NBA injury report: Stephen Curry, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid updates, return timeline for other injured stars

The Basketball Gods have frowned upon the league’s best players lately as far as injuries are concerned. The list of superstars who have missed most or all of this season — headlined by Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving — is long and continuously growing.

It’s a dreary time for the Philadelphia 76ers, with Joel Embiid’s shoulder and Ben Simmons’ back forcing the star duo to the bench. Of the two injuries, Simmons’ seems more serious — he will reportedly be re-evaluated in another week, but there is no expectation that he will be ready to play that soon.

If you’re looking for every single injury in the league, so you know who’s going to be in the lineup each night, we already have you covered. This page will not be as exhaustive, but it will feature the most important injuries in the league, along with a quick analysis of them.   

Curry’s trainer, Brandon Payne, said that it could take a full year for the nerve issue in Curry’s left hand to be completely gone, but his return to the court is imminent. Curry had been targeting Sunday’s game against Washington, but that matchup came and went without Curry’s return. Golden State confirmed its star guard will return Thursday against the Raptors. Once back in action, it’s safe to assume that the Warriors will not rank 30th in offense for the last six weeks of the season.   

After missing six games due to a groin injury, Damian Lillard returned to action for the Portland Trail Blazers against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. Lillard played 32 minutes in his return and tallied 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in a Portland win. Afterward, Lillard said he felt solid in his return. 

”I felt pretty good,” Lillard said. ”I moved pretty well. I was able to do a lot of things. I didn’t want to overdo it when I saw the kind of game we were playing — the balance was good. We had a comfortable lead. I picked my moments to explode, take off and cut hard. Get in the stance and fight over screens, and I didn’t feel restricted.”  

Lillard’s return came just in time for Portland, as the Blazers are currently sitting ninth in the West with several weeks remaining in the regular season. With their star guard back, they’ll look to climb up the standings and secure a playoff spot. 

Back injuries are no joke, and it’s not clear what caused the nerve impingement Simmons is experiencing. He missed Philadelphia’s game against Brooklyn last Thursday and, if you watched the game against Milwaukee last Saturday, you heard that he was supposed to get treatment every time he checked out of the game. Simmons wound up playing just five minutes in that game, and now it’s reasonable to wonder if that number should have been zero. However long his absence is — there is no official or reported timetable — it will require a stylistic shift. No one can replace Simmons’ elite defense or passing, and with Shake Milton in the starting lineup, the plan appeared to be to play through Embiid. Which brings us to…

Embiid scored a career-high 49 points against Atlanta, and then it appeared that disaster had struck: He left the following game in Cleveland with what the team termed a sprained shoulder. Philadelphia lost to the Cavs 108-94, but there has been good news since then: The shoulder reportedly has no structural damage. He will miss at least a week before getting reevaluated again.

The 27-year-old wing tore his ACL in Toronto last Sunday. It is an awful, long-term injury, and the Pacers have some stuff to figure out. They had a six-game losing streak earlier this month, and they lost that Raptors game by 46 points. Indiana desperately needs Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon to be their best selves down the stretch. Oladipo missed two games with a back injury before scoring 15 points in 26 minutes on Thursday against Portland, and Brogdon has been struggling in a major way. 

The Grizzlies were more than just one of the most fun teams in the league when Ja Morant and Jackson were clicking — they were a legit playoff team in the West, way ahead of schedule. Jackson sprained his knee against the Lakers last Friday, though, and was ruled out for at least two weeks. Without Jackson and Brandon Clarke — more on him in a second —  Memphis started De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson and Jonas Valanciunas next to Morant in Wednesday’s blowout loss in Houston. (The Grizzlies were also blown out two days earlier against the Clippers.)

Clarke has been one of the most efficient players in the league this season, and the draft nerds that hyped him up have been taking well-earned victory laps since summer league. The numbers are staggering: He has shot 74 percent at the rim, 52 percent from midrange and 41 percent from 3-point range. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the rookie left Monday’s game against the Clippers with what turned out to be a right quadriceps injury, which will cost him at least two weeks. Memphis has lost four straight games, and its odds of making the playoffs have taken a hit without him and Jackson.

Oubre is reportedly seeking a second opinion after being diagnosed with a torn meniscus, and he could be out for the rest of the season. “Unfortunately Kelly most likely won’t be with us for a while,” Monty Williams said in a radio interview, but the coach called it a “great opportunity” for Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric and Cameron Johnson. If Oubre’s season is over, it was the best of his career: He averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 34.5 minutes. Phoenix is at least technically still in the race for the eighth spot in the West, 4.5 games behind the Grizzlies, but at 24-35 there is no reason to expect it will actually get close, especially without Oubre.

