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NBA Injury Update

   by ASA - 04/01/2008

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, teams and trainers throughout the NBA are putting in long nights in an effort to nurse players back to full health. Some of these players are of much greater importance as their injury status will have a direct impact on what teams do, and don’t, make the playoffs. Here’s a look at who’s on the mend and when they’ll be back:

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks: The sweet-shooting All-Star power forward suffered an ugly left ankle and knee injury March 23 against San Antonio that has sidelined him for the last four games. The Mavs have gone just 1-3 ATS with Nowitzki sidelined with the lone ATS win coming by just a half-point. Dallas currently owns a half-game lead over Golden State and a game lead over Denver for the seventh seed in the Western Conference and need Nowitzki back as soon as possible.

News out of Dallas is that Nowitzki is doing some light jogging but that the Mavs, despite the urgency of the situation, won’t send him out there unless he’s completely ready to go. Five of Dallas’ last eight games are against Western Conference playoff contenders so the sooner the better.

Elton Brand, Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers, at 22-52, are well out of playoff contention but that won’t stop All-Star power forward Elton Brand from returning for the final two weeks of the season. His return from an Achilles injury seems unnecessary considering LA’s place in the standings but Brand, who could potentially opt-out of his contract to become a free agent this summer, seems determined to show he’s healthy.

Brand’s return may not mean much to the Clippers spot in the standings but it could play a considerable role in the future of playoff contenders. LA’s final six games of the season all come against Western Conference playoff contenders. The Clippers’ medical staff has cleared Brand to play so now it’s just a matter of when he can get his legs under him. He could return as early as Thursday night at Sacramento.

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, Los Angeles Lakers: Give Kobe Bryant and his teammates credit for holding down the top spot in the Western Conference for as long as they did with Gasol and Bynum on the shelf. The Lakers are starting to struggle down the stretch, though, as they are 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS in their last five games. Bryant has reverted back to his tendency to dominate the ball while a lack of an interior presence has led to 113.5 points allowed per game over the last six contests.

The Lakers frontline is very thin right now and they desperately need Gasol and/or Bynum back as soon as possible if they want that coveted home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs. According to the Los Angeles Times, Gasol and Bynum are both expected back any day now. Only three of LA’s final eight games are against playoff contenders but you can be sure that head coach Phil Jackson wants Gasol and Bynum back as quickly as possible.

Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers were one of the best stories of the first half of the season as the young overachievers used a 17-1 stretch to climb into the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Portland has leveled off since then and is out of playoff contention. That doesn’t mean the Blazers still can’t make some noise in the spoiler role. Playing spoiler will be a lot harder with All-Star Brandon Roy sidelined.

Roy has missed the last two games with the dreaded groin injury and Portland proceeded to lose both contests by 12 points per game. Roy probably won’t be back this week but could return as early as Tuesday, April 8 at home against the Lakers. Games against Dallas and Phoenix, as well as the game against Los Angeles, in the final week could have an impact on the Western Conference playoff seedings. If Roy is in the lineup, the Blazers become a viable spoiler possibility.

Gilbert Arenas, Washington Wizards: Arenas has been itching to return to the lineup for months now but hasn’t gotten clearance from the Washington medical staff yet. The Wizards, at 38-36, are tied with Toronto for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and are just a game ahead of a hot Philadelphia team. They’ll want to avoid falling to seventh in the standings and facing Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. Arenas’ return would go a long way toward locking up that fifth seed.

The intensity of Arenas’ workouts has gradually increased over the last month to the point where Arenas thinks he could go tonight. He has stated he would like to make his return at home but if the medical staff says he’s ready to go, he’ll be in the lineup, possibly as soon as Friday at home against Milwaukee.

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