multiple ankle injuries through his career, none more significant than a Grade II left ankle sprain during the 2008-09 season. The team has not yet established a timeline for his recovery, though he will be a risky play even after he's been cleared to return. Shaun Livingston will man the point while Williams sits.

Fast Breaks

Chauncey Billups: Patella tendinitis has kept Billups out of the lineup for two straight games. He should be downgraded in all formats, as this doesn't appear to be something that will get better very quickly.

Michael Carter-Williams: A foot contusion continues to slow the surprisingly effective rookie, and his availability for Monday's game in Dallas remains doubtful. He's a gamble this week, though he should be back soon.

Jermaine O'Neal: The Warriors will be without the services of the veteran center for an extended period after he suffered a right knee contusion and groin strain on the same play. Fortunately, O'Neal's left knee has been a bigger issue throughout his career, but his limited value takes another hit with this setback.

Iman Shumpert: The admission that Shumpert required another surgery on his knee during the offseason affects his trade value more than his fantasy value. He's a solid source of steal but has to find ways to score to become a reliable fantasy asset.

John Wall: Wall experienced back spasms for the second time this season though he's yet to miss a game. Wall has not shot the ball well so far this year and the back injury may be a primary reason why. The Wizards would be wise to determine what is causing the spasms and begin aggressive treatment to remedy the issue.

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