NBA injury report: Return timeline, updates, impact for LeBron James, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, other injured stars

DeMarcus Cousins is back in action for the Golden State Warriors, so he's off this list for the first time since we created it. There are still some big names out, though, with Houston Rockets center Clint Capela joining Chris Paul on the shelf. LeBron James is also still sidelined because of the a groin strain he suffered on Christmas Day. 

James will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' game against the shorthanded Rockets on Saturday. It is theoretically possible, though, that he could be in the lineup on Monday against Cousins and the Warriors. That appears unlikely, but it would be interesting. 

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

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LeBron James LAL • SF • 23
Groin strain -- will return Jan. 21 at earliest

Jan. 18 update: The Lakers are 5-7 without James, and have struggled to score without him orchestrating the offense. They rank 28th in offensive rating since Dec. 27, despite their 138-128 win in Oklahoma City on Thursday. Impressively, they are third in defensive rating in that span, though some of that has to do with a relatively weak schedule. If Los Angeles was in the Eastern Conference, I'd feel strongly that this will have multiple silver linings -- the opportunity presented to its young players, the rest afforded to James -- but that is a harder argument to make when the team is in a three-way tie with the Clippers and Jazz, trying to hang onto a spot in the West's top eight. James has been cleared to practice next week, but Rich Paul told The Athletic's Sam Amick that his client is "not on nobody else's timeline" and, due to the risk of re-injury, he will not rush back regardless of how the Lakers are playing. 

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Chris Paul HOU • PG • 3
Hamstring injury -- expected to return late January/early February

Jan. 19 update: Paul is getting closer to a return to game action, and he may be a week away from a return, per Mark Berman of Fox 26. When Paul hurt his hamstring on Dec. 20, it felt like the Rockets were going to lose all their momentum. They'd just run off five straight wins, but lost a nail-biter in Miami when he had to leave the game in the first half. Losing Paul, however, did not turn out to be a doomsday scenario: Waiver-wire pickup Austin Rivers fit in wonderfully, and James Harden simply took on an even more enormous offensive load and pushed himself to the top of the MVP conversation. Houston won its six games without Paul, including possibly the game of the season, a 135-134 win in Golden State in which Harden made one of the more absurd game-winners you'll ever see. Since that night, the Rockets have gone 3-4, though, and they suddenly have to deal with another big issue: the absence of their starting center. Which brings us to ...

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Clint Capela HOU • C • 15
Thumb injury -- Expected to return around Feb. 21

Jan. 18 update: Capela had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb on Thursday, and that comes with a 4-to-6-week timetable. The hope is that he will be back right after the All-Star break, and the Rockets are going to have to figure out how they want to handle the big hole in their frontcourt rotation. In their first game without him, against the Grizzlies' huge frontcourt, they started Nene and earned a lopsided victory. Two days after that, they started Gary Clark at power forward and P.J. Tucker at center in an overtime loss to the Nets. Tucker's performance as a center in last year's playoffs was unforgettable, and it makes sense for Houston to go small a fair bit, but the 33-year-old was already playing significantly more minutes than ever before -- asking him to be a full-time 5 in the regular season will add wear and tear. I wonder if Isaiah Hartenstein or Marquese Chriss will get another look.

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John Wall WAS • PG • 2
Heel injury -- out for season

Jan. 18 update: Bradley Beal dismissed the idea that he and the Wizards are better without Wall after their comeback victory against the Knicks in London. "It's absolutely nonsense," he told reporters, adding that it's "a lot harder" to play without the point guard and his own workload has "increased tremendously." Beal was already playing heavy minutes with Wall -- he logged 45 in a regulation game on Dec. 26, Wall's last appearance, and 54 in a triple-overtime game four days before that -- but he is correct: In the 10 games since it was determined that Wall needed season-ending surgery, Beal has averaged 29.8 points on 24.3 field goal attempts in 39.2 minutes, with a 56.1 true shooting percentage, plus 6.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds. Beal should be a lock for the All-Star Game, and Washington's 6-4 record in that span has the team close enough to the playoffs that owner Ted Leonsis has declared making the postseason "our first mantra" despite the fact that Wizards fans spend most of their free time playing with the trade machine.

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J.J. Barea DAL • PG • 5
Achilles injury -- out for season

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. 

