Nikola Pekovic Injury: Updates on Timberwolves Center’s Wrist and Return

Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders said center Nikola Pekovic will miss at least the next week after suffering a sprained wrist.   

Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune reported the injury from Minnesota’s practice on Tuesday:

News of Pekovic’s injury comes after the big man played just 12 minutes in the Timberwolves’ 131-117 loss to the Mavericks on Saturday. While Youngblood and others reported Saunders did not sit Pekovic because of an injury, this would indicate otherwise. Pekovic had played at least 28 minutes in all but two appearances so far this season.

With Pekovic on the shelf, second-year center Gorgui Dieng will step into the starting lineup. Dieng was the beneficiary of Pekovic’s absence Saturday, putting up 12 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes. The former Louisville star averaged 12.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game across 18 games (15 starts) in which he received extended playing time with Pekovic out last season.

It’ll be interesting to see if history can repeat itself. If it does, the Timberwolves, who at 2-7 are already looking toward the future, may have an interesting dilemma on their hands.

 

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Ranking the Nation’s Top 20 Centers for 2014-15 NCAA Basketball Season

Alert the lovers of big men. Of the Mikan Drill and the Sampsons, the Olajuwons and the Ewings!

This college basketball season is the return of the center! 

It’s certainly not the deepest position in college basketball, and unless the age-limit rules change and the evolution of the game takes a turn back to the past, it never will be. But for the first time in a long time, some of the best centers in college basketball are also some of the game’s best players.

Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky are the two most popular Player of the Year choices. Kentucky’s Karl Towns is the best prospect on a loaded Kentucky roster. Heck, one reason John Calipari has resorted to a platoon system is he has three NBA-caliber centers and wants to figure out a way to play all three. There are some years where it’s tough to find three NBA-caliber centers in all of college basketball.

Last year, I opened the position rankings with centers just to get them out of the way. This year, I saved them for last for a reason. Let’s get to it.

 

Just missed the cut: Amida Brimah, Connecticut; Mike Tobey, Virginia; Skylar Spencer, San Diego State; Tony Parker, UCLA; Chris Obekpa, St. John’s; Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga

 

This is the fifth installment in B/R’s positional ranking series in the lead-up to the 2014-15 season. In case you missed it, here are the top 20 point guards, the top 20 shooting guards, the top 20 small forwards and the top 20 power forwards. The series will culminate on Wednesday with our ranking of the top 100 players in college basketball.

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Roy Hibbert Injury: Updates on Pacers Center’s Knee and Return

Injuries have been one of the biggest stories early on in the NBA this year. The Indiana Pacers are all too familiar with the problem, and on Saturday night, the injury bug bit them once again.

The team announced that Roy Hibbert suffered a bruised left knee against the Washington Wizards:

Hibbert entered Saturday averaging 14 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.2 blocks a game.

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Marcin Gortat Injury: Updates on Wizards Center’s Back Strain and Return

Marcin Gortat will miss the Washington Wizards‘ Thursday night game against the Portland Trail Blazers after reportedly injuring his back, per Michael Lee of The Washington Post:

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reported that Gortat may have tweaked something in pregame warm-ups:

His back had been giving him problems over the last few days, and the warm-up pushed him over the edge:

Considering how much Gortat‘s back has been bothering him, it’s anybody’s guess as to when he might return. It will inevitably get better with rest, but it could remain an issue for the rest of the season. A sore back isn’t something that you can take a few pills for, and then it’s all better.

Washington will need a healthy Gortat down the final stretch. While the Wizards are pretty much a lock for the postseason, they’ll at least want to remain in the top six of the Eastern Conference to avoid a first-round matchup against the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat in the playoffs.

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Andrew Bynum Injury: Updates on Pacers Center’s Knee and Return

Oft-injured center Andrew Bynum is dealing with renewed concerns surrounding his balky knees after a couple promising performances with the Indiana Pacers. His status remains up in the air as doctors check out an MRI to determine the severity of the potential setback.   

