January 30, 2012

One of the big stories through the first month of the NBA season is the large number of injuries that have occurred leaguewide. With 66 games being stuffed into a four-month season, injuries are starting to pile up for a number of teams. Last week, Andrew Bogut fractured his left ankle and could be done for the season, Andrea Bargnani aggravated a calf injury that previously kept him out six games, Carmelo Anthony shut himself down rather than try to play through various injuries, Jason Kidd left Friday's Mavericks game with a strained right calf, Jeff Teague sprained his left ankle last Friday against the Pistons, and the list goes on.

For many fantasy owners, this season has felt like a constant uphill battle against injuries. As soon as one player returns to the court, another is sidelined for a week or more. While it seems like injuries are out of our control, there are strategies owners can use to minimize the damage they have on fantasy teams.

Play defense: If you find yourself with a bench full of injured players waiting for them to get healthy, it's time to play defensively. This is especially true for those in daily change head-to-head leagues. A team's goal while waiting for injured players to return is to simply survive without getting blown out during any weekly matchups. This is done by first identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your team. Pick your team's four or five strongest categories and devote all your attention to winning those categories, ignoring the other categories. Align any waiver wire pickups with your strong categories. If your team can win blocks, add Tyrus Thomas or Bismack Biyombo despite the fact that they don't contribute in other categories. It might not be much fun trying to go .500 for a few weeks, but the goal is to survive until your team gets healthy.

Backups are more important than ever: Handcuffing is a concept better known in fantasy football, when a fantasy team drafts both a running back as well as his primary backup in case the starter gets injured. The same concept can be applied to the NBA. If you play in a league with a large number of bench spots, it makes sense to stash the backups of your best players, especially those who are currently dealing with nagging injuries. Derrick Rose owners should try and stash C.J. Watson, for example, while Stephen Curry owners should handcuff Nate Robinson. If you don't play in a league with a lot of extra bench spots, then closely monitor injury news in case you need to make an emergency add due to injury.

Stay on top of the news: This is important to avoid being beaten to the waiver wire. For example, how many Andrew Bogut owners missed out on adding Drew Gooden when news broke about Bogut's injury? Even if you are in a weekly changes league, check your team at least once a day for status updates and potential injuries. Twitter can be your best friend when it comes to up-to-date injury news and reports on NBA players. Also think about setting electronic alerts for players on your team so real time updates can be sent to your phone or computer.

Assume the worst: The term day-to-day is used so often in the NBA that it has essentially become meaningless. It's simply a statement that indicates a teams has no idea when a player will be back on the court. So don't assume that day-to-day is a game or two. This season day-to-day is just as likely to stretch into weeks, like it did with Dwyane Wade, who missed six games with a sprained right ankle, or Bargnani, who has missed eight games and counting with a calf injury.

Also keep in mind that while most people like to think in terms of best case scenarios -- Eric Gordon could be back on the court in three weeks -- in reality, players often have setbacks and their timetables are pushed back. When Gordon's right knee injury original occurred in December, it was described as day-to-day. Then it became two to three weeks. After the third week he was re-evaluated and his return was pushed back another three-to-six weeks. While Gordon owners are getting very anxious for his return the court, don't be surprised if Gordon is out another six weeks if not longer with that knee injury.

With that in mind, here is the latest player injury news for the upcoming week of fantasy games.

• Bogut's fractured left ankle is expected to keep him out for the next 8-12 weeks. So, a best case scenario would place his return around the end of March, or when playoffs typically begin in head-to-head leagues. However, the terms "best case" and "injury" don't go together when it comes to Bogut, so it's safe to expect him to miss the remainder of the regular season, which means he can be dropped in all league formats.

• Carmelo Anthony missed the Knicks' last two games to rest ankle and wrist injuries, but could be back for their next game on Tuesday.

• Baron Davis is going to be re-evaluated by the Knicks Monday, although he may not be make his Knicks' debut for another 1-2 weeks as he is still trying to work himself back into game shape.

• Bargnani is out indefinitely after aggravating his left calf injury last week. A MRI revealed no significant damage according to the Raptors, however, he currently has no timetable for return. Bargnani's original calf injury that occurred in mid-January kept him out for six games.

• Fantasy owners hoping that Rajon Rondo would make a quick return to the court after spraining his right wrist may be out of luck. According to Rondo, his wrist is currently at about 45 percent and he is unable to shoot or dribble with any consistency. With the Celtics starting to play better basketball last week, the team has less of an incentive to rush him back on the court.

• The latest reports on Kidd say that he will be out at least a week if not longer with a strained right calf, which occurred in Friday's game against Utah. Rodrigue Beaubois has been playing very well in Kidd's absence and is worth taking a look at in most fantasy formats.

• Despite tearing a ligament in his left wrist on Jan 21, Bulls' forward Luol Deng has been working out with the team and was hoping to return for the Bulls' game against the Heat on Sunday. He was a scratch from that game, but Deng should be back on court by the end of this week at the latest.

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