As we come up on a short week due to the All-Star break, it is even more important that owners track their players' injuries. In many leagues, you are looking at one- or two-game schedules for your players. If players miss one or both games, you can kiss that week goodbye in head-to-head leagues. So read up on the players here and then do your own homework. Google players you are worried about and check on their status for next week. For players who are dealing with strains and who would benefit from an extra week of rest, I would bench them unless there is nothing more than garbage on your bench. Kevin Garnett is one of the best in the game, but he won't be nearly as valuable as say, David Lee, if he never makes it to the floor. I will let you know what I think for each player regarding next week. If you see "likely to return after the All-Star break," you have your answer: Bench 'em.
Kobe Bryant, SG, Lakers: Don't worry, the finger isn't going to cost him any time. Kobe dislocated the pinkie on his right (shooting) hand Monday in the first quarter against the Nets. His shooting has been awful since then. He has shot a combined 7-of-29 in his past two games. The Los Angeles Times reported that X-rays came back negative. The paper also said, to no great surprise, that Kobe is struggling with having just three flexible fingers as his pinkie is being taped to his ring finger. This could lead to more high-assist nights like we saw Wednesday and more scoring opportunities for Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher, in particular. Expect Kobe to be back to his normal self after the All-Star break.
Kevin Garnett, SF/PF, Celtics: The Big Ticket is hoping to play in tonight's game against his former team, according to the Associated Press. Don't worry, it's not happening. Garnett is another player you can add to your "sit for short week" list. He will be back after the break as he recovers from his abdominal strain. There is no reason for the Celtics to risk their season by bringing him back before he is 100 percent. Look for continued strong numbers from Rajon Rondo, whose offense has flourished in KG's absence.
Caron Butler, SF, Wizards: The hip flexor is not healing the way the Wizards had hoped. Butler played two games after returning from the injury Friday, but was far from full strength. The Washington Post reports that Butler will travel with the team on their four-game road trip, but that he may not play during the trip. If that were the case, Butler would be out until after the break. Given the lingering nature of strains, this might not be a bad call. If he is out, Andray Blatche will start and provide points, rebounds and blocks for his owners.
Michael Redd, SG, Bucks: It's been six games now and Redd owners have to be getting worried. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the team is in a "holding pattern" with Redd and his strained left knee. It's not clear what the hold up is. Coach Larry Krystkowiak clearly wants him back and has taken to texting Redd to urge him back for Saturday's game. Is Redd malingering? There is no hard evidence of this, but a coach usually doesn't try to cajole a player back (at least not so an account of it is published in the local paper) if he thinks he is too hurt to help his club. Unless there is clear sign of an imminent return, Redd is a player I would consider leaving on my bench in weekly leagues for next week.
Ben Gordon, SG, Bulls: No way I am starting Gordon next week. The Chicago Tribune has reported that Gordon will be out indefinitely with a sprained right wrist. He missed five games with the injury and, according to the Tribune, has not felt right since returning. His 26.5 points per game in those two games felt right to his owners, but apparently the wrist has felt stiff and sore in the second half of games. With just two games scheduled next week, Gordon is being presented with his best opportunity of extended rest. He will take it. Next week, I will update his status for the week following the break.
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls: I like Hinrich's chances. He missed Wednesday night's game in Portland after having tests done on his ribs in Seattle. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the tests revealed nothing more than bruising on the lower left side of his ribs. This is a painful injury, but not one that should sideline Hinrich for long. Owners should plug him into their lineups for next week's games.
Udonis Haslem, PF, Heat: It doesn't look like Haslem is going to be stepping out of Shaq's shadow just yet. After missing both games of a two-game road trip this week and now having missed four games in a row, it is becoming possible that Haslem will sit until after the All-Star break. Coach Pat Riley said as much to the Miami Herald earlier this week. My advice is to sit him for next week. His numbers aren't likely to improve with uber-rebounder Shawn Marion playing alongside him.
Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Pacers: There is no word yet on O'Neal's return date. The best info I have been able to find was Jim O'Brien telling the Indianapolis Star that he expected O'Neal back after the All-Star break. In the same article, O'Neal made it clear he would not come back too early as he has in the past. Clearly he is out next week. Check next week for a status update.
Shaquille O'Neal, C, Suns: Stephania Bell covered the extent of Shaq's injuries yesterday. If you haven't done so already, read it; there's a lot of good information. My final take on Shaq is that, while he is (shock) talking mad trash about people doubting his ability, he should recognize that it is not as if we are rooting against him. Big Aristotle, we are just looking at the numbers. On Pardon The Interruption yesterday, Mike D'Antoni said Shaq would get 25-30 minutes per game. That sounds about right, but expect the number to be closer to 25 than 30. This has as much to do with his propensity for picking up fouls as with keeping him healthy. This is good news for Boris Diaw owners. If he is available in your league, grab him now. Regarding Shaq, while there is a decent chance he will be on the court next week, I think post-All-Star break is a better bet.
Gerald Wallace, SG/SF, Bobcats: According to the Charlotte Observer, Wallace tested his strained right foot, practicing with the Bobcats on Wednesday. He is a game-time decision tonight against the Nets.
Nenad Krstic, PF/C, Nets: Krstic is back for the Nets, but has yet to do anything fantasy-worthy. That's tough to do when you play 14 minutes or less. This could change in the next few weeks. The Newark Star-Ledger reports coach Lawrence Frank said when Krstic gets his game conditioning back, he will return to the starting lineup. You may want to grab him in anticipation of that move if you are in a deeper league and need help in the middle. He is, and this is no exaggeration, owned by no one in ESPN leagues. That's right, his ownership stands at zero percent. Come on, deep leaguers, make a move.
Mike Conley, PG, Grizzlies: The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Mike Conley will return to the starting lineup tonight after missing the past five games. Kyle Lowry will return to his backup role. Javaris Crittenton appears to be no threat to Conley's minutes as coach Marc Iavaroni feels he is more suited to play off the ball at 2-guard.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at GuyLake@TalentedMrRoto.com.