In each Occupational Hazard, I will take you through the key injuries in the NBA and give you my take on the fantasy relevance of each. There are going to be a lot of injuries this season, there always are. But with the amount of international play that was conducted this summer, we could be line for even more limping stars as the wear and tear of the endless season breaks some players down.
This week we will look at players coming into this season injured and talk about their prospects both short and long term.
Dwyane Wade, SG/PG, Heat: As you know, Wade missed the entire preseason recovering from left shoulder and left knee surgeries. Wade suffered from a separated shoulder and "jumper's knee," respectively. The Palm Beach Post reports that Wade is on schedule to be cleared for contact on November 15. It will probably take a week or so of practice for Wade to reacclimate himself and test the joints out. The knee is more troublesome, as "jumper's knee" (patellar tendinitis) robs a player of his explosiveness. It is too soon to say how Wade will do once he is back on the court, but with his tendency to take the hard hit going to the basket, I think we can expect a few trips to the trainer's room during the course of the season. I say the second round sounds right for this high-risk/high-reward player. Until he is back, Ricky Davis will man shooting guard and be a good value.
Mike Bibby, PG, Kings: Bibby hurt his right thumb last preseason, and he has done it again this year, though it is his left thumb this time. Last season, he played through the tendon injury to his thumb, and his shooting was gravely affected. This season, Bibby tore ligaments and will not be toughing it out. He had surgery last Saturday and will be sidelined approximately 10 weeks. While he is out, John Salmons, who is the best perimeter passer on the team, is a must-add in all leagues. His 23 points, nine assists and three steals on Wednesday should make that clear. I also like Kevin Martin, Ron Artest and, to a lesser extent, Brad Miller to pick up the slack in perimeter scoring. Orien Greene will see some minutes at the point, but for now owners can pass on him.
Randy Foye, PG/SG, Timberwolves: Initially diagnosed with knee tendinitis during the preseason, Foye will be sitting for at least three weeks with a stress reaction in his left kneecap. Stress reactions are the stage before a stress fracture, so the Wolves will be careful with this one. A stress fracture is what happens when a bone has tiny fractures due to repeated high-impact use. A stress reaction is the preceding stage when the athlete feels discomfort in the bone but no fractures are found. There is no guarantee he will be back in three weeks. That is just when they will reevaluate him with a CT scan to see how he is progressing. If he is fine, he will be eased back. If not, you will see a lot more of Sebastian Telfair. That is, unless his inconsistent play makes Marko Jaric the man. Telfair gets first crack at it, though, and is worth a flier in deep leagues.
Lamar Odom, SF/PF, Lakers: Like Wade, Odom underwent surgeries last spring to repair his shoulder and knee. Odom will miss the first two weeks of the season based on Dr. Lewis Yocum's recommendation. Yocum is the Los Angeles Angels' team physician and is a leading expert on shoulder injuries, so take him at his word. Odom has been participating in non-contact drills and should be back up to speed by the start of December. Ronny Turiaf is definitely worth grabbing in deep leagues until Odom is back.
Chris Bosh, PF/C, Raptors: It's looking like we can turn off the hazard lights for Bosh. After giving owners preseason scares with plantar fasciitis and knee soreness, Bosh played 25 minutes on Wednesday and will see his minutes limited so long as the Raptors can build comfortable leads as they did against the Sixers. Bosh played through his plantar fasciitis last season and posted strong numbers, so there is reason to hope that he can do so again should the troublesome condition recur. The team will limit him when they can, and this will diminish his value a little.
Jermaine O'Neal, PF/C, Pacers: He missed the home opener in part because of a hyperextended right knee, which he hurt slipping on a wet spot during the preseason. The Indianapolis Star reported that he sat because of conditioning concerns, but I suspect the Pacers are giving O'Neal's knee as much time as they can. He should be back in the lineup Friday. O'Neal is a perennial injury risk and his owners have to accept the missed games that go along with the scoring, rebounds and blocked shots.
Robert Swift, C, SuperSonics: Swift was not ready to go on Wednesday and was consigned to bench duty. He is experiencing bruising in his surgically-repaired right knee. Swift had some decent moments in the preseason, but he is probably a month or so away from starting. Those of you in need of rebounds, blocks and a questionable free-throw percentage in a center from the pacific northwest should turn to Joel Przybilla. If Nick Collison is available, he will start at center until Swift is ready and will be solid.
Peja Stojakovic, SG/SF, Hornets: The cursing you hear is coming from all those owners who passed on Peja in the first eight or so rounds of your league's draft. Sometimes it pays to take a risk. I am not convinced that Peja's surgically-repaired back is 100 percent, and neither are the Hornets. They will limit his minutes, which is smart, and his owners should look for something very close to 30 minutes per game. I expect the back to flare up at some point, but for now Peja owners should be rolling him out there.
Zaza Pachulia, PF/C, Hawks: Zaza is likely to miss the first week of the season with a sprained left knee and sprained left ankle. For weekly roster owners, I would follow whatever Sekou Smith has to say in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution during the weekend. He is one of the best beat writers in the country and will keep you up-to-date. My best guess is he misses games next week and/or is limited. This is great news for Al Horford owners. Horford should start at center until Zaza is back and will have a great chance to make his case for more minutes.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.