With NBA opening night just over two weeks away, teams are starting to construct their rosters and determine which players will be healthy for the start of the regular season.
Several top players were sidelined by injuries in 2020-21 — Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson — and are still working toward a return this season.
Which teams will be starting the 2021-22 season not at 100 percent? Here’s the latest on where injured players stand during the second week of training camp.
De’Andre Hunter (meniscus surgery)
Recovery: Hunter’s breakout sophomore campaign was interrupted by a pair of surgeries on his right knee. He underwent a debridement on the lateral meniscus in February, returning just before the start of the postseason and starting all five games of the Hawks’ win over the New York Knicks before experiencing swelling. An MRI revealed a tear in the same meniscus that required surgery, sidelining Hunter as the Hawks reached the Eastern Conference finals.
Return: General manager Travis Schlenk indicated Hunter would be limited at the start of training camp, but he went through a full practice last Wednesday, according to coach Nate McMillan, and appears on track for the start of the regular season.
Onyeka Okongwu (torn labrum in right shoulder)
Recovery: In the wake of a solid playoff run off the bench as a rookie, Okongwu needed surgery in July to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. To help replace Okongwu in the lineup, Atlanta signed veteran center Gorgui Dieng in free agency.
Return: Schlenk said at media day that although Okongwu hopes to return in December, the team is still targeting a comeback in January, along the lines of the original six-month recovery timetable.
— Kevin Pelton
Coby White (torn labrum in left shoulder)
Recovery: White tore the labrum in his left shoulder after a collision in a pickup offseason basketball game at home in North Carolina. After a few days of his shoulder not feeling right, White flew to Chicago for an MRI, which revealed the injury. He underwent surgery on June 10. White has been limited to noncontact drills since the start of training camp, but he has been able to do some dribbling and shooting. However, he’s still struggling to use his left hand and with layups.
Return: Just before the start of training camp, the Bulls announced White was on track for a full return sometime in mid-November.
Patrick Williams (severe left ankle sprain)
Recovery: Williams turned his left ankle during an individual workout at the Bulls facility on Sept. 15. After some initial swelling, he was eventually diagnosed with a severe sprain and given a timeline of four to six weeks from the initial injury. Williams has been walking around without a limp or walking boot, and has been a noncontact participant since camp started. He’s getting some shots up and could begin some linear running sometime in the next week.
Return: Williams was one of the Bulls’ most durable players as a rookie — starting 71 of their 72 games — but it’s unlikely the team will rush him back until he’s completely ready. If he starts running again soon, he could be on the way to a return without missing any significant regular-season games.
— Jamal Collier
Jamal Murray (torn left ACL)
Recovery: The Nuggets lost their star point guard on April 12 when he tore his left ACL in a game against the Golden State Warriors. The point guard has been rehabbing and strengthening his body for several months and told reporters he has contacted Klay Thompson, Zach LaVine, Victor Oladipo and Spencer Dinwiddie to learn more about their knee rehabs.
Return: There is no timetable for Murray’s return. He continues to progress and the Nuggets medical staff is thrilled with his rehab so far. “He’ll come back when he’s ready, not when we tell him, not a date on the calendar,” Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said, according to the Denver Post.
— Ohm Youngmisuk
Golden State Warriors
Klay Thompson (torn right Achilles, torn left ACL)
Recovery: Thompson tore his ACL on June 13, 2019, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Toronto Raptors. Thompson missed the entire 2019-20 season recovering from the ACL tear, only to tear his left Achilles during an offseason workout in November 2020. Thompson, who has not played in an NBA game in more than 800 days, said at media day that “I’m probably like 75 or 80 percentile of what I need to do.”
Return: Warriors general manager Bob Myers said recently that the organization doesn’t want to put a firm date on Thompson’s return after two serious injuries, but noted that the organization is hopeful that Thompson will come to the team in December or January and say he’s ready — in consultation with the Warriors’ medical staff.
James Wiseman (meniscus tear in right knee)
Recovery: Wiseman suffered the injury on April 10 against the Houston Rockets. The team had initially hoped he would miss only a few weeks, but after surgery it became clear he’d be sidelined for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Wiseman is expected to be cleared for “full jumping” soon, but will not be ready to start the season as his rehab continues.
