NBA injury report: Return timeline, updates, impact for Stephen Curry, Paul George, Joel Embiid, other injured
The Basketball Gods have not been kind this season, as far as injuries are concerned. They blessed us with Zion Williamson’s mind-blowing debut this week, but as he was scoring 17 straight points in the fourth quarter, the Golden State Warriors were getting straight-up slaughtered by the Utah Jazz, with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevon Looney watching from the sideline.
This week, Dwight Powell’s season ended with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The Dallas Mavericks big man is now a member of a club nobody wants to join — Kevin Durant, John Wall, Rodney Hood, Darius Miller and David Nwaba are also rehabbing Achilles tears.
If you’re looking for every single injury in the league, so you know who’s going to be in the lineup each night, we already have you covered. This page will not be as exhaustive, but it will feature the most important injuries in the league, along with analysis of them.
The Warriors have been the worst team in the NBA by record (and third-worst by net rating) due to injuries, but that does not mean Curry will be on the shelf all season. He is reportedly targeting a March 1 return, so they will presumably not rank 30th in offense for the last six weeks of the season. In his absence, D’Angelo Russell has played a similar role to the one that earned him a max deal, with nearly identical usage and efficiency.
Doc Rivers described George’s hamstring strain as “mild” two weeks ago, but it has kept him out for seven straight games. The Clippers won five of them, though, including a nailbiter in Dallas on Tuesday. They will need both of their all-world forwards at their best to reach their peak, but they have a plus-13.0 net rating with Kawhi Leonard on the court and George off it. That number drops to plus-1.1 with George on and Leonard off.
Embiid tore a ligament in his thumb on Jan. 6, and Philadelphia has gone 5-3 since, with Ben Simmons averaging 20.8 points on 63.3 percent shooting plus 9.3 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.1 steals in that span. The Sixers are a different — and clearly worse — team without Embiid, but it was encouraging to see them shoot a season-high 46 3-pointers in their loss to Toronto on Wednesday. Philadelphia is in a strange spot with its center rotation — Norvel Pelle has used up all his two-way days, so Brett Brown’s staff will have to bring Kyle O’Quinn and/or Jonah Bolden out of the doghouse to back up Al Horford (or use Simmons as a small-ball 5) until the front office clears a roster spot for him.
Richardson strained his hamstring in Toronto on Wednesday, and the last thing the Sixers need is him missing significant time. Alas, he will reportedly be out for 2-3 weeks, with his minutes going to a combination of Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Trey Burke. It is logical to guess that the team’s pursuit of additional playmaking on the trade market will become more urgent, too.
Jan. 29 is Oladipo’s targeted return date, slightly more than a year since he crumpled to the floor on a fast break with a serious quad injury. The Pacers exceeded expectations without him last season, and they’ve done the same thing in 2019-20, with a different cast of characters. Oladipo will return to a team that starts two bigs and has a similarly sized pick-and-roll guard in the backcourt. It might take him and Malcolm Brogdon some time to jell, but the upside is obvious on both ends.
Without McCollum, the Blazers have needed crazy scoring binges to remain competitive. On Jan. 18, Gary Trent Jr. erupted for 30 points off the bench in a loss to Oklahoma City, and in the next two games later Damian Lillard dropped 61 and 47, respectively, against Golden State and Dallas. Before the Warriors game, coach Terry Stotts declined to discuss the severity of McCollum’s ankle sprain and the timeline for his return. Second-year guard Anfernee Simons, starting in his absence, needs to start making some 3s.
Finally, some good injury-related news for Portland: On Wednesday, Nurkic participated fully in practice for the first time since he broke his leg. This does not, however, mean that he is on the verge of making his return: He reportedly will be out until after the All-Star break. To say the Blazers have missed him this season would be a massive understatement.
