Commentary

Occupational Hazard: Bum ankles sideline Parker, Varejao

Updated: February 1, 2008, 3:58 PM ET
By Guy Lake | Special to ESPN.com

Flu season has hit the NBA hard. There doesn't seem to be a team in the league that hasn't had players affected. There is sadly no predictability with a communicable disease like the flu. I mean, yes, if you saw Dwyane Wade taking a big gulp of a phlegmy Chris Kaman's Fresca, then you might predict that Wade would come down with something. I regret to inform you I lack that level of intel. Players share locker rooms, showers, and yes, the occasional Fresca. They practice and play in close physical contact with each other. It is a perfect breeding ground for viruses like the flu. Unfortunately, there are a few months left in flu season, which the Center for Disease Control states usually runs through March. While it feels like the illness is peaking right now with so many players affected, we will likely see it linger a bit longer. On the plus side, if a player of yours is sidelined with the flu, it is unlikely there will be many lingering aftereffects like you might see with the injuries described below.

Triage unit

Tony Parker, PG, Spurs: San Antonio, say hello to Damon Stoudamire. Stoudamire is going to see a lot of run during the next few weeks as he fills in for Parker, who was diagnosed with chronic inflammation in his left ankle caused by a bone spur and, according to the San Antonio Express-News, will miss at least the next seven Spurs games. Poor Tony, he misses the rest of the rodeo road trip. It turns out that the "sprained left ankle" the team reported back in mid-December was actually pain resulting from the bone spur. Bone spurs don't go away by themselves. Parker has already received a round of anti-inflammatories -- probably cortisone -- but I think this is an injury that could dog him for the rest of the season. In other words, while Stoudamire is a fine short-term pickup for the next two weeks, he could have value even following the All-Star Game.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesLBJ missed Thursday's game in Seattle.
LeBron James, SF, Cavaliers: The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the league's leading scorer sat out last night's game with a sprained ankle. LeBron is not likely to miss much time with this injury. He was able to play and dominate after spraining the ankle in the second quarter on Wednesday. The team is just being careful by having him sit out Thursday's end of back-to-back games. The Cavaliers have lost two players, Anderson Varejao (more on him below) and Sasha Pavlovic, to more serious injuries in recent weeks and aren't about to risk the franchise. Expect LBJ to play on Saturday against the Clippers. Weekly leaguers are safe in starting him next week.

Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics: KG has missed four straight games with an abdominal strain, but I don't think his owners will be without his services much longer. The Celtics played this one smartly. They had just two games this week and don't play again until Tuesday. That gave Garnett 10 full days to rest the strain. In a lot ways, Garnett could not have picked a better time to go down. Weekly owners probably didn't miss Garnett much because of the Celtics' light schedule this week. With rest, Garnett should be back at 100 percent, which is exactly what owners want coming into a four-game week.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Roy
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesBrandon Roy has swollen fingers.
Brandon Roy, SG, Trail Blazers: There's good news and bad news here. The good news is that Roy has been selected to his first All-Star team. The bad news is that he underwent X-rays Thursday to determine why the index and middle fingers on his left hand were so swollen. According to The Oregonian, Roy woke up on Thursday morning with the fingers so swollen that he was unable to make a fist. He missed practice for the X-rays, which came back negative. Consider Roy a game-time decision. If his hand is in the same shape as it was yesterday, he is unlikely to play.

Devin Harris, PG, Mavericks: Harris' sprained ankle may be one of the major factors keeping him a Dallas Maverick. With Jason Kidd trade rumors swirling, Harris is one of the key figures in the trade -- the rumors have him headed to Portland as part of the three-team deal -- but with Harris injured, the proposed deal is on hold for the moment. Harris hurt his ankle on Sunday, and according to the Dallas Morning News, an MRI revealed a bone bruise in his left ankle. Harris is expected to miss another two-plus weeks. Until then, Jason Terry will start at point for the Mavs. We will see what becomes of the trade rumors and if Harris returns to the court as a Maverick.

Mo Williams, PG, Bucks: Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel broke some big news on the Bucks' point guard on Thursday. It appears that Williams has been playing with ligament damage in his right thumb since Nov. 21, when he hurt it against the Lakers. Williams has had the thumb taped since then, but had not discussed it in any serious terms until yesterday, when he revealed that the thumb will require surgery. The good news is that Williams plans to wait until the end of the season for surgery. Unfortunately, in the rough-and-tumble world of the NBA, it wouldn't take more than a strong slap to make this a big deal. Word travels fast in fantasy circles -- I guess this column might have something to do with that -- so it looks like Williams' owners will not get a lot in return for him with this news. Sorry.

Anderson Varejao, PF/C, Cavaliers: Now both of the Cavs' early-season holdouts are missing significant time. In Varejao's case, it was one ugly-looking sprain that took him out. I am sure to Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas owners it looked beautiful when Varejao's left foot buckled sideways on Sasha Vujacic's foot on Sunday. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Varejao will miss 3-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain, complicated by bone bruises. As was the case during Varejao's holdout, Gooden and Big Z should see more minutes and better production.

Caron Butler, SF, Wizards: Yet another victim of the Sunday slaughter, Butler has been sidelined by a strained hip flexor and the flu. According to the Washington Post, the man they call "Tough Juice" is unlikely to play tonight. At this point, it sounds like the flu is the bigger issue than the hip. If Butler misses tonight's game, Andray Blatche will again be in a good position to put up strong numbers. Look for Butler to make it back on Sunday.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesGasol has a rich injury history.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Lakers: It's odd. The Grizzlies have very talented players: Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Mike Miller and, of course, Rudy Gay, and yet they are wallowing near the bottom of the standings with a 13-33 record. A big part of the problem has been Gasol. His numbers had been down most of the season until a resurgence in January. Then, his back acted up and now Gasol has missed three of his past four games. The Grizz play on Saturday, but I think they may hold Gasol back until Tuesday, giving him more time to rest. While it is possible that Darko Milicic has another big game in Gasol's absence, I certainly wouldn't count on it.
Editor's note: Since this was published, Pau Gasol has been traded to the Lakers

Outpatient clinic

Carmelo Anthony, SF, Nuggets: He's getting closer. According to the Denver Post, even though Carmelo missed Wednesday's game, he reported significant improvement in his sprained left ankle. He was able to jump and shoot before the game, unlike previous attempts and planned to move into cutting and running. It sounds like he could be back for Saturday's game and that he should be a reasonably safe start next week. Linas Kleiza owners should prepare themselves accordingly.

Chris Kaman, C, Clippers: Another victim of the leaguewide flu pandemic, Kaman should be good to go for tonight's game. He was bothered by a shin bruise earlier in the week, but I think it is safe to assume he is past that now.

Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls: According to the Chicago Daily Herald, Gordon should be back on Saturday. This is a welcome relief to owners who have suffered through five games of Gordon's day-to-day status. Gordon told reporters that his right wrist is feeling better and that he expects to be 100 percent for the game against the Kings.

Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Pacers: The Indianapolis Star reports that Tinsley should be back for tonight's game. Given the scant amount of information the Pacers have shared about his sore left knee, I am taking this with a grain of salt. Even if Tinsley does come back, it remains to be seen if he can be effective. His past five games played have yielded averages of 3.6 points and 8.8 assists.

Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com.

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