Will injuries to Domantas Sabonis, Justise Winslow and Marvin Bagley linger?

Injuries are an inevitable part of sports, but a recent slew may hinder three NBA teams from reaching the playoffs. 

The NBA is about to resume officially sanctioned games with 22 of the league’s 30 teams vying for a playoff spot. As of now, 12 teams have secured their trip to the post-season leaving four open. However, recent injuries to three prominent players may have a deleterious effect on the Indiana Pacers‘, Sacramento Kings‘, and Memphis Grizzlies‘ odds.

Domantas Sabonis out indefinitely with plantar fasciitis

The Pacers’ big man had a breakout 2019-20 campaign averaging 18.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game on his way to being named an Eastern Conference All-Star. Unfortunately, the team announced last week that Sabonis would be leaving the NBA’s bubble in Orlando, Florida for an indefinite amount of time to receive treatment for plantar fasciitis of his left foot.

The plantar fascia is a robust band of connective tissue located on the bottom of the foot that runs from the big toe to the heel. Its primary function is to help maintain the arch of the foot during activities such as running. The fascia can become irritated and potentially degrade with repeated overloading of the tissue and/or with acute increases in activity, which results in pain whenever pressure is placed on the heel. If left untreated, the plantar fascia may rupture, however, this is a rather rater occurrence.

The primary treatment for plantar fasciitis is physical therapy focusing on stretching the calf muscles and underside of the foot as well as splinting the foot in a neutral position (i.e. not pointing up or down), especially overnight. Modalities such as icing and other anti-inflammatory agents are frequently employed as well, however, cortisone injections may be avoided (especially repeated injections) as there is some evidence that they may increase the odds of rupture.

Plantar fasciitis is a relatively minor, yet often rather painful and troublesome, injury; however, athletes frequently recover fully with appropriate treatment and relative rest and it shouldn’t be of long-term concern.

Marvin Bagley out for the rest of the season with a right foot sprain

Little is known about the nature of Bagley’s injury other than the Kings will be without him until the 2020-21 season kicks off. Sacramento was rather vague in their press release stating that the big man suffered a “lateral foot sprain” and that he’s “expected to make a full recovery.” This is the second foot sprain that Bagley suffered during an injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign, the other occurring in his left.

The lateral — or outer — foot and ankle are riddled with ligaments, all of which can become injured acutely during basketball play. (Quick aside: a ligament is sprained, whereas a tendon or muscle is strained.) It doesn’t truly matter the specific ligament that was injured in this case as sprains often require 2-6 weeks or more to heal depending on their severity. The NBA’s restart is set to run from July 30 to Aug. 14 — a mere two weeks — and the Kings’ odds of making the playoffs are slim, so sidelining Bagley indefinitely was in the player’s best interest and simply made the most sense logically.

Foot injuries have been ascribed a bad reputation throughout NBA history, however, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of athletes return to their pre-injury levels. Don’t expect Bagley’s injury to carry over given the amount of time between now and the 2020-21 season’s start in December.

Justise Winslow out for the rest of the season with a nebulous hip injury

Memphis Grizzlies’ fans will have to wait until next season to see Winslow appear in the blue and darker blue. Acquired in a trade that sent Andre Iguodala to the Miami Heat, Winslow did not appear prior to the NBA shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic due to a back injury. Winslow injured his hip following a fall during an intrasquad scrimmage, according to a team press release, as the team ramped up as their return to play neared.

Memphis has not explicitly stated whether or not Winslow will undergo surgery in the near future, however, they stated in their press release that the small forward is expected to make a full recovery, which implicitly indicates that a procedure is likely not needed. This likely means that Winslow likely suffered a significant contusion or bone bruise rather than something more significant like a labrum tear.

Bone bruises fall on the fracture spectrum and usually resolve in 4-8 weeks depending on severity; contusions can be rather painful and require a few weeks to heal. The Grizzlies currently find themselves in the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings and will likely make the playoffs, with an opening-round matchup looming. In a similar fashion to that of the Kings and Bagley, sitting Winslow for the remainder of the season makes logical sense as it is unlikely that Memphis will make a deep run in the playoffs. Winslow will likely be at 100 percent come next season.