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NBA Injury Analysis: Hobbled Kings

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.

The New York Knicks Frontcourt

The Knicks have been ravaged by injuries recently, finishing with the second highest injury total for the second quarter of the season. The team lost 71 games to injury during that time period and now rank 9th in the league for most games missed over the season.

Sadly, these numbers do not include their latest injury, Andrea Bargnani's torn elbow ligament. The injury occurred during Bargnani's now infamous dunk attempt against the Sixers. An MRI later revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his left elbow, and he has been ruled out indefinitely. UCL injuries are extremely rare in the NBA, but given the absurd amount of injuries this season, it should come as no surprise that this is the second such injury this year. Lakers guard Steve Blake tore the UCL in his right elbow back in late December and has missed the team's last 24 games. The Knicks revealed Bargnani will not require Tommy John surgery to repair the damage, meaning he should be able to return at some point this season. Determining just how long he will be sidelined is difficult given the scarcity of NBA players with the injury, but using a six week window similar to Blake may be the safest bet.

Furthermore, it has to be mentioned that this isn't Bargnani's first elbow injury. Last year with the Raptors, he suffered two different injuries in his right elbow. He missed 26 games in the beginning of the season after spraining his right elbow and wrist. After a brief return, his season would ultimately end with 19 games remaining after he suffered an unrelated avulsion injury. An avulsion injury occurs when a ligament pulls away a small part of bone instead of tearing itself. Both of these injuries may have involved the UCL though Toronto never specified. His new injury may not be as problematic since it did not involve his shooting arm, but significant time will still be needed for the ligament to heal.

Bargnani joins teammates Kenyon Martin and Amar'e Stoudemire on the sidelines. Both Martin and Stoudemire are dealing with left ankle sprains. Martin's injury reportedly includes tendinitis, while Stoudemire's sprain is accompanied by a bone bruise within the joint. Martin's left ankle has been an issue for the past two seasons, and helping it recover without having a negative cascade effect on his troublesome left knee will be of the utmost importance for his continued long-term health. The same can be said for Stoudemire and his balky knees. Based on this issue, don't be surprised if both players miss more than the initial two week window established by the team.

In the meantime, Carmelo Anthony owners are reaping the benefits of these injuries as coach Mike Woodson is forced to play a lineup with Melo at the power forward slot. Anthony is clearly comfortable in the role, scoring 97 points in New York's last two outings, including Friday's 62-point outburst.

Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins

The Kings have actually been one of the more healthy teams in this injury-riddled season. However, that changed over the weekend as both Gay and Cousins went down with various injuries.

Gay suffered a left Achilles strain and has been placed in a walking boot to help minimize stress placed on and through the area. Gay has previously managed other minor sprains and strains in his left leg but nothing specifically to the calf or Achilles. Fortunately, he did not rupture the tendon and hopes to return this week. He did accompany the team for Monday's game in Utah, though his availability is listed as doubtful. The Achilles plays a crucial role in running and jumping and any lingering limitations would directly affect his in-game ability. If he does return with any pain or hesitation, Gay may elect to rely more on his jumpshot, which could impact his fantasy worth. Keep him sidelined in weekly leagues despite the four-game schedule and closely watch his field-goal percentage in his first few games back.

Cousins' injury was also to his left foot but involved the ankle. An MRI of the area revealed a moderate ankle sprain, suggesting a Grade 2 ranking. This indicates the involved ligament(s) have suffered damage to the fibers but did not completely tear. These types of sprains generally require at least two weeks of recovery, though Cousins is optimistic he won't be out long. He did not make the trip to Utah.

The absences of Gay and Cousins has rocketed the short-term value of Isiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton. The duo combined for 80 of Sacramento's 111 points on Friday and the duo added 41 more points on Sunday. Thornton is widely available and is worth owning until Gay and Cousins return.

Fast Breaks

Kobe Bryant: Bryant has yet to resume basketball-related exercises and continues to remain limited to the stationary bike. However, he is due for a visit with Lakers physicians and hopes to receive clearance to progress his rehab. He's now missed more games this season dealing with his fractured tibia than he did the ruptured Achilles tendon.

DeMar DeRozan: The Raptors swingman suffered a sprained ankle against the Clippers and will not play Monday against the Nets. Kyle Lowry will assume more of a scoring load while Terrence Ross will get a chance to build on his 51-point performance.

David Lee: Lee has received an anti-inflammatory injection in his sprained left shoulder just prior to each of Golden State's last two games. He performed well in each of those games, averaging 20.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. If the shoulder persists, he may receive a game off, but in the meantime, keep him in your lineups.

Chris Paul: CP3 has targeted sometime before the All-Star game as a potential return-to-play date. Paul has been sidelined with a Grade 3 AC sprain suffered in a win over Dallas. He continues to work on his range of motion and should transition into strengthening and basketball-related activities in the near future.