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NBA Injury Analysis: Conley And The Lakers Backcourt

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.

Mike Conley
The Grizzlies' season has been defined by injury. Center Marc Gasol missed 23 consecutive games recovering from a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain in his knee. His return, along with the acquisition of Courtney Lee, provided the team a much-needed boost that allowed them to jump into the playoff picture with a 9-1 record in their last 10 outings. Sadly, the run will have to continue without the engine that runs the team after Conley limped off the court over the weekend. A MRI taken after the game revealed the speedy point guard suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain. The Grade 2 ranking is the same grade Gasol's knee injury received but doesn't carry as heavy of a price tag. Players that suffer Grade 2 ankle sprains miss an average of eight games as opposed to Grade 2 knee sprains that cost players an average of 23 games. Charlotte guard Kemba Walker has currently missed six games with a similar injury and continues to progress through rehab. Conley's expected to miss at least a week and it wouldn't be shocking to see the team hold him out through the All-Star break. Rookie guard Nick Calathes has joined the starting lineup and becomes an intriguing fantasy option. Calathes has had a quiet season overall but looked impressive in his first start filling in for Conley. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds in a win over the Bucks and is a nice short-term addition for teams in need of points and assists.

The Los Angeles Lakers
Last season head athletic trainer Gary Vitti described his season with the Lakers as his worst in the NBA. By all accounts, this season has been worse as Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Blake have all missed over 25 games with a variety of ailments. Bryant missed the first 19 games of the season recovering from his ruptured Achilles tendon but has now missed more games managing a fracture to the plateau of his tibia. A recent evaluation revealed the swelling has not subsided and Bryant will miss an additional three weeks. After that he will be reevaluated, but fantasy owners shouldn't get too excited. Bryant hasn't been cleared to perform weight-bearing exercises and it seems likely he will need additional time to rehab before he is cleared to and ready to play.

The trio of point guards has returned to practice and both Nash and Blake could return as early as Tuesday against Minnesota. Nash has missed half of the year dealing with a chronic back issue that irritates a nerve and causes pain and limitation in his lower extremities. His value will remain limited as he comes off the bench to start and a minutes limitation seems likely. Blake has missed the Lakers' last 26 games after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his elbow. Expect him to wear a brace on the effected joint and also come off the bench.

The news isn't as encouraging for Farmar. He will miss at least one more week recovering from his second hamstring strain of the season. Even when healthy it's hard to determine where Farmar will fit in in the suddenly crowded backcourt. He is bound to lose minutes to Nash and Blake, and Kendall Marshall has earned playing time with his productivity. Farmar appears to be the odd man out and his value takes another hit when you consider the reoccurrence rate of hamstring injuries.

The injuries are not limited to the Lakers' guards as Pau Gasol will miss the next week nursing a right groin strain. Gasol does not have a history of groin injuries so there's little to suggest this is more than an isolated injury. Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre should see a bump in playing time but it's hard to put much trust in either player, even with the Gasol trade rumors swirling.

Fast Breaks

DeMarcus Cousins: The Kings have not established a definitive timeline on their center who continues to sit with a sprained right ankle. He's missed six straight games and there's been no indication when he will be back. Keep a close eye on the Sacramento lineup if you own Cousins in daily leagues. Those in weekly formats may want to take the cautious approach and hold him out for one more week.

Danny Green: Green appears ahead of schedule in his recovery from a fractured second metatarsal and could return this week. He will have added value with teammate Kawhi Leonard still sidelined with a hand fracture of his own.

Ty Lawson: Lawson has been a spectator for Denver's last two games with a strained left rotator cuff. The injury appears minor and there has been no indication Lawson has sustained any damage to his labrum. Look for him to return at some point this week, hopefully Monday against the Clippers.

Shawn Marion: Marion continues to be limited by a problematic right shoulder. He initially suffered a shoulder and rib contusion in a win over the Lakers before missing the team's next four games. He appeared in eight straight before sitting out Friday's win over the Kings. The injury was clearly affecting his play as he averaged just 10 points after returning, including a four-game stretch in which he failed to score in double-digits. He remains day-to-day but it may be worth benching him until he proves he's put the injury behind him.

O.J. Mayo: A mysterious illness has cost Mayo to miss five of the team's last seven games. However, Mayo's value had taken a hit prior to the illness as he failed to score in double-digits in six consecutive games, including two scoreless outings. Fantasy owners should look elsewhere with Milwaukee failing to provide many details and Mayo's productivity on the decline.

Jameer Nelson: The Magic point guard is dealing with knee soreness though a MRI did not reveal any significant damage. Nelson missed Sunday's loss to Boston and will likely sit for Monday's game against Indiana. E'Twaun Moore and Ronnie Price will see an increase in responsibilities but neither have done much to garner fantasy attention.