2018 NBA All-Star Break Injury Updates
As the 2018 All-Star break approaches, NBA teams are gearing up for the second half of the season. While many teams’ playoff hopes have been sunk by season-ending injuries, a few teams are holding out hope that their stars will be able to make a return in the second half of the season. Let’s take a look at some All-Star break injuries and when these players could (and should) return.
Lonzo Ball and the Lakers:
A lot has changed since Ball played his last NBA game a month ago. Ball will be returning to a team that now includes Isaiah Thomas but is missing both Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. Lingering soreness prompted a precautionary MRI on Ball’s knee in January, and the scans revealed an MCL sprain. Ball said on Wednesday that he feels “good enough to play” before the All-Star break, but he’s waiting to make his return until February 23 against the Mavericks. The Inside Injuries algorithm calculated a five-week Optimal Recovery Time for the knee injury. Ball will reach the end of that timetable this weekend. His durability is a concern going forward, but his knee should be close to 100 percent healed after the break.
The Wizards didn’t have John Wall at 100 percent for most of the season, but losing him for two months to a knee procedure still stung. Wall’s left knee was a lingering problem. He had already received a PRP injections in November to try and help curb the swelling and soreness. An MRI on January 29 revealed the need for a “clean up” procedure. The Wizards gave Wall a 6-8 week recovery timetable, which is in line with Inside Injuries’ metrics. This puts his return at the last week in March and back just in time to help the Wizards make a playoff run if they can hold their own while he is out. Wall was still on crutches in the week leading up to the All-Star break, according to coach Scott Brooks. The fact that this was a lingering problem for months means Wall will be an increased Injury Risk for at least a few weeks after his return.
Celtics’ Gordon Hayward a Long Shot
Gordon Hayward and the Celtics:
While it’s a long shot, the possibility remains that Gordon Hayward could make a return at some point this year. Coach Brad Stevens shot down the idea by saying “we don’t anticipate him being back this season,” but Hayward said just this week that he expects to start traveling with the Celtics in March. Hayward suffered a dislocated and fractured left tibia in the regular-season opener and his first game with the Celtics. This was an extremely gruesome injury, and Hayward likely suffered ligament damage as a result of the dislocation. Even if the Celtics make it far enough in the playoffs to still be playing in May or June, that puts Hayward 7-8 months removed from the injury. He won’t be anywhere near 100 percent until at least nine months removed from the injury. Even then he will still have nine months of rust to shake off.
Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs:
Kawhi Leonard was ruled out indefinitely in January to continue rehabbing from right quadricep tendinopathy. The injury wasn’t progressing as well as Leonard and his trainers were hoping, and so far there is no word yet on when Leonard will make his return. The Spurs are secretive about their injured players, so it isn’t a huge surprise that we haven’t gotten much of an update at this point. Coach Gregg Popovich did say the Spurs are expecting Leonard to return at some point this season, but we won’t get our hopes up until we hear of him starting to participate in contact drills at practice.
Paul Millsap and the Nuggets:
Paul Millsap underwent surgery to reconstruct ligaments in his left wrist in November, and the Nuggets did not expect him back for “several months.” He progressed well through his recovery program, having his cast removed at the beginning of January. He has now ramped up his conditioning and on-court workouts. It’s good news that the injury isn’t to Millsap’s shooting hand, but his play would still be affected if there was stiffness, soreness, or instability in his wrist. Coach Mike Malone said he is expecting Millsap back in mid-March, which is in line with the Inside Injuries 14-week Optimal Recovery Time. The Nuggets sit at No. 6 in the West right now, so it would be a big boost to have their starting power forward back before the playoffs.
Kevin Love and the Cavaliers:
The Cavaliers aren’t expecting Kevin Love to return until there are just two weeks left in the regular season, but Love will be returning to a totally new (and younger) team. Love suffered a non-displaced fracture in the fifth metacarpal in his left hand at the end of January. He met with doctors to discuss the possibility of surgery, but the team concluded that screws would not be required to stabilize the fracture. The eight week Optimal Recovery Time will include “a non-surgical treatment and rehabilitation process,” but Love would have been out for longer had the injury been to his shooting hand. The Cavs are back at the top of the standings in the East, and Love should be back and ready to go in time for the start of the playoffs, barring any setback of course.
Last year, the Denver Nuggets did not reach 30 wins until March 10th and it took 65 games to do so.
This year, it took until February 10th and it took 9 less games to reach the 30-win threshold — and they’ve been without Paul Millsap since November.
— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) February 11, 2018
Markelle Fultz and the 76ers:
Whether Markelle Fultz returns this season or not is up in the air. The 76ers’ management doesn’t seem to have any more of a clue than we do. Sixers’ GM Bryan Colangelo said last week that it’s possible Fultz returns soon from his shoulder injury, but that he could also not play again this season. If that’s not the vaguest response to an injury question then I don’t know what is. Even if Fultz does return in the second half of the season, his shot won’t be any good considering the original injury was scapular muscle imbalance in his shooting shoulder. The 76ers still seem to think Fultz could be effective on the court without shooting, but given that he was still experiencing discomfort as recently as January 14, it doesn’t look like Fultz is going to be ready for at least another month. He will need to prove he can consistently participate in 5-on-5 work.
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Paul Millsap Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez