LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins will be back in your life soon. James has been out since sufferingon Christmas Day, while Cousins has been recovering from Achilles surgery for almost a year. Both stars, however, are getting closer to coming back, and they could play against each other in a week and a half.
The Houston Rockets, meanwhile, are rolling despite being without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon, who are expected to remain sidelined for the time being. What a weird season they’ve had.
We have every single NBA injury chronicled here and updated often to let you know who is in or out each night and beyond. But this page will look at the most important injuries in the NBA and how they are affecting teams and players moving forward.
NBA’s biggest injuries
Jan. 11 update: James will not come back before next Thursday’s game in Oklahoma City, the Lakers announced, but he “has been cleared to increase on-court functional basketball movements,” which sounds positive — according to ESPN, he hasn’t done much with a basketball aside from standstill shooting since Christmas. Los Angeles has gone 3-5 in this stretch without James and fallen to eighth in the West, but the hope is that the extra short-term responsibilities could help its young players in the big picture. Kyle Kuzma scored a career-high 41 points in three quarters against Detroit on Wednesday. The timing of James’ return, though, will be interesting — the Lakers’ opponents after that Thunder game are high-profile ones: Houston and Golden State.
Steve Kerr said Thursday that Cousins will be in the starting lineup when he makes his Warriors debut. The plan is for this to happen next Friday against the Los Angeles Clippers. When he gets on the court, the whole league will be watching to see how he’s moving, what kind of condition he is in and how he fits with his new teammates. Golden State has never had a center like him, and Achilles injuries are no joke, so this could take some time.
Paul is not expected to get back on the court until around the end of the month — Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Thursday that they will be “careful with him” and keep him out for another two-to-three weeks. Fortunately for Houston, though, James Harden has been absolutely out of his mind lately, and Paul’s absence has strengthened Harden’s MVP case.
Gordon said Monday that he hadn’t been able to run yet due to swelling in his knee, per the Houston Chronicle, and he has now missed the Rockets’ last five games. With he and Paul out, Austin Rivers’ minutes have routinely reached the high 30s and low 40s. Houston obviously needs Paul and Gordon to be at full strength come playoff time, but part of the reason Rivers has found his rhythm so quickly is that he has been given such a large role.
Barton has been sidelined since October, and the Nuggets are first in the West anyway. Coach Mike Malone said Monday that the guard will be back “in the next couple of weeks,” per BSN Denver, but there is no official timetable for his return. When he is back, Torrey Craig will presumably return to a bench role.
Valanciunas will wear a splint on his left thumb for the next four weeks, the Raptors announced on Wednesday, and he said Thursday that he misses “kicking ass.” He has begun participating in portions of practice, but is still being held out of anything which involves contact. In the meantime, Greg Monroe has handled the majority of the backup center minutes, though Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher have had a few minutes at 5 here and there.
The Jazz announced Tuesday that Rubio had an MRI and will be re-evaluated in a week; The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported he will be out for about two weeks. Utah’s point guard depth is being tested because Dante Exum is dealing with an ankle injury — Raul Neto is filling in as a starter for now, with Donovan Mitchell sliding to point guard when Neto is on the bench.
Brooks’ season is over after just 18 games — he ruptured a ligament in his right big toe last Saturday in San Antonio, and had to have season-ending surgery. This is obviously a disappointing development for a player who had an encouraging rookie season and just hasn’t been able to stay on the floor this year.
Jan. 7 update: Love has backed off of his goal of a mid-January return to action, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Love doesn’t have a clear timetable and the Cavs have no incentive to rush him back, but the team released an update on Friday saying that he is ready to start doing “select basketball activities.” Cleveland is tanking, but it would still be nice to see Love come back and give the offense some sort of structure. Of course, the second he gets on the court, the trade rumors will start again.
Jan. 4 update: The Wolves have played like a top-five defensive team with Covington on the court, holding opponents to 105.5 points per 100 possessions. They are 20th in defensive rating on the season, though, and they have not been stingy in their losses to Atlanta, New Orleans and Boston in the past week. This is why the news that a bone bruise will keep him out for an extended period of time is so rough — Covington is one of the league’s best defenders, and, as much as I like watching Josh Okogie play, putting the rookie in the starting lineup is a significant downgrade.
Fultz has missed the Sixers’ last 20 games, and he will be re-evaluated next week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. Mid-January will mark six weeks since it was reported that he would be out 3-to-6 weeks. Philadelphia is in need of healthy bodies, but if he is unable to shoot jump shots, it’s hard to see how he can help the team on the offensive end. Wouldn’t it be an amazing story if he came back and started knocking shots down?
Zeller had a terrible New Year’s Eve, breaking his hand against the Magic and needing surgery a few days later. The Hornets announced he is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks, a major blow for a team that is trying to hold onto a playoff spot. Without him (and Jeremy Lamb, who strained his hamstring against Orlando) on Wednesday, they started Willy Hernangomez at center and brought Bismack Biyombo and Frank Kaminsky in off the bench against Dallas. They also gave up 42 points in the first quarter and lost 122-84.
Bazemore hurt his ankle on Dec. 29 against Cleveland and will be out for at least two weeks. This has pushed Daniel Hamilton into the starting lineup, with Vince Carter and DeAndre’ Bembry (and, to a lesser extent, Tyler Dorsey and Justin Anderson) picking up the rest of the minutes on the wing, at least until Taurean Prince comes back.
Wednesday marked the first time I’ve seen the term “bruised fat pad” used in a sentence. That sentence, from the Nets’ official Crabbe injury update: “After further evaluation, it has been determined that the bruised fat pad, which has been the cause of the right knee soreness, will require an additional period of recovery.” Crabbe will be re-evaluated in a week or two, and when he comes back, he might have to come off the bench. I’m not sure coach Kenny Atkinson will be in a hurry to take Jared Dudley or Rodions Kurucs out of the starting five.
As if the Wizards needed more bad news, they announced Thursday that Morris would be out for six weeks after being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia — this means his neck and back are stiff. Morris initially got hurt on Dec. 16 against the Lakers and aggravated the injury 10 days later in Detroit.
Dec. 29 update: The Wizards haven’t exactly had the most success when it comes to the injury front this season. Dwight Howard has played appeared in nine games due to dealing with a back injury. Now Wall has a left heel injury that’s been bothering him for a while. He’s reportedly leaning toward season-ending surgery. The sidelined star visited a specialist on Saturday to determine the severity of the injury.
Prince has been sidelined since hurting his left ankle late in the Hawks’ loss to the Warriors on Dec. 3, and coach Lloyd Pierce said Wednesday that the forward has only done light shooting and likely won’t be back until January, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore. The injury has resulted in a return to the starting lineup for Kent Bazemore, who tied a career high with 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting in a loss to the Pacers on Wednesday.
Mbah a Moute’s sore left knee was not seen as a big deal when it started bothering him two months ago, but it wound up derailing his season. He tweeted on Monday that he will be back “soon,” but the Clippers have yet to officially update his status. When he does return, they will be an even more versatile team than they already are, but coach Doc Rivers will have an even tougher time trying to balance their rotation.
Dec. 21 update: The Knicks announced Friday that Porzingis would be re-evaluated in mid-February, a year after he had surgery to repair his ACL. According to the team, his knee is “healing well” (!) and he has made “good progress with rehabilitation” (!!) and will do on-court work with his teammates once he has reached “the remaining rehab benchmarks” (!!!). Reminder: On Nov. 13, GQ published a story quoting Porzingis as saying his rehab was “coming to an end” and his return was so close that he “can taste it.” Regardless, I don’t know any New York fans who are desperate to see him come back as soon as possible — they’re all too focused on Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.
Dragic had Heat are 22nd in net rating, but have outscored opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Dragic on the court. The good news, however, is that they have won their last three games without him. Their defense is good enough for them to turn this season around.after only appearing in two games in the last month. This will keep him out an additional two months, which is rough news but at least gets rid of the ambiguity about when he might come back and save the day. On the season, the
Baynes had been in the Celtics’ starting lineup in place of Horford when he broke his left hand two minutes into Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix. Boston is extremely deep, but its depth is being tested now — Baynes will miss four to six weeks, and coach Brad Stevens will have to rely on Daniel Theis and Robert Williams until Horford is back.
The backup big man sprained his ankle in the Bulls’ 96-93 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, and the team announced he’d be out for two to four weeks. Portis has only played nine games this season, which is certainly not what he or Chicago had in mind after he looked so good in training camp and had 20 points and 11 rebounds on opening night. If there’s a silver lining here for Bulls fans, it’s that the team needs to tank anyway and rookie Chandler Hutchison could see an uptick in playing time.
Reporters watched Roberson’s post-practice work on Nov. 29 and came away impressed, and Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he has “been on a really good track,” per The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne. A day later, the team announced he’d suffered a setback in his recovery, as an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture, and he would be re-evaluated in six weeks. Oklahoma City deserves all sorts of credit for having the best defense in the whole league without Roberson, who is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber stopper when healthy.
Jones had surgery on Wednesday, and he might be out for the remainder of the season. The Warriors announced he will “begin the rehab process” six weeks after the surgery. Jones had started in 22 of his 24 games this season, but only averaged 17.4 minutes — Golden State takes a platoon approach to the center position. If he’s done for the year, Golden State will rely on Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell in addition to the still-sidelined Cousins as its traditional 5s. Of course, its best look in the playoffs will probably remain Green playing “center” with Kevin Durant next to him in the frontcourt.
Nov. 29 update: There is never a good time to suffer an ugly leg injury, but it’s particularly awful when you’re playing at an elite level for the first time. LeVert wasn’t even penciled in as a starter before he started schooling everybody in scrimmages a couple of months ago, but he was so phenomenal at the beginning of the season that the Nets were thinking big. He might have been an All-Star this season, and he might have led them to the playoffs. Since he went down, Brooklyn has gone 2-6, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: Its offense is extremely dependent on Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, and fourth-quarter execution has been a major problem. LeVert is obviously missed, but at least the damage wasn’t as serious as it looked live.
Howard now needs back surgery on two discs, per Stadium’s Shams Charania, and the optimistic timeline is set at eight weeks. It is tempting to say that the Wizards, an awful defensive and rebounding team, could use Howard in the lineup. This, however, ignores that they have actually been worse on both ends with Howard on the court this season. If he ever eventually helps Washington, it will be because he addresses the injuries that have bothered him all season — rather than accompany the team to New Orleans on Wednesday, he went to Los Angeles to see a nerve specialist to try to do just that.
Thomas doesn’t officially have a timetable, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early November that he should be back at some point in December. We should all hope that, this time, he is fully healthy and capable of doing the things he did a few years ago. The tricky part about this situation, though, is that backup guard Monte Morris has been way too good for the Nuggets to simply sideline him. Minutes are going to be hard to come by.
The mysterious Porter continues to be out indefinitely despite saying he was pain-free in the summer. The 20-year-old was only available to the Nuggets because he had two back surgeries, so he should be seen as a long-term, low-risk, high-upside play. There is no meaningful analysis to be done here, but Denver would love to look brilliant for taking him at No. 14 in the draft if/when he is healthy down the road.
This sucks so much for both him and the Spurs — Murray is the their best defender, and they have been 23rd in defensive rating. He was supposed to take the leap this season, but that went out the window when he crumpled to the floor in a preseason game. On offense, San Antonio has relied on DeMar DeRozan’s playmaking even more than it planned to, and Bryn Forbes has stepped into a starting role at point guard. We will soon find out if Lonnie Walker can earn a role in the rotation, too.
The Bulls have been hit with a whole bunch of injuries early in the season, from Markkanen’s elbow to Bobby Portis‘ knee and Kris Dunn’s knee. Valentine is on this list because he is done for the year after undergoing what the team called an “ankle stabilization procedure” on Tuesday — his injury was initially described as a moderate ankle sprain in September.