Last night was a win for the NBA with several injured players returning to the court. In Memphis, Marc Gasol returned from a Grade 2 medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee suffered back in late November. He looked rusty in his 24 minutes of action but his presence seemed to lift his teammates, helping them win a tight contest over rival Oklahoma City. Gasol missed 23 games recovering from the injury, the exact average provided by the In Street Clothes NBA Injury Database. Memphis went 10-13 in his absence but currently hold a three-game winning streak and sit just three games back from a playoff spot in the West.
The Bobcats welcomed back second-year player Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from a non-displaced fracture of the 4th metacarpal in his left hand. Sporting a pad on his injured hand, Kidd-Gilchrist logged 30 minutes. Like Gasol, he struggled with his shot but he was able to make an impact on the defensive end. He grabbed six defensive rebounds and hounded Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony for a majority of the night. Anthony finished with 20 points but needed 22 shot attempts to get there. Kidd-Gilchrist is a major catalyst for the Bobcats defense and has the team’s best Defensive Rating amongst the players within the regular rotation. In the 19 games Kidd-Gilchrist missed Charlotte opponents averaged 101.5 points per game, nearly 10 points higher than their average with him in the lineup (92.0).
The Knicks also had several players return from injury, including center Tyson Chandler. Chandler missed four straight games recovering from an upper respiratory infection. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal pointed out that Chandler’s role as a father may be to blame for his frequent illnesses.
The Return of the Riddler?
Rondo’s recent cryptic Tweet hinted at the All-Star point guard’s long awaited return. Rondo has not played since February of last season when he suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He missed the final 38 games of the 2012-13 season and, if he does indeed return Friday, the first 40 games of this year. He was assigned to Boston’s D-League Affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, and worked out with the team before returning to the Celtics. The D-League assignment was the final step in a well-designed recovery plan implemented by the team. Boston and Rondo have handled the situation extremely well, being honest and upfront about his recovery while maintaining patience. Rondo has been open with the media, even allowing camera crews in on certain points of rehab. This approach, combined with Rondo’s relentless work ethic, should allow for a much smoother transition back to the court than others have experienced. Celtics fans should also anticipate Rondo to be on a strict minutes limitation in his first games back to insure the knee responds accordingly.
Offseason Injuries and Surgeries Still Lingering
When Rondo does return there will be just 11 players in the NBA that have not played this year due to injury. Carl Landry (hip flexor surgery), Devin Harris (toe surgery), Brendan Haywood (stress fracture in foot and surgery), Greg Oden (knee surgeries), Danilo Gallinari (ACL surgery), Festus Ezeli (knee surgery), Arnett Moultrie (ankle surgery), Nerlens Noel (ACL surgery), Jason Richardson (knee surgery), Carlos Delfino (multiple foot surgeries), and Emeka Okafor (C4 disc herniation) have not yet played this season.
The Heat have activated Oden for tonight’s game while Harris and Moultrie are nearing a return and both hope to be back in uniform within the next few weeks. Noel has made progress in his rehab and was recently cleared to resume basketball-related activities. However the Sixers maintain they will handle him conservatively and may keep him sidelined for the season. The outlook in Denver isn’t quite as positive as Gallinari recently revealed he has considered sitting for the entire year to insure he’s mentally ready to play.