Posted: Monday January 9, 2012 11:20AM ; Updated: Monday January 9, 2012 11:20AM

Short schedule means patience isn't an option for injured NBA stars

Story Highlights

Shortened season means fantasy owners can't wait long for injured stars to return

Warriors' Stephen Curry has sprained his ankle seven times in the last 15 months

Gary Neal a good source of threes while Manu Ginobili is out with a broken hand

By Patrick Madden, Give Me The Rock, Special to SI.com

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While finding the stats of a Zach Randolph on the waiver wire is unlikely, fantasy basketball owners would be wise to not wait for him to return from an MCL tear this year.
While finding the stats of a Zach Randolph on the waiver wire is unlikely, fantasy basketball owners would be wise to not wait for him to return from an MCL tear this year.
AP

Should Manu Ginobili and Zach Randolph be dropped in fantasy leagues? It all depends on the league setup, of course, but in a 12-team league with daily lineups, three bench spots and no injured reserve it is probably time to let them go.

Thanks to the NBA lockout, the 2011-12 fantasy season is only 18 weeks long compared to the normal 25. For leagues with playoffs that run 3-4 weeks, that leaves just 14-15 weeks of regular season fantasy basketball. With Randolph, who could easily be out until March with a tear in his MCL, a fantasy team would be forced to play a man down for over half the fantasy season. If you are having trouble keeping your team afloat during that time, then it's time to drop the injured star and find a replacement.

Dropping an All-Star caliber player is always a tough decision, especially since the available players on the typical waiver wire will not come close to replacing the production of someone like Ginobili or Randolph. But during a season where the average NBA team plays nearly four games a week, it is a move that could mean the difference between making the fantasy playoffs or missing out due to injuries and missed games.

What injuries have fantasy owners twisting in the wind? Here is an update:

Stephen Curry, Warriors: Curry is out indefinitely after spraining his ankle on three separate occasions since the start of the preseason. If you are counting at home, Curry has now sprained the same ankle seven times in the past 15 months. The latest sprain occurred in a Jan. 4 game against the Spurs and has resulted in Curry missing the Warriors' last two games. He was evaluated by team doctors on Saturday and is scheduled to travel to Charlotte to meet with his surgeon on Monday.

Given the Warriors' schedule this week (they play at home on Tuesday and Thursday before heading to Charlotte to play the Bobcats), the earliest that Curry can be expected to return to the lineup is next Saturday at Charlotte. However, it is likely that he misses more than one week if he and his doctors decide to fully rest that ankle before stepping back on the court.

Rookie Charles Jenkins has been starting at point guard in Curry's absence, but has only seen around 10 minutes a game as a starter. Nate Robinson, who the Warriors signed this past week, has been getting the bulk of Curry's minutes. While Robinson won't make disgruntled owners forget about Curry, he is not afraid to shoot the ball and is worth a look in 12-plus team leagues if you need a scorer.

Manu Ginobili, Spurs: After a hot start to the season, Ginobili fractured a bone in his left hand last week during a game against the Timberwolves. The team reported that Ginobili is expected to miss six weeks while he recovers from the injury, placing his return to the court around mid-February.

Gary Neal has taken over the starting spot for Ginobili during the Spurs' last two games and has averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds and 2 threes over that span. Neal is primarily a shooter and he'll be a great source of threes while Ginobili is out. Danny Green also exploded for 24 points off the bench for the Spurs on Saturday. Even if Green can't duplicate that shooting performance again, he is still in line for a lot of minutes off the Spurs' bench and is worth a look in deeper leagues.

Brook Lopez, Nets: Lopez is out another 4-6 weeks after having surgery on Dec. 23 to repair a fracture in his right foot. He's on crutches and is wearing an orthopedic boot on his foot that is scheduled to be removed this week. While Lopez still has no exact timetable for return, he's on schedule, according to the team and a recent X-ray confirmed that the foot is healing as expected.

If Lopez's recovery stays on schedule, he will return to the court sometime between the beginning and middle of February, or around Week 6 or 8 of the fantasy basketball season.

Mehmet Okur, Nets: The Nets' starting center while Lopez is day-to-day with back spasms and is expected to miss the Nets' game on Monday at the very least. Johan Petro got the start at center in the Nets' game on Saturday but saw less than four minutes on the court. Instead, Kris Humphries and Shelden Williams will be the main beneficiaries of extra minutes while both Lopez and Okur remained sidelined.

Zach Randolph, Grizzlies: Randolph has a small tear in his MCL that will keep him out the next 6-8 weeks. If he were to miss eight weeks, that is around 31 games, or nearly half the season. It would also push his return to the end of February or the beginning of March, giving fantasy owners in daily leagues a tough decision about whether to drop Randolph or try to survive nearly half the season playing a man down.

Dante Cunningham has started the Grizzlies' last three games at power forward and has averaged an anemic 4.3 points and 4 rebounds in 21 minutes over those games. He shouldn't be owned in any leagues with 14 teams or less. The Grizzlies also signed Marreese Speights to provide depth at the position. Speights makes an intriguing speculation pickup: his per-30 minute averages are 14.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and a block a game. Of course, the real life results have not been nearly as encouraging: Speights played just five minutes in his first game with the team and is expected to eventually split time at the position with Cunningham.

Eric Gordon, Hornets: Gordon will miss the next 2-3 weeks with a sore right knee after he experienced swelling following Wednesday's game against the Sixers. Marco Belinelli has been starting in Gordon's place, but was pulled after 17 ineffective minutes in the Hornets' last game. Belinelli is a career 40 percent three-point shooter who has shot only 32 percent from three this season. That means Jarrett Jack may be the only Hornet guard who benefits from the Gordon injury. For Gordon, his lack of durability so far in his career is troubling. He played in only 62 games his rookie season, 56 last year, and he's going to miss a number of games this year as well.

Jason Kidd, Mavericks: The 38-year-old Kidd is expected to miss the Mavs' upcoming two-game road trip this week with a lower back injury. So the earliest he'll return to the court is Friday's game against Milwaukee. Delonte West, Vince Carter, Jason Terry and Rodrigue Beaubois all look to pick up a few extra minutes while Kidd is out, but it won't be enough to significantly alter any player's fantasy value.

Dwyane Wade, Heat: Wade is currently day-to-day with a bruised left foot. He's missed the last three games for the Heat, but was able to participate in the team's shootaround and warm-ups before their game on Saturday, so he should be back for their next game against the Warriors on Tuesday.

Michael Beasley, Timberwolves: The Wolves' forward sprained his right foot on Friday and will sit for at least three games. Wes Johnson got the start in place of Beasley on Sunday, while Wayne Ellington took over the shooting guard spot from Johnson. Rookie Derrick Williams saw 31 minutes off the bench and has the most fantasy value while Beasley is out, but Ellington is also worth a look in deep leagues.

 
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