Return: It’s unclear when Wiseman will be back on the floor. The Warriors don’t want to put a timeline on the return of the second-year center. Wiseman said recently he has been doing individual workouts and participating in some post-practice shooting work with assistant coaches.
— Nick Friedell
T.J. Warren (stress fracture in left foot)
Recovery: Warren, a breakout star from the Orlando bubble, was limited to four games last season due to a stress fracture in his left foot that eventually required surgery. Warren also missed time in the bubble because of a foot injury, although that was because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Return: Warren was ruled out indefinitely by the Pacers in September because his foot was not healing “at the pace previously anticipated.” He will have another evaluation in mid-October.
Caris LeVert (stress fracture in his back)
Recovery: LeVert, who missed time last season after a mass was found on his kidney, was looking to come into the new season healthy. Prior to the start of training camp, a scan showed a stress fracture in LeVert’s back. LeVert has continued to do shooting and conditioning drills throughout training camp.
Return: There’s a belief that LeVert might not miss any time in the regular season. In 35 games last season with the Pacers, LeVert averaged 20.7 points per game.
Edmond Sumner (Achilles) out for the season.
— Andrew Lopez
Kawhi Leonard (partially torn right ACL)
Recovery: The Clippers’ franchise player thought he was fine after an awkward landing in Game 4 against the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semifinals on June 14. But the team kept him out of the final minutes of the fourth quarter and Leonard never returned. Leonard was eventually diagnosed with a partial tear of his right ACL and underwent surgery on July 13.
Return: Leonard is expected to miss a good chunk of time but revealed he signed a long-term contract with the Clippers in hopes of returning this season. Had he taken a shorter-term deal like a one-plus-one deal, Leonard said he likely would not have tried to come back this season to minimize risk.
Serge Ibaka (back)
Recovery: Ibaka underwent back surgery on June 10. Ibaka missed 30 games last season before returning for the final two games of the regular season. He then played in the Clippers’ first two playoff games before missing seven straight and eventually opting for surgery. “They had to clean up my disk because that’s where the nerves come in and out,” Ibaka said.
Return: Ibaka said he is close to being back at 100 percent. The team has not yet cleared him for contact in camp.
Victor Oladipo (torn right quad tendon)
Recovery: Oladipo suffered the injury on April 8 against the Los Angeles Lakers and had season-ending surgery in May. Oladipo ruptured his right quadriceps tendon in early 2019 while playing for the Indiana Pacers, which kept him out for a full calendar year. He has appeared in only 52 regular-season games (28 with the Pacers, 20 with the Houston Rockets, four with the Heat) since his return in January 2020.
Return: Neither Oladipo nor the Heat wanted to put a timeline on when exactly the former All-Star might return during media day last week, though Oladipo told reporters that he wants to “have one of the best comeback stories ever.”
Donte DiVincenzo (torn ligament in left ankle)
Recovery: DiVincenzo tore a ligament in his left ankle during the second quarter of Game 3 in the Bucks’ first-round playoff series against the Heat, which kept him out for the remainder of Milwaukee’s postseason run. He underwent successful surgery on June 8. When the Bucks opened up 5-on-5 practice at training camp, DiVincenzo did not participate and he seems almost certain to miss the start of the regular season.
Return: Neither DiVincenzo nor the Bucks have given a definitive timeline for his return, but DiVincenzo said he was encouraged by his progress during media day on Monday. “A date? I have no idea,” he said. “But whenever that is, I’ll be 110 percent. I’m not going to come back at 90, 95 [percent]. I’ll be 110 percent ready to go and give everything I have to the team.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo (hyperextended left knee)
Recovery: Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks, and although he played each game of the NBA Finals, it’s unclear how much he’s still dealing with the lingering effects of that injury. He told a Greek television channel recently that his knee was “still hurting,” but he said he felt good at the start of Bucks training camp while acknowledging he will need to listen to his body early on. The Bucks held him out of their first 5-on-5 practice last Tuesday.
Return: It’s unclear whether this injury will cause Antetokounmpo to miss any time during the regular season, but the Bucks are likely going to manage him carefully as he ramps up during the preseason.
Zion Williamson (right foot fracture)
Recovery: Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin surprised many when he announced at media day that Williamson had offseason surgery for a fractured foot. Williamson was injured participating in on-court offseason work prior to summer league. The injury occurred to Williamson’s right foot — the same leg where he suffered a knee injury that delayed his NBA debut by 13 weeks during his rookie season. Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson was able to do walk-throughs during the first week of training camp but is still “progressing.”
