NBA injury report: Return timeline, updates, impact for Joel Embiid, Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, other injured stars

This time of year, injuries are particularly inconvenient. Every playoff team is jockeying for position and trying to get its rhythm right, and when important players are sidelined, both of those tasks are more difficult. In the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, who remade their roster twice with major midseason trades, Joel Embiid’s recent absence has been a tricky problem to solve. They look totally different without him, and it’s hard to even evaluate their recent performance with such a big piece of the puzzle missing.

Good news for Philly: Embiid is expected to return soon, perhaps even this Sunday against the Indiana Pacers. Indiana, by the way, is dealing with injury issues of its own. While it managed to find an identity without Victor Oladipo, it has looked rather ordinary with Domantas Sabonis out, too. 

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

March 9 update: Philadelphia has gone 4-4 in this stretch without Embiid, and it is coming off a one-point loss in Chicago and a 16-point loss in Houston. This has felt absolutely nothing like the late last season’s Embiid-less stretch, in which Ben Simmons dominated (mostly weaker) teams while surrounded by shooters. Simmons has certainly had his moments, but the Dallas Mavericks are the only team in the league less efficient than the Sixers offensively in the last eight games. Part of the problem here is that J.J. Redick, who is so important to Philly’s offense, has been cold: He has shot 29.6 percent and 29 percent from 3-point range since the last time Embiid played, and his true shooting percentage is now 62.5 percent with Embiid on the court and 52.6 percent without Embiid on the court this season, per Embiid’s return “can’t come soon enough,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said after the Rockets loss, and The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that there it optimism that this could happen against the Pacers on Sunday.

When the Sixth Man of the Year candidate sprained his ankle, Indiana coach Nate McMillan said he’d be “out for a couple games.” Sabonis has now missed five games, and the Pacers have only won two of them. In Milwaukee on Thursday, they were blown out 117-98, but perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising with both Oladipo and Sabonis out of the lineup. As impressive as Indiana has been since Oladipo’s injury, it is in danger of slipping in the standings — it has only a one-game lead on Philadelphia going into their matchup on Sunday, and the fifth-place Boston Celtics are just a game behind the Sixers. On Saturday, Sabonis practiced with the team for the first time since his injury. He could come back against Philadelphia, but he is still listed as questionable. “I woke up this morning and it was less sore,” Sabonis said, per the Indianapolis Star’s Akeem Glaspie. “Hopefully it stays that way tomorrow.”

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Jrue Holiday

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Abdominal strain — expected to be out until mid-late Match





As if the Pelicans needed something else to go wrong, they announced Friday that their star guard is expected to miss 7-to-10 days because of a lower abdominal strain. Holiday sat out as New Orleans lost 127-104 against Toronto on Friday, a game in which the Raptors didn’t get serious until the second half. Frank Jackson started in his place, with Ian Clark getting 27 minutes after a series of DNP-CDs. Holiday has had a fantastic individual season, and it is a shame that all his effort has essentially gone to waste. Sigh.

On Monday, Wolves coach Ryan Saunders told reporters that Covington would make his long-awaited return “hopefully this week.” The next day, Saunders acknowledged that the team had initially thought he’d have been back by now, and they were still monitoring how his knee was responding to contact and prolonged activity. Minnesota is now 30-35, just like the Lakers, and it has lost four of its last five games, so Covington’s comeback is no longer about solidifying the defense for a potential playoff push. This makes it seem a little less urgent, though I’m sure Saunders would like to see if his presence would elevate the Wolves’ defense the same way it did before the injury.

It’s not official, but the Lakers expect to rule Ball out for the rest of the season on Saturday, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who tweeted that, as of the other night, he wasn’t running or jumping yet. This is not great news if you’d like to see Los Angeles at least play respectable basketball in its final 17 games, as his absence has made the team much less competent defensively and less likely to generate transition opportunities. Ball is still a divisive young player, but, particularly given how poorly the Lakers have played with Rajon Rondo on the court, it is screamingly obvious that they’ve missed him. Anyone who cares about this team has wondered what their record might be if he had stayed healthy.

This one is official: Ingram is out for the season with a Deep Venous Thrombosis — a blood clot — in his arm. Even though the Lakers know that they’re not going to make the playoffs, this is rough news. Ingram had been playing some of the best basketball of his career before his shoulder started bothering him, and it would have been ideal to let him use this last part of the season to work on expanding his game. The big question here is what that solid stretch will mean in the big picture — has he raised his trade value around the league or changed how Los Angeles’ sees him fitting next to LeBron James? 

Feb. 28 update: Jackson has had a phenomenal rookie season, but it might be over. While the Grizzlies have not ruled him out for the season, J.B. Bickerstaff said Wednesday that he “wouldn’t expect to see him anytime soon” and “he’s not even at a place where he’s on the court at all right now,” adding that “we’ve talked about it and we’ll be patient.” Memphis looks totally different than it did at the beginning of the season, with Jonas Valanciunas starting at center, Joakim Noah backing him up and both Bruno Caboclo and Ivan Rabb getting starts at power forward recently. Fun fact: 

Another impressive rookie big man, Bagley took a nasty screen from Malcolm Brogdon on Wednesday and left the game, with the team initially calling it a left knee sprain. The Kings announced Bagley will be re-evaluated in 1-2 weeks. In the meantime, Sacramento will need to push on without one of their key players.