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Ricky Rubio UTA • PG • 3
Hamstring injury -- out until late January

Jan. 18 update: It is hard to ignore the fact that Donovan Mitchell's recent surge has coincided with Ricky Rubio's absence. In fairness, Mitchell got things going with a 26-5-5 game in Detroit in which Rubio played 30 minutes. Yet in his last six games, beginning with the one in which Rubio hurt his hamstring after five minutes, the second-year guard has averaged 30.3 points, 5.2 points and 4.0 rebounds while shooting 47.1 percent and making 42.9 percent of his 3-pointers. These crazy numbers can't be sustainable, and I'm not convinced that Rubio and Mitchell are a bad combo, but Mitchell is playing so well that you have to wonder whether or not he deserves to keep some of this added playmaking responsibility when the point guard returns. The Jazz, who have won five straight games and seven of their last eight, announced Tuesday that Rubio would be out another week before being re-evaluated.

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Rajon Rondo LAL • PG • 9
Hand injury -- day-to-day

Jan. 18 update: Rondo is expected to miss Los Angeles' game in Houston on Saturday, but he could be back soon thereafter. The Lakers announced Friday that he has been cleared to return to full-contact practice after his second hand surgery of the season. Rondo tore a ligament on Christmas Day in Oakland, during the same game in which James hurt his groin. He has only played in 14 games this season, but, notably, James has been significantly less efficient than normal in the 176 minutes he played next to Rondo. One of the many Lakers storylines to watch is whether or not these two ball-dominant creators can complement each other effectively.  

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Jonas Valanciunas TOR • C • 17
Thumb injury -- expected to return early February

Jan. 11 update: Valanciunas will wear a splint on his left thumb for the next four weeks, the Raptors announced on Wednesday, and he said Thursday that he misses "kicking ass." He has begun participating in portions of practice, but is still being held out of anything which involves contact. In the meantime, Greg Monroe has handled the majority of the backup center minutes, though Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher have had a few minutes at 5 here and there.

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Dillon Brooks MEM • SG • 24
Toe injury -- out for season

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. 

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Kevin Love CLE • PF • 0
Toe injury -- no timetable to return

Jan. 7 update: Love has backed off of his goal of a mid-January return to action, per Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Love doesn't have a clear timetable and the Cavs have no incentive to rush him back, but the team released an update on Friday saying that he is ready to start doing "select basketball activities." Cleveland is tanking, but it would still be nice to see Love come back and give the offense some sort of structure. Of course, the second he gets on the court, the trade rumors will start again.  

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Robert Covington MIN • SF • 33
Bone bruise -- out indefinitely

Jan. 4 update: The Wolves have played like a top-five defensive team with Covington on the court, holding opponents to 105.5 points per 100 possessions. They are 20th in defensive rating on the season, though, and they have not been stingy in their losses to Atlanta, New Orleans and Boston in the past week. This is why the news that a bone bruise will keep him out for an extended period of time is so rough -- Covington is one of the league's best defenders, and, as much as I like watching Josh Okogie play, putting the rookie in the starting lineup is a significant downgrade. 

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Markelle Fultz PHI • PG • 20
Thoracic outlet syndrome -- out indefinitely

Fultz has missed the Sixers' last 20 games, and he will be re-evaluated next week, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey. Mid-January will mark six weeks since it was reported that he would be out 3-to-6 weeks. Philadelphia is in need of healthy bodies, but if he is unable to shoot jump shots, it's hard to see how he can help the team on the offensive end. Wouldn't it be an amazing story if he came back and started knocking shots down?

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Cody Zeller CHA • C • 40
Broken hand -- expected to return early to mid-February

Zeller had a terrible New Year's Eve, breaking his hand against the Magic and needing surgery a few days later. The Hornets announced he is expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks, a major blow for a team that is trying to hold onto a playoff spot. Without him (and Jeremy Lamb, who strained his hamstring against Orlando) on Wednesday, they started Willy Hernangomez at center and brought Bismack Biyombo and Frank Kaminsky in off the bench against Dallas. They also gave up 42 points in the first quarter and lost 122-84. 

