NBA Injury Update: Which Key Players Could Return After the League’s Hiatus?
Getty Images. Pictured: Ben Simmons (left), Giannis Antetokounmpo (center), Jaren Jackson Jr. (right).
The coronavirus outbreak has altered and halted much of the sports world, especially the NBA and left teams and players with an uncertain short-term future. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently suggested that events of 50 or more people be cancelled or postponed for the next eight weeks. The NBA and its owners are already bracing for a layoff that could last into the summer if not longer.
But all of this time off could have some benefit for players who were dealing with injuries before the league abruptly suspended the season. While teams are not allowed to hold official practices or meeting, players are allowed to hold individual workouts at team facilities in the interim and have been encouraged to maintain daily check-ins with medical staff.
There’s a lot of uncertainty on how teams an players will proceed with rehabbing and staying in shape, but our Jay Persson and JJ Calle analyzed how this layoff will impact injured players on teams currently slated to make the postseason.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has more time to heal from a sprained left knee that has been bothering him since the Bucks’ recent game against the Lakers. He practiced on March 11 and was officially questionable to return for the following game after missing the previous two contests.
Fred VanVleet missed the Raptors’ last six games due to left shoulder pain. He was on track to return on March 14 and will now have additional time to recover.
Norman Powell suffered a sprained left ankle in the prior game, but head coach Nick Nurse said the injury wasn’t too serious. The Raptors have yet to provide an official status.
Jaylen Brown was on track to miss his fifth consecutive game with a strained right hamstring. He was listed as doubtful on the injury report, but it was during a back-to-back set where he was unlikely to play both legs.
Jimmy Butler is dealing with an injured left big toe that forced him to miss one game. There is no indication it is anything serious. Meyers Leonard, who started in all 49 games before suffering a sprained left ankle, is still without a timetable for return. He was held out of the team’s most recent practice.
Malcolm Brogdon was diagnosed with a torn left rectus femoris and the team declared him week-to-week in early March. He’ll have ample time to recover if/when the season returns.
Jeremy Lamb underwent season-ending surgery last week to repair a torn left ACL and torn lateral meniscus. The team stated he will be out indefinitely and he’ll likely have no chance to return even in a delayed postseason.
Ben Simmons has been sidelined due to lower back nerve impingement. The team announced on March 11 that he continues to progress in his rehab and would be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Simmons stated he’s in no pain and is more optimistic than he was two weeks ago. The Sixers gain an advantage having ample time for him to fully recover.
Kevin Durant has yet to play this season after undergoing Achilles surgery last year. He was confirmed out for the season and his business partner Rich Kleiman reported to ESPN that a summer return is “not very realistic.”
Kyrie Irving underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery on March 3 and is expected to make a full recovery. There is no official timetable, but a potential return in a few months appears unlikely.
Jonathan Isaac suffered a severe knee injury in January and was still wearing a hinged knee brace just before, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. He still appears far off from returning and there is uncertainty that he would be able to play if the postseason takes place during the summer.
Evan Fournier is dealing with a sprained right elbow and was without a timetable for return. Coach Clifford said the injury could keep Fournier out for an extended period of time. Even with limited details, he should be able to return with multiple months to recover.
Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell both tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Mitchell did a one-on-one remote interview with “Good Morning America” in which he said he hasn’t shown any symptoms.
Over the weekend, Gobert confirmed he has been feeling better since being diagnosed. Dr. Zachary Binney mentioned on the “Back to Back” podcast that when a person has recovered from the disease, their chances of reinfection diminish based on early data. Both players will certainly be monitored closely as more is learned.
Dwight Powell ruptured his right Achilles tendon on Jan. 21 and underwent surgery six days later. At the time, the Mavs announced no timetable for his recovery.
According to Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes, “the average time missed for qualified NBA players was just under 10 months with the number improving in recent cases such as Kobe Bryant (back in 240 days), Rudy Gay (261) and Wesley Matthews (231).”
Jalen Brunson confirmed he was diagnosed with a torn right labrum on Feb. 28, and he underwent surgery on March 13. Head coach Rick Carlisle clarified on the day of surgery that Brunson will not return this season.
The Grizzlies announced on March 9 that Jaren Jackson Jr. (ankle) and Justise Winslow (back) were likely to return within the following week. Winslow played 11 total games this season due to a lower back bone bruise, which is now labeled as a sore back and was upgraded to questionable 90 minutes before the season was suspended.
Once cleared, Winslow can make his Grizzlies debut after being traded from the Miami Heat. Jackson Jr. sprained his left knee on Feb. 21 and has been recovering since.
Brandon Clarke sustained a right quad ailment in late February, and the Grizzlies reported on March 9 that he is expected to return this season. A full complement of players would allow coach Taylor Jenkins to refrain from giving John Konchar and Anthony Tolliver rotation minutes while De’Anthony Melton would return to a reserve role.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Andre Roberson tore his left patellar tendon in January 2018, and he’s been rehabbing ever since. He rejoined the Thunder at the end of February to continue his rehab after spending three months in Los Angeles, and he was participating in individual drills. Head coach Billy Donovan was unsure at the time if Roberson would be cleared to play or how he would use Roberson if available.
Darius Bazley was getting minutes as the backup power forward before suffering a right knee bone bruise in early February. The initial timeline was a re-evaluation in four to six weeks.
As of the four-week mark, coach Donovan stated, “I think he’s still on course. We probably wouldn’t have anything more other than when he gets close to that six-week point, but there’s nothing but positives from his recovery.”