The Pistons’ longest-tenured player — seriously! — could be back as soon as March 4 against Oklahoma City, according to Dwane Casey. Detroit has been a disaster this season, and Casey must hope Kennard can pick up where he left off when he is finally healthy. Before the injury, Kennard was having the best year of his career, increasing his efficiency while taking on a slightly larger playmaking role and averaging a full 10 minutes more than he did in Year 2. Kennard hasn’t played since Dec. 21.

The rookie guard sprained his ankle on Feb. 3 and has been sidelined since. Erik Spoelstra said Thursday that he is “doing more” lately, but declined to offer an official update or give a timetable for his return. Herro is listed as out for Miami’s game against Dallas on Friday, and the Heat have gone a surprising 2-7 without him this month. 

The sweet-shooting forward has been sidelined since the end of January after suffering a stress reaction in his right pelvis. He was given a four-to-six-week timeline initially, and when he participated in shooting drills on Friday coach Jim Boylen compared it to “batting practice.” Boylen also described Markkanen as “close” to a return, but noted that he hasn’t taken any contact yet.

Carter is finally close to coming back: He said Thursday that he is “80 to 90 percent” certain that he will play on Saturday against New York. The Bulls have been ravaged by injuries lately, so Carter’s return will be even more welcome than it would be otherwise.             

Powell broke his hand on Jan. 31, and, while the Raptors have gone 7-2 without him, they sure could have used his offense in their 108-97 loss to the Bucks on Tuesday. Powell should be back soon — he practiced Thursday and is officially questionable for their game against the Hornets on Friday. 

Feb. 21 update: After missing 26 games with a shoulder injury, Irving returned last month, but was still feeling discomfort. Now, after a trip to another specialist, he’s undergoing season-ending surgery on the shoulder. The Nets have gone 8-12 with Irving in the lineup and are 25-29 overall, which is good enough for seventh place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference. Even with Durant sidelined, Brooklyn had hoped to take a step forward this season and find out how guards Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert fit next to Irving. Instead, everything about the 2019-20 Nets has felt provisional; after playing in their first 11 games, Irving never appeared in more than four consecutively. Dinwiddie and LeVert will remain the Nets’ primary playmakers, and, with next season in mind, it’s worth monitoring LeVert’s spot-up shooting. 

Towns didn’t practice with the Wolves after the All-Star break, and the team announced Friday that he has a fractured left wrist and will be out for at least two weeks. Before they knew it was a fracture, the injury sidelined him in their Feb. 12 loss to the Hornets. Minnesota went small in that game, starting Juancho Hernangomez and James Johnson in the frontcourt next to point guard D’Angelo Russell and wings Josh Okogie and Malik Beasley. This news is somewhat of a setback, as the Wolves are trying to lay the foundation for a Towns-and-Russell-led future, but they are 16-37 and their dreams of sneaking into the playoffs died months ago.

Capela was hurt when the Hawks traded for him, and he has yet to make his debut with xthe team. After the All-Star break, they announced that he will miss at least two more weeks with his heel injury, though he “has begun participating in modified shooting while continuing non-impact conditioning and strength work as part of his rehabilitation.” When Capela is healthy, all eyes will be on his pick-and-roll chemistry with Trae Young and how John Collins functions next to him in the frontcourt. Dewayne Dedmon, recently reacquired from the Kings, will presumably continue to start until Capela is ready to go.   

Gasol has been out since Jan. 30 with a hamstring injury, and while it has “fully healed,” according to coach Nick Nurse, the veteran will not return for the Raptors’ game against Phoenix on Friday. Nurse said that they will “sit tight for a little bit” and “give him a little bit more time,” in hopes that treatment and rest will prevent it from becoming an issue again later in the season. Toronto does not look quite the same on either end without Gasol making everybody better, but on an individual level Serge Ibaka has filled in admirably as its starting center. 

Bagley has played in only 13 games this season because of a broken thumb and a foot sprain, and this foot sprain is proving to be a persistent problem. Kings fans are frustrated with the team’s lack of transparency, but the team would probably argue that the injury has been confusing for everyone involved. He might not even return this season, according to GM Vlade Divac and Bagley himself. On Thursday, the team announced that he will miss at least the next three weeks.

Feb. 19 update:Porter has missed most of the season with a foot injury, but he practiced with the Bulls on Tuesday and said he’s “close” to 100 percent. He does not officially have a return date, but, given that Chicago lost six straight games before the break, this is the best news the team has had in a while.

Dunn’s All-Defense-caliber season was interrupted when he sprained his MCL early in the Bulls’ game against the Nets on Jan. 31. Per the Bulls’ announcement on Wednesday, Dunn will be reevaluated in four-to-six weeks. According to NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson, he might end up missing the rest of the season.

It took only a week for Holmes to earn a starting role in Sacramento, and his emergence as a dependable, productive starting center was the team’s best story until he injured his shoulder on Jan. 6. I’m not sure if this counts as an announcement that he will be back in the lineup this week, but at a live podcast on All-Star weekend Holmes told NBC Sports’ Tom Haberstroh that he’s “definitely ready to get back out there.”

