The Leonid meteor showers always come this time of year (around November 17), and the NBA has dutifully followed suit as this week has been one for falling stars. The list below includes some big names, especially the first five. The good news is that, for most of them, the injuries do not appear to be long term. However, head-to-head players counting on these guys may be in for a dry spell to close this week's scoring period and to open next week. I will give you the lowdown on whom you can count on and whom you should send to the pine, which is especially important for those of us who play in weekly leagues. Without further ado, here are this week's injuries.
Tracy McGrady, SG/SF, Rockets: First, a quick lesson in medical terminology. A sprain is the stretching and/or tearing of ligaments. A strain is the stretching and/or tearing of tendons or muscles. McGrady does not have a "strained" right elbow as reported. He has a sprained right elbow. According to the Houston Chronicle, team physician, Dr. Tom Clanton, described the injury as follows: "He had an injury where his right elbow was hit by another player [Luke Walton], causing the elbow to be whipped to the side. By doing that, it stretched the ligaments on the inside of the elbow and also where the nerve is located that goes down to the hand." As a result, T-Mac's shooting arm will be in a sling for about week. After that time, he should be back. The question is how his shooting will respond if there is any lingering discomfort in the elbow. I expect McGrady's shooting percentage to drop. Hey, he has been shooting a career-best 46.8 percent so far this season and was due for a correction anyhow. Luther Head becomes a nice add for points and 3's with T-Mac out, but Bonzi Wells will see the biggest increase in value. Weekly owners should sit T-Mac for their next scoring period.
Vince Carter, SG/SF, Nets: Carter has not played a game this week after suffering a sprained right ankle on November 10. The Nets team Web site reported that Carter had suffered a Grade 1 sprain and that there was no timetable for his return. A Grade 1 sprain is the mildest sprain one can suffer; Carter's ankle ligaments were stretched and/or very slightly torn. Still, Carter is in pain and the Bergen Record speculates that he could miss up to three weeks. That seems long for this grade of sprain, but each athlete is unique and Vince doesn't have the greatest reputation for his healing prowess. Antoine Wright will start for Carter but owners will have to hope that he produces better efforts than the one he put forth on Wednesday (40 minutes, four points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals with three turnovers).
Josh Smith, SG/SF/PF, Hawks: It truly is amazing what this guy can do in a short period of time. Before straining his left quadriceps muscle, Smith put up 15 points, 3 boards, 3 assists, a steal and 5 blocks in 19 minutes on Wednesday. After scouring the Atlanta Journal Constitution, I could find nothing definitive about Smith's availability for Friday night's game. Daily leaguers should be ready to swap in another player just in case the Smoove one can't go. Given how quickly Smith has healed in the past -- he was expected to miss four weeks following hernia surgery last season, but missed a bit more than two -- he should be fine for next week. If he sits, Josh Childress' minutes will increase.
Chauncey Billups, PG, Pistons: After missing Wednesday's game against Golden State, Billups is listed as day-to-day and is questionable for tonight's game against the Lakers. Billups twisted his left knee on Tuesday in Portland and the fear was that he had sprained it. According the Detroit News, Thursday's MRI came back negative. Still Billups was far from mobile before the Warriors game and my best guess is that he will sit out against the Lakers as well. This would be good news for Flip Murray owners, as he turned in a great game in Oakland with 14 points and a career-high 12 assists. Weekly owners should have Billups in their lineups for next week as this injury does not appear to be too serious.
Kirk Hinrich, PG/SG, Bulls: Well, thanks for cluing us in, Kirk. Owners who have been fretting about Hinrich's subpar performance (10.4 points, 0.6 3-pointers, 5.8 assists per game) now have an understanding of what is going on. Hinrich told the Chicago Tribune, among others, that he sprained a ligament in a knuckle in his left hand (non-shooting). This is counterintuitive given his hideous field-goal percentage (34.1 percent versus a career 41.2). After Thursday's game (6-for-13), it looks like he may be pulling out of it. Don't sell low on Hinrich. The only reason to do that is if you expect him to continue his poor play for the rest of the season. I do not. The sprain should heal and once it does, Hinrich will return to form.
Luke Ridnour, PG, Sonics: They just can't settle on a point guard in Seattle. Just after he was named the new starting point guard for Seattle, Ridnour was sidelined with a torn left quadriceps muscle and is expected to miss 2-4 weeks. I expect this to be closer to four than two weeks, though. In reporting the injury, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer speculated that the Sonics may pursue a free-agent point guard in the short term. In the meantime, Delonte West and Earl Watson will split time at the point. Delonte is the better defender and shooter and should win more minutes as time goes on.
Zach Randolph, PF, Knicks: Randolph isn't injured, but he will most likely miss tonight's game in Sacramento as he will be in Indiana attending his grandmother's funeral. The New York Daily News reports there is an outside chance he makes it back, but I wouldn't count on it. Instead look for David Lee to step in and start at the 4 against the Kings. He could be in for a big night as the Kings are far from intimidating inside.
Troy Murphy, PF/C, Pacers: According to the Indianapolis Star, Murphy has a bruised left Achilles tendon, which caused him to miss Wednesday night's game. He is listed as questionable for tonight and I am afraid we could be seeing a lot of this unless the team decides to shut him down and get him the rest he needs. Murphy has been struggling with a sore Achilles all season. Achilles strains aren't helped by playing big minutes, and owners eager to see Murphy's 3-point prowess in the Pacers' allegedly let-'em-fly offense will have to be patient.
Kyle Korver, SG/SF, 76ers: I think we may have found the cause of Korver's shooting woes this season (just 35.3 percent from the field). The 3-point specialist will be sidelined for 7-10 days with a strained groin, according to the Associated Press. Korver missed the first two games of the preseason with a groin strain and it appears he never completely got over it. With rest, he should bounce back. Willie Green will absorb most of Korver's minutes and will improve his scoring while he is out. If you need 3's, grab Rashad McCants if he is on the wire. He is a better value than a healthy Korver.
Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com.