NBA injury report: Return timeline, updates, impact for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, other injured stars

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are united again … in the sense that they are all dealing with injuries. James is still recovering from a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day, while Irving has eye inflammation and Love is two months removed from foot surgery, getting closer to making his return. 

A couple more recent and relevant injury updates: DeMarcus Cousins went through a full practice and Robert Covington will be out for a while because of a bone bruise.

We have every single NBA injury chronicled here and updated often to let you know who is in or out each night and beyond. But this page will look at the most important injuries in the NBA and how they are affecting teams and players moving forward. 

NBA’s biggest injuries

Jan. 4 update: James won’t play on Friday against the Knicks, nor will he join the Lakers on their two-game road trip to Minnesota and Dallas, the team announced. He will be re-evaluated in a week, which means he is expected to be out for their game against the Pistons next Wednesday, if not longer. Los Angeles has gone 1-3 in his absence, but it has not been blown out and there have been opportunities for its young players to play larger roles. Brandon Ingram has largely looked more comfortable with more playmaking responsibility, and Josh Hart pulled down a career-high 15 rebounds on Wednesday against the Thunder.

How would you like to get scratched in both eyes? That’s what happened to Irving on Monday when he collided with San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli, and he sat out Wednesday’s game because of the resulting inflammation. He won’t play on Friday against Dallas, either, but at least this isn’t expected to be a long-term injury — the Celtics have been pretty banged-up for a while now. As long as he is sidelined, the player to watch is Terry Rozier, who has had an underwhelming season but has looked better in the past couple of games. I wonder if Rozier can get himself in a groove as a starter and build on that when Irving comes back. I also wonder if he might be able to play his way out of Boston and into a starting role elsewhere. 

Love doesn’t have a timetable to return and the Cavs have no incentive to rush him back, but the team released an update on Friday saying that he is ready to start doing “select basketball activities.” Cleveland is tanking, but it would still be nice to see Love come back and give the offense some sort of structure. Of course, the second he gets on the court, the trade rumors will start again.   

Lowry has missed nine of the Raptors’ last 10 games, and the team announced on New Year’s Day that he had been given injections to relieve pain and inflammation in his lower back at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York on Dec. 29. Toronto is 28-12 despite the fact that Lowry has missed so much time and his shooting cooled off after his hot start, but it is still obvious that the team needs him at his best. (Just for fun, look at Serge Ibaka’s per-36 numbers with and without Lowry.) He is listed as doubtful for the Raptors’ game in Milwaukee on Saturday.

Golden State has had a platoon of centers for the past few years, but it has been rather thin at that position since Damian Jones’ injury. Cousins’ return will fix that, the team hopes, but no one is giving an exact timetable for his comeback and it would be unwise to set expectations high or play him major minutes. He practiced fully on Wednesday, obviously a significant step, and now he needs to show that his conditioning is where it needs to be to compete in NBA games. When he does get on the floor, he will give the Warriors a look they’ve never had, and he will have to figure out where he fits in the offense. 

The Wolves have played like a top-five defensive team with Covington on the court, holding opponents to 105.5 points per 100 possessions. They are 20th in defensive rating on the season, though, and they have not been stingy in their losses to Atlanta, New Orleans and Boston in the past week. This is why the news that a bone bruise will keep him out for an extended period of time is so rough — Covington is one of the league’s best defenders, and, as much as I like watching Josh Okogie play, putting the rookie in the starting lineup is a significant downgrade. 

Fultz has missed the Sixers’ last 20 games, and he will be re-evaluated next week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey. Mid-January will mark six weeks since it was reported that he would be out 3-to-6 weeks. Philadelphia is in need of healthy bodies, but if he is unable to shoot jump shots, it’s hard to see how he can help the team on the offensive end. Wouldn’t it be an amazing story if he came back and started knocking shots down?

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said on New Year’s Eve that Mirotic was nearing a return, but he sat out in Brooklyn on Wednesday and it’s not clear if he will be in the lineup on Saturday in Cleveland. New Orleans is mostly healthy aside from this, but it desperately needs to get its act together — despite having playoff talent, this team has lost seven of nine games and owns an atrocious 4-16 record on the road. Gentry has to hope that Mirotic, who has missed the Pelicans’ last 10 games, can provide some stability. 

Zeller had a terrible New Year’s Eve, breaking his hand against the Magic and needing surgery a few days later. The Hornets announced he is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks, a major blow for a team that is trying to hold onto a playoff spot. Without him (and Jeremy Lamb, who strained his hamstring against Orlando) on Wednesday, they started Willy Hernangomez at center and brought Bismack Biyombo and Frank Kaminsky in off the bench against Dallas. They also gave up 42 points in the first quarter and lost 122-84. 

Bazemore hurt his ankle on Dec. 29 against Cleveland and will be out for at least two weeks. This has pushed Daniel Hamilton into the starting lineup, with Vince Carter and DeAndre’ Bembry (and, to a lesser extent, Tyler Dorsey and Justin Anderson) picking up the rest of the minutes on the wing, at least until Taurean Prince comes back.