Powell is not a household name, but he has been a mainstay in Dallas’ starting lineup this season because he fits so well with Luka Doncic. Maxi Kleber will be the recipient of most of Doncic’s lobs in his absence, and Kristaps Porzingis started at center on Thursday in Portland. The Mavs are reportedly interested in Joakim Noah, as long as he is healthy.
Durant has been a bit more visible in Brooklyn lately, getting shots up with media around, but the team’s stance has not changed: He is out for the season. If the Nets are lucky, the rest of the roster will be healthy enough over the next few months to establish some momentum going into next season and allow the front office to make educated decisions about what the team should look like when Durant returns.
Still “a ways off” from a return, per Nuggets coach Michael Malone, Murray has missed the last four games, with Monte Morris in the starting lineup and recent G League call-up PJ Dozier backing him up. Thanks to an assortment of other injuries, Denver actually needs all its depth now.
Malone said that Harris is close to coming back, which might mean he will be available on Friday against New Orleans. He’s been out for five games, which has shoved Torrey Craig — a recent recipient of several DNP-CDs — into the starting lineup. When Harris is in the lineup, Denver has to hope that he is able to turn his season around. His usage rate and free throw rate are at career-low levels.
Millsap has been out since he hurt his knee on Jan. 6 in Atlanta, and Jerami Grant has temporarily taken his place in the starting lineup. Denver is 5-3 in that span, including an impressive win against the Clippers immediately following a terrible loss to the Cavaliers.
The backup center is expected to be out for 2-4 weeks with a foot injury suffered Monday against the Timberwolves. Grant played the 5 when Nikola Jokic went to the bench against Houston on Wednesday, and Malone tried out a Jarred Vanderbilt–Juancho Hernangomez frontline, too. Plumlee is not the most high-profile guy on Denver’s injury report, but his passing and verticality at the rim will be missed, especially with the Nuggets battling for playoff positioning.
Isaac isn’t having surgery, but his initial 8-10 week timeline might have been optimistic: The Magic reportedly applied for a disabled player exception for him, signaling that they project him to miss the remainder of the season. Before the injury, he was on his way to an All-Defensive Team selection, and he showed real growth as an offensive player, too. Orlando has had a fluid starting lineup lately, sometimes starting Wes Iwundu and sometimes going with a massive frontcourt of Aaron Gordon, Khem Birch and Nikola Vucevic.
The Magic were granted a disabled player exception for Aminu, who tore his meniscus in late November and had surgery in January. Aminu was having the worst offensive season of his career before the injury, but he fit Orlando’s defensive identity.
The third-year guard is expected to be out until after the All-Star break, according to coach Dwane Casey, a somewhat surprising turn because the Pistons announced on Dec. 26 that he would miss two weeks. Before the injury, Kennard was having the best season of his career, increasing his efficiency while taking on a slightly larger playmaking role and averaging a full 10 minutes more than he did in Year 2. If there is a bright spot here, it is that rookie Sekou Doumbouya has had more opportunities to play since Kennard went down.
The rookie was ruled out for at least a week when he sprained his ankle during an awful loss to the Suns last Thursday. New York would prefer to have the 19-year-old available for obvious reasons, but his absence has given the team a bit of spacing in the starting lineup, with Reggie Bullock taking his place.
The Heat are a less versatile defensive team without Winslow, but the on/off numbers are still staggering: They have given up 99.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the court and 109.4 per 100 without him. On Jan. 17, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters that the forward would be out for at least two more weeks. The team initially described the injury as a back strain, but is now going with “lower back bone bruise.” Winslow has had a rough go of it this season — he has only played in 11 games, as a result of the back issues and a particularly scary concussion.
Chicago is awfully thin at center, as Carter has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain on Jan. 8 and backup Daniel Gafford joined him on the injured list with a dislocated thumb last week. Carter was ruled out for 4-6 weeks; he said on Saturday that it will “definitely” be closer to four. Chicago has been worse on both ends without Carter, but at least Luke Kornet has had his moments lately. Cristiano Felicio has also reemerged in the rotation, backing up Kornet.
