- Guy Lake
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If you are looking to make some trades in your league, now might the time to take a chance on some of the players on this list. A number of quality players are getting close to making their return. Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin, Randy Foye, and (gulp), yes, Tracy McGrady all come with some risk, but are worth acquiring if the price isn't too steep. Check up on their status below and see who fits your needs. My rule on acquiring injured players is to target guys with a specific localized injury rather than those with chronic conditions. Therefore, Bibby (coming back from surgery on his thumb) is more attractive to me than McGrady (knee tendinitis), who attracts injuries like carrion attracts flies. Injuries are inevitable in fantasy, and depending on your ability to handle risk, present owners with opportunities to get good value.
Dwyane Wade, PG/SG, Heat: Last week I wrote, "Wade is at risk of becoming a perpetual injury risk, an ultra-talented player whose competitive spirit undermines the very body that enables competition." Well, if I knew then what we all know now I would've said the same thing while adding some choice words for Pat Riley. In case you haven't heard, Riles announced to the sporting world that Wade's shoulder injury last February was far worse than reported. According to ESPN.com news services, Riley told reporters, "I don't think anybody realizes how bad this was. It was a reverse dislocation, which doesn't happen that much. And he had nerve damage." Well, Riles, no one realized it because the team didn't tell anybody. All of which begs the question: What competitive advantage was gained by this tactic? You send out your best player, who is clearly still hurting, for a team that is lottery-bound and put him at greater risk? Why? Who is being fooled by this? Not the opposition, who watch Wade pull up for short jumpers instead of dunking ferociously in traffic. There is a blueprint for these situations. Look up Spurs, San Antonio, 1996-97. Riles is talking about compensation injuries for Wade, meaning that he hurts another part of his body as he compensates for weakened areas. In baseball we call them cascade injuries, and they are exactly the reason you don't rush players back. Knowing Wade, he will still go out there, but his team, if not his fantasy owners, would be better in the long run if he didn't.
Ray Allen, SG, Celtics: You can't blame the Celtics' loss against the Bobcats on Allen's absence -- no one wearing green had an answer for Jason Richardson (34 points) -- but you do have to wonder if he could've improved the Celtics' woeful 41.7 percent shooting from the field. Allen missed the game with a pinched nerve in his neck. According to the Boston Globe, Allen underwent an MRI and CT scan on Tuesday to confirm the diagnosis. Allen had been feeling discomfort in his neck and through his right arm, experiencing numbness in the fingers of his shooting hand. This could go a long way toward explaining his horrid shooting his past two games: He was a combined 3-for-17 against the Grizzlies and Pistons. Allen received a shot to relieve the pressure in his neck, and coach Doc Rivers told the Globe that he looked good running and shooting in practice. He is expected back for tonight's game.
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Suns: The bad news is that Marion missed Thursday's game with very little notice. The good news is that he should be back soon. Marion hurt his right elbow and shoulder after taking a fall in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game against the Pacers. The East Valley Tribune reported that X-rays following the game were negative but Marion was unable to lift his right arm. The elbow is bruised but should be fine for Week 12.
Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Pacers: To answer Allen Iverson, yes, we are talking about practice. O'Neal's left knee has become so bothersome that the Pacers' big man is no longer participating in practices. Coach Jim O'Brien even told the Indianapolis Star that O'Neal will not be playing in the second games of back-to-back sets. This is not the news O'Neal owners want to hear, but at this point, it is hardly a shocker. O'Neal has been a shell of himself most of this season. Savvy owners will watch the schedule closely and, so long as O'Brien's edict stands, plug in Shawne Williams or Ike Diogu on the back end of back-to-backs. Of the two, I prefer Williams, who brings 3-pointers to the table.
Grant Hill, SF, Suns: The Arizona Republic has reported that Grant Hill will miss two to three weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Wednesday. Hill, who has been sidelined by ankle woes and hernia issues for years, was enjoying the healthiest run of his career since the 1999-2000 season, having not missed any of the Suns' 34 games before the diagnosis. Owners should not activate Hill for Weeks 12 or 13, even though he is scheduled to come back in the middle of the latter week. With Hill out, look for improved production from Leandro Barbosa, Marion and Boris Diaw. Raja Bell should get a few more shots, as well.