Bynum didn’t play in the team’s win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. Based on comments passed along by the Pacers Tuesday, it doesn’t sound like this was an instance of simply taking it slow in order to prevent another major injury:

The center scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his team debut one week ago. He then skipped a matchup with Philadelphia before returning on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons. He played 20 minutes, scoring 15 points to go along with nine boards.

Those type of numbers are exactly what they Pacers were hoping for from him: solid production in limited minutes off the bench to provide an extra boost for the roster during the playoffs. The hope was that less action overall would keep him healthy.

While it’s still possible this is only a minor issue, Bynum doesn’t sound overly encouraged about what the doctors are going to say. He’s been through these issues enough that when he says he’s concerned, it doesn’t bode well for the outlook.

Dave Furst of WRTV in Indianapolis gets the same feeling:

Looking ahead, it’s hard to project the Pacers getting any type of meaningful contributions from Bynum. He played 36 minutes over the span of five days and problems have already popped up. Even the overly cautious approach didn’t work.

That said, his production when he was on the court explains why teams continue to give him a chance. He was averaging nearly a double-double despite playing just 18 minutes per contest. If he could stay on the court, he would still be a useful piece for a contender.

Unless the results of the MRI are better than Bynum seems to expect, it appears the Pacers will have to continue the title hunt without him, at least for the time being.

 

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Dwight Howard Injury: Updates on Rockets Center’s Ankle and Return

Losers of three in a row, the Houston Rockets will have to stop their recent skid without Dwight Howard manning the interior.    

According to the team’s radio play-by-play announcer Craig Ackerman, Howard will sit out Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz with a mild left ankle strain:

A “day-to-day” tag can mean a lot of different things, but it’s likely that this is just a way to dole out some rest for Howard, who has yet to miss any of Houston’s first 66 games this season.

He looked fine while dropping 21 and 14 against the Miami Heat on Sunday, and as the Houston Chronicle‘s Nick Mathews noted, the Rockets should fare well against the West’s bottom-dwellers even without their productive center:

Still, while this probably isn’t anything serious, it’s something to pay attention to. 

On the season, Howard is averaging 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest. As the fourth-place Rockets continue to fight for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they will need their dominant big man healthy in the middle. 

Of course, that’s not to say they don’t have impressive frontcourt depth. In Howard’s absence, defensive stalwart Omer Asik will likely enter the starting lineup, while Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas will see increases in their minutes as well. 

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Joel Embiid Injury: Updates on Kansas Center’s Back

The Kansas Jayhawks lost much more than a game on March 1 against the Oklahoma State Cowboys, as the status of starting center Joel Embiid is now in question.

While the 72-65 upset stings, Embiid‘s health was much more important to the Jayhawks moving forward, as CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello and ESPN’s Jeff Goodman illustrate:

Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star quoted head coach Bill Self as saying Embiid “tweaked” the problem area:

Embiid was in the midst of quite the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds to land his eighth double-double of the season—before halftime—which was about par for the course this season for the 7’0″ and 250-pound freshman.

The long-term repercussions of the injury—as hinted—are massive. The Jayhawks are once again the class of the Big 12 with the NCAA tournament on the horizon, but without one of their three important freshmen, they will find it tough to make a deep postseason run.

Embiid averages 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, but most importantly is a game-altering presence in the paint on defense. Without him shoring up underneath the basket, the Jayhawks’ entire approach changes.

The saving grace for Kansas in all of this is its 22-7 record, which is a great mark considering the Jayhawks have played the toughest schedule of any team this year. A No. 1 seed in the tournament is still very much a possibility, which will give the team more wiggle room in regard to Embiid‘s recovery time.

 

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Kendrick Perkins Injury: Updates on Thunder Center’s Groin and Return

It appears the groin injury to Kendrick Perkins is worse than originally anticipated. The starting center for the Oklahoma City Thunder must undergo surgery to repair the issue and will miss six weeks as a result.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman first reported the news:

The Thunder later confirmed the news on their Twitter account:

Perkins only played eight minutes in a loss to the Miami Heat on Feb. 20 before leaving with the injury. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman previously noted that the veteran would miss at least a week with the issue after the MRI revealed a strained groin.