Wednesday marked the first time I’ve seen the term “bruised fat pad” used in a sentence. That sentence, from the Nets’ official Crabbe injury update: “After further evaluation, it has been determined that the bruised fat pad, which has been the cause of the right knee soreness, will require an additional period of recovery.” Crabbe will be re-evaluated in a week or two, and when he comes back, he might have to come off the bench. I’m not sure coach Kenny Atkinson will be in a hurry to take Jared Dudley or Rodions Kurucs out of the starting five. 

Barton is close to returning, but he is still listed as out for the Nuggets’ game against the Hornets on Saturday. They have a road back-to-back in Houston and Miami after that, so perhaps he could come back for one of those games. He has been sidelined since getting hurt in the second game of the season, but Denver has managed to overcome this — and other injuries — because of its depth and insane production from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. 

As if the Wizards needed more bad news, they announced Thursday that Morris would be out for six weeks after being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia — this means his neck and back are stiff. Morris initially got hurt on Dec. 16 against the Lakers and aggravated the injury 10 days later in Detroit. 

Dec. 29 update: The Wizards haven’t exactly had the most success when it comes to the injury front this season. Dwight Howard has played appeared in nine games due to dealing with a back injury. Now Wall has a left heel injury that’s been bothering him for a while. He’s reportedly leaning toward season-ending surgery. The sidelined star visited a specialist on Saturday to determine the severity of the injury.   

Paul strained his left hamstring in the Rockets’ 101-99 loss in Miami on Dec. 20, but they earned good wins over the Spurs and Thunder after that. The front office addressed their sudden lack of backcourt depth by signing Austin Rivers on Christmas Eve, and he fared well in his first appearance. If Rivers ends up being a good fit in Houston for the rest of the season, then perhaps there will be a silver lining to what looked like a devastating turn of events. The Rockets have won seven of their last eight games, with James Harden again playing MVP-caliber ball. 

The Raptors thought Lowry would return to the lineup on Wednesday in Miami, but his back flared up in the morning. He’s already been ruled out for Friday’s game against the Magic. Incredibly, through 36 games, Lowry has only played with Kawhi Leonard 21 times — in the other 15, one of Toronto’s stars has played without the other, per The Athletic’s Blake Murphy. Regardless, the Raptors have the league’s best record, and Fred VanVleet has averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 assists while shooting 46.4 percent and 44.4 percent from 3-point range in nine starts. 

Washington has been without Porter for eight games — he hurt his right knee on Dec. 10 in Indiana — and it sure could use him. The Wizards are 13-22 and have lost eight of 10, and they needed three overtimes and 40 points from Bradley Beal to beat the Phoenix Suns on Dec. 22. Still, they are only four games out of the playoffs in the East, and a healthy Porter is essential if they still care about salvaging this season. 

Prince has been sidelined since hurting his left ankle late in the Hawks’ loss to the Warriors on Dec. 3, and coach Lloyd Pierce said Wednesday that the forward has only done light shooting and likely won’t be back until January, per the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s Chris Vivlamore. The injury has resulted in a return to the starting lineup for Kent Bazemore, who tied a career high with 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting in a loss to the Pacers on Wednesday. 

Mbah a Moute’s sore left knee was not seen as a big deal when it started bothering him two months ago, but it wound up derailing his season. He tweeted on Monday that he will be back “soon,” but the Clippers have yet to officially update his status. When he does return, they will be an even more versatile team than they already are, but coach Doc Rivers will have an even tougher time trying to balance their rotation. 

This is a bummer: Despite the fact Parsons has been cleared to return from yet another bout of knee trouble, he will remain a “healthy inactive” for now, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff did not rule out the possibility of Parsons playing before the end of the calendar year, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening. 

Dec. 21 update: The Knicks announced Friday that Porzingis would be re-evaluated in mid-February, a year after he had surgery to repair his ACL. According to the team, his knee is “healing well” (!) and he has made “good progress with rehabilitation” (!!) and will do on-court work with his teammates once he has reached “the remaining rehab benchmarks” (!!!). Reminder: On Nov. 13, GQ published a story quoting Porzingis as saying his rehab was “coming to an end” and his return was so close that he “can taste it.” Regardless, I don’t know any New York fans who are desperate to see him come back as soon as possible — they’re all too focused on Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.  

Dragic had surgery on his troublesome knee on Wednesday after only appearing in two games in the last month. This will keep him out an additional two months, which is rough news but at least gets rid of the ambiguity about when he might come back and save the day. On the season, the Heat are 22nd in net rating, but have outscored opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Dragic on the court. The good news, however, is that they have won their last three games without him. Their defense is good enough for them to turn this season around.

Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Friday that Teague, who has missed their last two games with an ankle injury, won’t be back for another week to 10 days. Derrick Rose played a whopping 38 minutes (and scored 33 points) in Minnesota’s loss to Detroit on Wednesday, and Tyus Jones will continue to get backup point guard minutes. The biggest change in the rotation without Teague, though, is the reemergence of rookie wing Josh Okogie, who had basically been buried since the Jimmy Butler trade.