Andrei Kirilenko, SF/PF, Jazz: It's three games and counting for AK-47. Kirilenko has been sidelined by lower back inflammation and wasn't quite ready for Thursday's contest with the Suns. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Kirilenko is feeling better, but his back still "locks up" on him when he sits. There is a decent chance he will be ready for Saturday's contest, but I recommend checking the Salt Lake City papers for updates on his condition. While Kirilenko is out, C.J. Miles, Kyle Korver and Matt Harpring will combine to cover his minutes. Unfortunately, splitting the minutes this way denies any of these three true fantasy value. Korver played 32 minutes Thursday, but that was because Harpring missed the game to attend the birth of his second child.
Anderson Varejao, PF/C, Cavaliers: While it looks unlikely that Varejao will play Friday night, the Akron Beacon-Journal reports that he avoided serious injury on Wednesday night against the Hawks. An MRI performed Thursday found that his left knee was merely bruised and he had a mild strain in his left Achilles tendon. By taking tonight off, Varejao would have five full days of rest following the injury before suiting up Tuesday. Drew Gooden would be the biggest beneficiary should Varejao prove unable to go in Friday night's game against the Bobcats.
Chucky Atkins, PG, Nuggets: Consider Atkins fantasy toast for the rest of the season. The Denver Post reports that he will miss eight to 12 weeks following hernia surgery. He can safely be dropped in all league formats, and his owners should be running to Anthony Carter if he is still available.
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Rockets: Last week the Rockets said McGrady would test his left knee (inflamed tendon) on Thursday and possibly come back tonight. According to the Houston Chronicle, the test was pushed back to today, with the idea that T-Mac would return to the court next week. McGrady has complained that because the injury has kept him from running, his conditioning has slipped, and he will need some time to get back into game shape. We might see a lighter load of minutes in his first game or two back, but if McGrady's knee is pain-free, he will quickly return to his former effectiveness.
Luol Deng, SF, Bulls: After missing two games with Achilles tendinitis, Deng is getting close to a return. The Chicago Tribune reported that Deng participated in half a practice and will test the injury during Friday's shootaround. He is still feeling discomfort when he pushes off, and he told the Tribune that trainer Fred Tedeschi would prefer to have him wait until Sunday to make his return. Either way, Deng looks like he will be ready to go for Week 12.
Michael Redd, SG, Bucks: According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Redd will make his return to the court tonight against the Lakers. Coach Larry Krystkowiak told the paper that Redd will come off the bench for his first game back. This means that Mo Williams will start one more game at shooting guard, where he has been lighting up the scoreboard (24.3 points per game). Indeed, Williams' success at the 2 could result in more playing time there in the future. Look for Redd to get most of his minutes at shooting guard but to shift to small forward when the Bucks go small.
Shaquille O'Neal Coach Pat Riley told the Miami Herald that he expects O'Neal to rejoin the team Sunday. Shaq spent most of the week in Los Angeles seeing specialists for his ailing left hip (bursitis). If he's back in South Beach by Sunday, he could get a practice in on Monday and be ready to play Wednesday against the Bulls.
Mike Bibby, PG, Kings: Bibby is sticking to his Jan. 16 return date. If the practices are any indication, he is very close to ready. According to the Sacramento Bee, Bibby scrimmaged at full speed on Monday and was effective all over the floor, finding teammates and hitting jumpers. He was so good that his coach, Reggie Theus, wondered why doctors had cleared him for full-speed scrimmages but not games: "You can get hurt in practice just as easily as you can in a game." Bibby looks safe to get back in your lineups next week.
Kevin Martin, SG, Kings: Martin was supposed to be back this week, but so far he hasn't even been able to participate in a full practice. He was held out of the scrimmage described above, working out with the training staff instead. If Bibby is cleared to practice and Martin is not, this should tell you that he will not be back this weekend. Next week looks possible, but again, it appears that he is behind Bibby in his rehab.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Timberwolves: He is getting close. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Monday's CAT scan showed Foye's knee was healed enough to practice. And that is just what he will do: Practice, for about two weeks, so don't plug him into your lineups just yet. The Timberwolves are not going to rush things, and we shouldn't forget that it is going to take some time for Foye to get back in game shape. If Foye is on the wire in your league and you are in need of scoring, make a move now. He won't be around much longer.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com.