Occupational Hazard: Ford, McGrady and Okur updates
T.J. Ford, PG, Raptors: Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper is reporting some troubling news about T.J. Ford. He has left the team to consult with New York-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Patrick O'Leary. This is the second specialist Ford has met with this week. Earlier he visited Robert Watkins, who performed his season-ending neck surgery two seasons ago. The news that he has consulted not one but two surgeons should be setting off alarm bells. The Raptors are not saying anything about Ford's status but this news makes it appear that another surgery is a possibility for Ford. As a refresher for those of you who missed this past week's column, Ford has spinal stenosis, a condition where his spinal cord does not have the same room to move within the vertebrae as do most people's. This makes him more subject to spinal cord injury because the vertebrae themselves can pinch the main stem of the cord. As fantasy owners all we can do is wait and watch. Jose Calderon, who is himself dinged up with a dislocated finger, is obviously the biggest beneficiary fantasywise.
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Rockets: The knee is still bothering T-Mac. On Wednesday, McGrady went 1-for-10 in just 17 minutes. He did not play in the second half of that game or on Thursday. McGrady has been feeling discomfort in his left knee for weeks but aggravated it further when it was bruised on Saturday facing the Mavericks. In describing his knee, McGrady told the Houston Chronicle, "Every time I put pressure on it, there's constant pain, sharp pain. I don't have any lift. Laterally, I can't really do anything." There have been no reports of any structural issues but the fact that McGrady was feeling pain before bruising the knee this past Saturday gives me pause. I would not be surprised to see McGrady miss a few more games to ease his discomfort, making him a risky play for Week 9. If he does sit, Bonzi Wells and Luther Head (in that order) will benefit the most.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Grizzlies: The big Spaniard has been sidelined three games with a jammed big right toe. He was hurt this past Thursday in practice and has not played since. Obviously, Gasol was a bust this week but what about next week? I think he will be back. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported that coach Marc Iavaroni said that Gasol is walking without pain. That sounds like good news. The question, of course, is how he handles running. Memphis has been less than forthcoming with information about its injured players this season (see Darko Milicic), so we may not see Gasol's day-to-day status changed until the day he plays. With back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, it is unlikely that Gasol would return sooner than Saturday. The Grizzlies are without fellow big man Milicic, and the team may press Gasol back as soon as he can go. I am sticking with my Saturday prognosis, but if I am wrong (hey it happens), Gasol's next game is a full four days later (on Wednesday) and I have a hard time seeing him miss that one. Weekly owners should start Gasol unless there is news of a setback.
Mehmet Okur, C, Jazz: The Jazz are not playing well without the Big Turk. They are now 0-5 in the five games he has missed. Okur is listed as day-to-day with a bruised and strained left trapezius suffered on Dec. 11 against Portland. Okur missed Wednesday's contest and while the Salt Lake Tribune reports that he is feeling better, it also quoted the big man saying, "Treatment's [gone] well for me right now so far, but I haven't tried with any one-on-one or five-on-five on the floor." This means he hasn't practiced and that is an obvious prerequisite for playing. The Jazz need Okur on the court to help stretch defenses. They will try to get him back as soon as possible. The shoulder is strained and rest is the best medicine even if it is maddening for fantasy owners. I expect Okur back by Saturday at the latest. After all, he traveled with the team. It seems unlikely the Jazz would have brought him along (and disrupted treatment with travel) if they didn't think he was close. Weekly owners should plan on having him back for Week 9.
Antonio Daniels, PG, Wizards: Already without Gilbert Arenas until late February at the earliest, the Wizards have now lost his backup and their current starting point guard, Antonio Daniels, to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Daniels hurt the knee in the second quarter of Saturday's game against the Miami Heat and left the game immediately. The team has said that Daniels will miss two to four weeks. Daniels told The Washington Post that he expects to be back closer to the two-week minimum, but at this point it is too early to make those kinds of predictions. Wishing it so does not make it so. Until Daniels returns the backcourt will be comprised of DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young, with the rookie playing point. Roger Mason will see more minutes off the bench and will continue to play in his role as instant offense.
Ben Wallace, C, Bulls: Big Ben has disappointed his owners this season and will continue to do so with the news that the spurs in his left foot have forced him to the sidelines. According to the Chicago Tribune Wallace has played through the spurs in the top of his left foot for years. He had an MRI performed to ensure that he did not have a stress fracture and the results were negative. Still, he did not practice with the team on Thursday and this is a good indication that he is unlikely to play on Friday in Boston. Aaron Gray should see more minutes with Wallace ailing and he had a nice line (10 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists) on Wednesday. Wallace told the Tribune that he would never undergo surgery for the bone spurs because of the recovery time of four to six weeks. Owners will just have to hope the pain subsides and that Wallace can play through it.
Peja Stojakovic, SG/SF, Hornets: Peja's groin has him listed as questionable for Saturday's game. Stojakovic has missed three straight games since his abortive comeback from a strained groin. He is not as young as he used to be and muscle strains take longer to recover from when you are older. I would not plan on activating Stojo for Saturday's contest against the Timberwolves. Peja has proved to be quite injury prone and even when he has been healthy, his production has been inconsistent. I would look for other options next week. For the Hornets that means improved production from Rasual Butler and Morris Peterson, who has had decent scoring nights in two of his past three games.
Alonzo Mourning, C, Heat: This one is a shame as Zo was a fun player to watch on the defensive end of the floor. If you want to see more Zo blocks, however, you will have to avail yourself of highlight reels and retrospectives because this latest injury likely spells the end of his career. On Wednesday night Mourning tore the patellar tendon in his right knee. He told the Sun Sentinel that he was preparing for season-ending surgery on the knee. The recovery time would not allow Mourning to return this season. Mourning has also said that this would be his last season in the NBA, so it appears that we are looking at the end of a very good career. I'll miss you Zo. I rode you to my second ever fantasy basketball league championship back in 2000; those 294 blocks were ill.
Jamaal Tinsley, PG, Pacers: Tinsley sat out Wednesday's game with a bruised left thigh. He suffered the bruise when he took a knee to the leg against the Heat. Tinsley had a poor showing on Monday (1-for-8 from the field and just two points) and clearly he and the team thought he would be best-served sitting out Wednesday. He should be back on the floor tonight and should be activated. He has been one the better draft day values of the season.
Tony Parker, PG, Spurs: Finally, some good news for Tony Parker owners. The speedy Frenchman will be back on the hardwood on Saturday. The sprained ankle got the rest it needed and Parker should be 100 percent ready to go. Get him back in your lineups.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com.
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