Unfortunately, it now appears that the ailment will keep him out for more than a month.

Perkins has struggled offensively this season, averaging only 3.4 points in 19.7 minutes per game. If this holds, it would be his lowest mark since his second year in the league.

Still, the 11-year veteran has made a career as a great low-post defender thanks to his size and solid technique down low. After a January win over the Portland Trail Blazers, superstar Kevin Durant had this to say about the big man, via News9.com’s Kevin Kuzminski:

A lot of you guys don’t know the small things he does for us. His intelligence on both ends of the floor and to hit a huge shot like that, especially a jump shot…I heard a lot of people screaming “NO” as he shot it…he just has so much confidence in hisself and we have so much confidence in him. That was a huge shot. He played hard defense all game and to see him get rewarded with that is pretty special. I ride with Perk ’til the wheels fall off and I’m glad he hit that shot.

Slater also notes that the Thunder have not fared well when Perkins is out of the lineup:

Despite these issues, Oklahoma City will have to compete without its starting center for the next six weeks, with his return likely coming just before the end of the season.

This will put a lot of pressure on rookie center Steven Adams, according to Jeff Caplan of NBA.com:

The former Pittsburgh star was the 12th overall pick in the most recent draft, and he has shown a decent amount of potential in his short time in the league. He has had limited production in 14.2 minutes per game this season, but he has the size and athleticism necessary to succeed.

He will need to use this opportunity to fill in for Perkins and truly shine.

 

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Joel Embiid Injury: Updates on Kansas Center’s Knee, Back and Return

The fact that superstar freshman Joel Embiid only played 18 minutes in Kansas’ recent overtime loss to Kansas State was a major reason why the Jayhawks came up short against their rivals, but the news gets worse. 

Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World, points out that the NBA prospect will miss at least the next game against TCU:

Kansas basketball added to that:

Embiid has been dealing with issues in both his back and knee, which has limited his effectiveness, as coach Bill Self relayed to Jesse Newell of The Topeka Capital-Journal: “It would be like if you’re a running back and your high ankle sprain hadn’t totally healed but you could be out there, but you’re still not going to be near as effective…That’s kind of where Jo is right now.”

Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the Horned Frogs are the bottom-dwellers in the Big 12 standings and are yet to win in conference play. Things do get more difficult after that though with a trip to Texas Tech and then two home games against Texas and Oklahoma, so taking time to rest against TCU is likely the right decision.

Embiid is averaging 10.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks a game and is considered one of the top NBA prospects for the upcoming draft.

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Andrew Bogut Injury: Updates on Warriors Center’s Shoulder and Return

Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut is set to miss his third game in a row while dealing with a shoulder injury.

The Philadelphia 76ers, set to take on the Warriors on Monday night, announced the news on Twitter:

Interestingly enough, Warriors head coach Mark Jackson told reporters that Bogut’s injury wasn’t suffered during practice or in a game, offering another potential cause, via Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:

Bogut was quick to shoot down that notion according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group:

Without Bogut in the lineup, Golden State split its last two games, beating Chicago and then losing to Phoenix. In particular, his defensive presence was sorely missed against the Suns, which scored 122 points in victory.

Bogut has been excellent this season for the Warriors on the glass and as a defender, averaging 10.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots while pitching in 8.2 points per game. 

As for how the team will get by without him, here’s what the head coach had to say after the Warriors beat the Bulls on Feb. 7, as noted by Simmons:

You have to have guys who are going to fight and who are not going to surrender, and we’ve got those types of guys. It says a lot about them, every time our backs are against the wall or we’re in a position that we need a win, we come out and fight.

With Bogut out of the lineup, the pressure falls on Ognjen Kuzmic to have a big impact for his team on the glass and as a defender in the lane. 

After the team’s matchup against the 76ers on Monday night, the Miami Heat will come into town two days later before the team hits the road to take on the Sacramento Kings

 

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