Leonard hurt his ankle against the Sixers on Feb. 3, and he did not join the Heat when they left for their five-game West Coast road trip before the break. Coach Erik Spoelstra said he will miss Thursday’s game in Atlanta on Thursday, and he could be out longer than that. When he returns, Spoelstra’s coaching staff will have a decision to make — Leonard has started every game he’s played in this season, but Miami could keep Derrick Jones Jr. in that role or give newcomer Jae Crowder a shot.

It has been obvious for a while that Isaac’s initial 8-10 week timeline might have been optimistic: The Magic reportedly applied for a disabled player exception for him, signaling that they project him to miss the remainder of the season. Earlier this month, Magic president Jeff Weltman confirmed that Isaac is out for the year in a radio interview.  This is a shame: He was on his way to an All-Defensive Team selection, and he showed real growth as an offensive player, too. 

Feb. 7 update: The Heat were a less versatile defensive team without Winslow, with staggering on/off numbers, but now rather than hoping that his return will rejuvenate them on that end, they are counting on Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill doing that. He hasn’t been a Grizzly long enough for his new team to have issued an update, but he has played in one game in the last two months and was not expected to join the Heat on their pre-All-Star road trip.

Jan. 24 update: Finally, some good injury-related news for Portland: Last week, Nurkic participated fully in practice for the first time since he broke his leg. This does not, however, mean that he is on the verge of making his return: He reportedly will be out until after the All-Star break. To say the Blazers have missed him this season would be a massive understatement. 

Powell is not a household name, but he has been a mainstay in Dallas’ starting lineup this season because he fits so well with Luka Doncic. Maxi Kleber will be the recipient of most of Doncic’s lobs in his absence, and Kristaps Porzingis started at center on Thursday in Portland. 

Durant has been a bit more visible in Brooklyn lately, getting shots up with media around, but the team’s stance has not changed: He is out for the season. If the Nets are lucky, the rest of the roster will be healthy enough over the next few months to establish some momentum going into next season and allow the front office to make educated decisions about what the team should look like when Durant returns.

Thompson somehow keeps making news — a college jersey retirement here, words of encouragement on the bench there — but he will not play this season, as the Warriors confirmed that though he is making good progress with his recovery, he will not return until the 2020-21 campaign. 

The backup center is expected to be out 2-4 weeks with a foot injury suffered on Jan. 20 against the Timberwolves. Plumlee is not the most high-profile guy on Denver’s injury report, but his passing and verticality at the rim will be missed, especially with the Nuggets battling for playoff positioning. 

The Magic were granted a disabled player exception for Aminu, who tore his meniscus in late November and had surgery in January. Aminu was having the worst offensive season of his career before the injury, but he fit Orlando’s defensive identity. 

Another theoretical breakout candidate for a team that expected to be way better than it is, Collins hurt his shoulder three games into the season and is now hoping to come back in March. His absence is one of the reasons Portland has been awful defensively, and perhaps the main reason why Carmelo Anthony is now on the roster. 

Hood had a lot on his shoulders this season, as Portland let both of its starting forwards walk in free agency and promoted Hood on a two-year deal. The devastating Achilles rupture took place on Dec. 6, ending a season in which he was one of the team’s few bright spots — Hood shot a totally unsustainable but awesome 49.3 percent from deep in 21 games. Kent Bazemore replaced him in the starting five, but has since been traded to the Kings for Trevor Ariza, wh. 

The center has been out since early December, leaving Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter to hold the fort. He’s running again, per Celtics coach Brad Stevens, but he’s not expected back until after the All-Star break. 

Largely out of sight and out of mind this season, Wall played five-on-five with Amar’e Stoudemire (!) on Wednesday and has taken part in controlled 4-on-4 scrimmages in practice. He is still considered out for the season, having undergone surgery on his ruptured Achilles last February. 

The Pistons were granted a disabled player exception for Griffin on Wednesday, a formality after he had knee surgery on Jan. 7. This is the same knee that required surgery at the end of last season, the one that probably should have kept him out of Detroit’s entire first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. (He played in Games 3 and 4 of the sweep.) Griffin was not even close to his normal self in the 18 games he played this season, and Detroit appears poised to start a full-blown rebuild in between now and the trade deadline.  

Cousins has had a horrific run of three serious knee injuries in the last two calendar years. In August he tore his ACL, which likely ended his season before it began. Los Angeles responded by signing Dwight Howard, whose career had hit a low point, and Howard has rewarded the team with his best production in years thanks to improved conditioning and a commitment to playing a supporting role. Coach Frank Vogel has repeatedly said that Cousins could come back late in the season, which feels, um, optimistic. 

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