VanVleet had surgery on his injured thumb a couple of weeks ago, and the team initially said he’d wear a splint for approximately three weeks while sidelined. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that he would have to miss about five weeks, which would mean he’d come back around Toronto’s home-and-home with the Thunder on March 20 and 22. In the meantime, they have won eight of nine games, including four of five since VanVleet’s injury, and his absence has afforded Jeremy Lin the opportunity to get regular backup point guard minutes as he tries to get accustomed to his new team.

Igor Kokoskov said Wednesday that Warren is getting closer to practicing with the team, which is good news for a roster that could use some scoring punch. The Suns snapped a 17-game losing streak on Monday in Miami, and, at 12-50, they have the worst record in the whole league. 

The Cavs announced that Thompson would be out for about two weeks more than a month ago. They aren’t playing for anything, so I guess they might as well be as cautious as possible. Ante Zicic has been starting at center next to Kevin Love, with Larry Nance Jr. and Marquese Chriss rounding out Cleveland’s frontcourt rotation.

The Wizards are still mum on a timtable for Howard, who started light workouts a week ago and hasn’t played since Nov. 18. Recovery from spinal surgery does not tend to be fast, so it would be best to keep your expectations low for the 33-year-old. Thomas Bryant has started at center for most of his absence, but coach Scott Brooks recently decided to bring him off the bench and start Bobby Portis at the 5 spot. Washington is having a forgettable season and likely wishes it signed somebody else instead of Howard last summer, but at 25-36 it is somehow only three games out of the playoffs in the East.

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Dante Exum


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Ankle injury — expected to return in March





Exum seemed to be nearing a return before suffering a setback last week, and he’s now dealing with a bone bruise while Raul Neto plays backup point guard for Utah. He has dealt with a frankly ridiculous number of injuries over the course of his career, but the 23-year-old — yep, still only 23! — could still be a factor in the postseason.  

Feb. 10 update: Wall’s latest injury is so upsetting that I don’t want to say much about it. It’ll be about a year before he can play again, and this changed the direction of the franchise — owner Ted Leonsis went back on his word and dumped Otto Porter on trade deadline day. By the time Wall returns, the roster could look completely different. One positive to come out of this, though: He’s going to get his degree from Kentucky.

Fultz got the fresh start he wanted with a trade to Orlando, and team president Jeff Weltman did not say whether or not the guard will play this season. The Magic front office gave up Jonathon Simmons, a first-round pick and a second-round pick in order to take a chance on him, and they will pay him $9.7 million next season and, if they pick up his fourth-year option, $12.3 million the season after that. If he can get healthy and regain the shooting ability he showed in college, all of that will be a small price to pay, but those are massive ifs. 

Feb. 3 update: Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that the Porzingis-Doncic duo reminds him of Dirk Nowtizki and Steve Nash, “only these guys are taller.” As exciting as this sounds, and as enthused as the Mavericks must be, we all have to be patient. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the plan is to “hold him and get him ready” for the 2019-20 season, which is a bit surprising considering they have no real incentive to tank. (Dallas’ first-round pick is owed to Atlanta as long as it doesn’t fall in the top five, and it is difficult to imagine the team falling so far in the standings that the pick lands that high.) There’s nothing wrong with being cautious with a 23-year-old coming off a serious injury, though, and this kind of statement will shut down speculation for the time being. If the Mavs’ training staff determines he’s ready to play sometime in March or early April, they could give their fans a pleasant surprise.

Jan. 26 update: Ugggggggh. What is there to say here? Oladipo suffered an awful, season-ending injury, and the Pacers obviously won’t be the same without him. Of course, they should remain a hard-playing, tough, cohesive team, but the idea of them potentially upsetting one of the East’s elite teams just doesn’t seem realistic anymore. If there was ever a time for Tyreke Evans to recapture the consistent production he had last season in Memphis, though, it is now. 

As if the Bulls‘ season needed to get more depressing. Carter had surgery on his injured thumb last week, which means he will be out for 8-12 weeks. In all likelihood, this means his (mostly great) rookie season is over. Carter’s averages of 10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 25.2 minutes don’t quite capture how promising he has looked — the guy is 19 years old and plays with the maturity of a seasoned veteran. Chicago is a total mess, and the team is a significantly less interesting total mess without Carter on the court.

Jan. 18 update: Rick Carlisle called the 34-year-old’s season-ending injury “gut-wrenching,” and this is especially true because, despite his age, Barea had continued to run the pick-and-roll on the second unit this season the same way Mavericks fans have come to expect. Dallas is fortunate enough to have plenty of guard depth — even without Dennis Smith Jr., whose status with the team appears uncertain, rookies Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson are more than capable of running the show — but this is still a real bummer. Barea means a lot to Dallas, and, before tearing his Achilles tendon, he said he wants to play at least two more seasons. 

Jan. 11 update: Brooks’ season is over after just 18 games — he ruptured a ligament in his right big toe last Saturday in San Antonio, and had to have season-ending surgery. This is obviously a disappointing development for a player who had an encouraging rookie season and just hasn’t been able to stay on the floor this year. 

Dec. 29 update: 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. 

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: 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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