Return: The good news is Griffin said the team is hopeful that Williamson will be ready for opening night. Williamson himself said he expects to play in the first regular-season game as well.
Jonas Valanciunas (right thumb sprain)
Recovery: Valanciunas sprained his right thumb during training camp and missed a day of practice. Willie Green said it was a “bang-bang” type play and Valanciunas was removed from practice as a precautionary measure. Green said he’s doubtful for the team’s preseason opener on Monday at Minnesota.
Return: The imaging on Valanciunas’ thumb did come back clean, according to Green, so he isn’t expected to miss much time.
New York Knicks
Mitchell Robinson (broken right foot)
Recovery: Robinson broke his right foot on March 27 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He had been averaging 8.5 points and 8.4 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. It was only his fourth game back after a broken right hand sidelined him for 15 games.
Return: Robinson still hasn’t been cleared, and his return date remains unclear. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau recently told reporters that “It’s encouraging because each day he’s doing more and more. And he feels really good, which I think is important.”
Jonathan Isaac (torn left ACL)
Recovery: Isaac tore his ACL on Aug. 2, 2020, in a regular-season seeding game shortly after the 2019-20 season resumed in Orlando. It was only his second game back from a hyperextended left knee, which kept him out for 31 games. “Recovery has been great,” Isaac told reporters during the Magic’s media day last week. “… Markelle [Fultz] has been right beside me each and every day so we’ve been able to feed off each other. I’m seeing great progress not just with my knee, but just with my game overall.”
Return: Isaac’s return to the floor remains unclear. “I will not elaborate on timelines,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said on media day, noting that both Isaac and Fultz are coming along well in rehab.
Markelle Fultz (torn left ACL)
Recovery: Fultz suffered the season-ending injury on Jan. 5, months after the Magic lost Isaac to the same injury. Fultz started the 2020-21 season averaging a career-best 14.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 6.1 assists in seven games before the injury. “I’m doing amazing,” Fultz told reporters during the Magic’s media day last week. “Haven’t had any setbacks … I’m feeling really good.”
Return: Fultz said during the same news conference that a timeline for his return is still unclear, noting that he is “listening to his body” while starting to do some on-court work.
Chris Paul (left wrist surgery)
Recovery: Paul was dealing with a left wrist injury during the NBA Finals that he played through, despite denying at the time that it was an issue. Paul had surgery on the wrist during the offseason and said at media day that he had been rehabbing for the past six or seven weeks.
Return: Phoenix general manager James Jones said at media day that Paul was fully cleared for the start of the regular season.
Dario Saric tore his ACL during the NBA Finals and is expected to miss the season.
Pascal Siakam (torn labrum in left shoulder)
Recovery: After missing the final four games of the 2020-21 regular season with a left shoulder strain, Siakam underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in June. The Raptors initially announced a five-month rehab process, which would sideline him through the start of the regular season.
Return: Toronto general manager Bobby Webster said at media day that Siakam is doing 1-on-0 drills but has yet to be cleared for full contact. Most likely, he’ll miss at least the beginning of the regular season.
Thomas Bryant (torn left ACL)
Recovery: The Wizards’ starting center tore his left ACL two minutes into a game against the Miami Heat on Jan. 9. Bryant started last season scoring in double figures in his first eight games, averaging a career-high 14.3 points to go with 6.1 rebounds per game. Bryant has been rehabbing his knee and the Wizards can afford to wait after acquiring Daniel Gafford last season and Montrezl Harrell in the offseason.
Return: The Wizards will take it slow with Bryant. General manager Tommy Sheppard has said that Bryant might be able to return in December. It is possible he might not be back until closer to or around Jan. 1.
Deni Avdija (fractured right ankle)
Recovery: The Wizards’ 2020 first-round pick saw his rookie season come to an end on April 21 against the Warriors with a fractured right ankle. He averaged 6.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 54 games, starting 32 of them. Avdija’s rehab this offseason came with some challenges. Sheppard told reporters before camp that Avdija had some opportunities taken away this offseason “due to either health and safety protocols or a setback injurywise.”
Return: Sheppard recently said that Avdija is working at full speed and is expected to play in the preseason. But the team remains cautious and is easing Avdija back into the mix.
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