Bagley, who’s been sidelined since suffering a bone bruise in his left knee against the Warriors back on Dec. 14, won’t participate in basketball activities for at least another two weeks, the Kings announced on Friday. Forward Troy Williams has benefited the most from his absence in terms of picking up minutes. We’ll have to wait until mid-January before learning more about tthe rookie’s status

Baynes had been in the Celtics’ starting lineup in place of Horford when he broke his left hand two minutes into Wednesday’s loss to Phoenix. Boston is extremely deep, but its depth is being tested now — Baynes will miss four to six weeks, and coach Brad Stevens will have to rely on Daniel Theis and Robert Williams until Horford is back.

The backup big man sprained his ankle in the Bulls’ 96-93 loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, and the team announced he’d be out for two to four weeks. Portis has only played nine games this season, which is certainly not what he or Chicago had in mind after he looked so good in training camp and had 20 points and 11 rebounds on opening night. If there’s a silver lining here for Bulls fans, it’s that the team needs to tank anyway and rookie Chandler Hutchison could see an uptick in playing time. 

Valanciunas scored six points and grabbed seven boards in just eight minutes in Oakland on Wednesday before a nasty collision with Draymond Green dislocated his thumb. Mostly coming off the bench, Valanciunas has only played 18.8 minutes per game but never averaged more points, a credit to him thriving in his role and the Raptors making a point to involve him in the offense. In his absence, Toronto can turn to veteran Greg Monroe, give two-way player Chris Boucher (who dropped 47 points for Raptors 905 on Wednesday before his call up) a chance or take a look at small lineups with Pascal Siakam at center.

Reporters watched Roberson’s post-practice work on Nov. 29 and came away impressed, and Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he has “been on a really good track,” per The Oklahoman‘s Erik Horne. A day later, the team announced he’d suffered a setback in his recovery, as an MRI revealed an avulsion fracture, and he would be re-evaluated in six weeks. Oklahoma City deserves all sorts of credit for having the best defense in the whole league without Roberson, who is a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber stopper when healthy.  

Jones had surgery on Wednesday, and he might be out for the remainder of the season. The Warriors announced he will “begin the rehab process” six weeks after the surgery. Jones had started in 22 of his 24 games this season, but only averaged 17.4 minutes — Golden State takes a platoon approach to the center position. If he’s done for the year, Golden State will rely on Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell in addition to the still-sidelined Cousins as its traditional 5s. Of course, its best look in the playoffs will probably remain Green playing “center” with Kevin Durant next to him in the frontcourt.

Nov. 29 update: There is never a good time to suffer an ugly leg injury, but it’s particularly awful when you’re playing at an elite level for the first time. LeVert wasn’t even penciled in as a starter before he started schooling everybody in scrimmages a couple of months ago, but he was so phenomenal at the beginning of the season that the Nets were thinking big. He might have been an All-Star this season, and he might have led them to the playoffs. Since he went down, Brooklyn has gone 2-6, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: Its offense is extremely dependent on Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, and fourth-quarter execution has been a major problem. LeVert is obviously missed, but at least the damage wasn’t as serious as it looked live. 

Howard now needs back surgery on two discs, per Stadium’s Shams Charania, and the optimistic timeline is set at eight weeks. It is tempting to say that the Wizards, an awful defensive and rebounding team, could use Howard in the lineup. This, however, ignores that they have actually been worse on both ends with Howard on the court this season. If he ever eventually helps Washington, it will be because he addresses the injuries that have bothered him all season — rather than accompany the team to New Orleans on Wednesday, he went to Los Angeles to see a nerve specialist to try to do just that. 

Thomas doesn’t officially have a timetable, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early November that he should be back at some point in December. We should all hope that, this time, he is fully healthy and capable of doing the things he did a few years ago. The tricky part about this situation, though, is that backup guard Monte Morris has been way too good for the Nuggets to simply sideline him. Minutes are going to be hard to come by. 

The mysterious Porter continues to be out indefinitely despite saying he was pain-free in the summer. The 20-year-old was only available to the Nuggets because he had two back surgeries, so he should be seen as a long-term, low-risk, high-upside play. There is no meaningful analysis to be done here, but Denver would love to look brilliant for taking him at No. 14 in the draft if/when he is healthy down the road. 

This sucks so much for both him and the Spurs — Murray is the their best defender, and they have been 23rd in defensive rating. He was supposed to take the leap this season, but that went out the window when he crumpled to the floor in a preseason game. On offense, San Antonio has relied on DeMar DeRozan’s playmaking even more than it planned to, and Bryn Forbes has stepped into a starting role at point guard. We will soon find out if Lonnie Walker can earn a role in the rotation, too. 

The Bulls have been hit with a whole bunch of injuries early in the season, from Markkanen’s elbow to Bobby Portis’ knee and Kris Dunn’s knee. Valentine is on this list because he is done for the year after undergoing what the team called an “ankle stabilization procedure” on Tuesday — his injury was initially described as a moderate ankle sprain in September.

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