The Bulls need Porter, even though he wasn’t playing like himself when he was actually on the court early this season. The forward has been sidelined since Nov. 6, and he has recently been seen on the court without a walking boot. He hasn’t started running yet, though, and coach Jim Boylen declined to offer a timetable for his return.
It took only a week for Holmes to earn a starting role in Sacramento, and his emergence as a dependable, productive starting center was the team’s best story until he injured his shoulder on Jan. 6. As of mid-January, he was still 2-3 weeks away from a return. Marvin Bagley initially stepped into his starting spot, but that is now occupied by the previously out-of-the-rotation Dewayne Dedmon.
The Kings are in disarray, so the last thing they needed was another injury. Bagley has already missed most of the season because of a broken thumb and a foot sprain, and now that same troublesome foot is keeping him out of the lineup again. He left Sacramento’s game against the Utah Jazz early on Jan. 18, played 38 minutes in Miami two days later and then missed Wednesday’s game in Detroit.
This was supposed to be a breakout season for Looney, but the 23-year-old big man has only played a total of 105 minutes in 10 games. On Monday, Steve Kerr said that he did not have any more clarity on Looney’s abdominal soreness, which has lingered far longer than anyone hoped, but left open the possibility he could return this week.
Another theoretical breakout candidate for a team that expected to be way better than it is, Collins hurt his shoulder three games into the season and is now hoping to come back in March. His absence is one of the reasons Portland has been awful defensively, and perhaps the main reason why Carmelo Anthony is now on the roster.
Hood had a lot on his shoulders this season, as Portland let both of its starting forwards walk in free agency and promoted Hood on a two-year deal. The devastating Achilles rupture took place on Dec. 6, ending a season in which he was one of the team’s few bright spots — Hood shot a totally unsustainable but awesome 49.3 percent from deep in 21 games. Kent Bazemore replaced him in the starting five, but has since been traded to the Kings for Trevor Ariza, who had his best game of the season in his Blazers debut on Thursday.
The center has been out since early December, leaving Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter to hold the fort. He’s running again, per Celtics coach Brad Stevens, and he’ll be evaluated again on Feb. 4. Stevens said that he would not play until after the All-Star break, however.
Jordan missed his third straight game on Thursday. His absence gave Brooklyn a chance to look at rookie Nicolas Claxton for extended minutes, but then Claxton hurt his shoulder. The Nets have almost never been injury-free this season, even if you don’t count Durant.
The rookie went through shootaround on Wednesday and has been cleared for “all activities,” per Wizards coach Scott Brooks. He has been sidelined since a nasty groin injury on Dec. 16, which required surgery. Hachimura had started every game for Washington, and will presumably replace either Isaac Bonga, Gary Payton II or Isaiah Thomas in the first five when he’s available to play.
Largely out of sight and out of mind this season, Wall played five-on-five with Amar’e Stoudemire (!) on Wednesday and has taken part in controlled 4-on-4 scrimmages in practice. He is still considered out for the season, having undergone surgery on his ruptured Achilles last February.
The Pistons were granted a disabled player exception for Griffin on Wednesday, a formality after he had knee surgery on Jan. 7. This is the same knee that required surgery at the end of last season, the one that probably should have kept him out of Detroit’s entire first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. (He played in Games 3 and 4 of the sweep.) Griffin was not even close to his normal self in the 18 games he played this season, and Detroit appears poised to start a full-blown rebuild in between now and the trade deadline.
Cousins has had a horrific run of three serious knee injuries in the last two calendar years. In August he tore his ACL, which likely ended his season before it began. Los Angeles responded by signing Dwight Howard, whose career had hit a low point, and Howard has rewarded the team with his best production in years thanks to improved conditioning and a commitment to playing a supporting role. Coach Frank Vogel has repeatedly said that Cousins could come back late in the season, which feels, um, optimistic.