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Kent Bazemore ATL • SG • 24
Ankle injury -- out until mid-January

Bazemore hurt his ankle on Dec. 29 against Cleveland and will be out for at least two weeks. This has pushed Daniel Hamilton into the starting lineup, with Vince Carter and DeAndre' Bembry (and, to a lesser extent, Tyler Dorsey and Justin Anderson) picking up the rest of the minutes on the wing, at least until Taurean Prince comes back.

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Allen Crabbe BKN • SG • 33
Knee injury -- out until mid-January

Wednesday marked the first time I've seen the term "bruised fat pad" used in a sentence. That sentence, from the Nets' official Crabbe injury update: "After further evaluation, it has been determined that the bruised fat pad, which has been the cause of the right knee soreness, will require an additional period of recovery." Crabbe will be re-evaluated in a week or two, and when he comes back, he might have to come off the bench. I'm not sure coach Kenny Atkinson will be in a hurry to take Jared Dudley or Rodions Kurucs out of the starting five. 

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Markieff Morris WAS • PF • 5
Neck injury -- expected to be out until early February

As if the Wizards needed more bad news, they announced Thursday that Morris would be out for six weeks after being diagnosed with transient cervical neuropraxia -- this means his neck and back are stiff. Morris initially got hurt on Dec. 16 against the Lakers and aggravated the injury 10 days later in Detroit. 

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Luc Mbah a Moute LAC • SF • 12
Knee injury -- day-to-day

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. 

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Kristaps Porzingis NY • PF • 6
Torn ACL -- expected to be out until at least mid-February

Dec. 21 update: The Knicks announced Friday that Porzingis would be re-evaluated in mid-February, a year after he had surgery to repair his ACL. According to the team, his knee is "healing well" (!) and he has made "good progress with rehabilitation" (!!) and will do on-court work with his teammates once he has reached "the remaining rehab benchmarks" (!!!). Reminder: On Nov. 13, GQ published a story quoting Porzingis as saying his rehab was "coming to an end" and his return was so close that he "can taste it." Regardless, I don't know any New York fans who are desperate to see him come back as soon as possible -- they're all too focused on Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.  

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Goran Dragic MIA • PG • 7
Knee injury -- expected to be out until mid-to-late February

Dragic had surgery on his troublesome knee on Wednesday after only appearing in two games in the last month. This will keep him out an additional two months, which is rough news but at least gets rid of the ambiguity about when he might come back and save the day. On the season, the Heat are 22nd in net rating, but have outscored opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions with Dragic on the court. The good news, however, is that they have won their last three games without him. Their defense is good enough for them to turn this season around.

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Andre Roberson OKC • SG • 21
Ruptured patellar tendon -- expected to be out until at least mid-January

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.  

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Damian Jones GS • C • 15
Torn pectoral muscle -- out indefinitely

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.

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Caris LeVert BKN • SG • 22
Foot injury -- expected to return this season

Nov. 29 update: There is never a good time to suffer an ugly leg injury, but it's particularly awful when you're playing at an elite level for the first time. LeVert wasn't even penciled in as a starter before he started schooling everybody in scrimmages a couple of months ago, but he was so phenomenal at the beginning of the season that the Nets were thinking big. He might have been an All-Star this season, and he might have led them to the playoffs. Since he went down, Brooklyn has gone 2-6, but that doesn't tell the whole story: Its offense is extremely dependent on Spencer Dinwiddie and D'Angelo Russell, and fourth-quarter execution has been a major problem. LeVert is obviously missed, but at least the damage wasn't as serious as it looked live. 

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Dwight Howard WAS • C • 21
Back and glute injuries -- expected to return in late January

Howard now needs back surgery on two discs, per Stadium's Shams Charania, and the optimistic timeline is set at eight weeks. It is tempting to say that the Wizards, an awful defensive and rebounding team, could use Howard in the lineup. This, however, ignores that they have actually been worse on both ends with Howard on the court this season. If he ever eventually helps Washington, it will be because he addresses the injuries that have bothered him all season -- rather than accompany the team to New Orleans on Wednesday, he went to Los Angeles to see a nerve specialist to try to do just that. 

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Isaiah Thomas DEN • PG • 0
Hip injury -- expected to return in December

Thomas doesn't officially have a timetable, but ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early November that he should be back at some point in December. We should all hope that, this time, he is fully healthy and capable of doing the things he did a few years ago. The tricky part about this situation, though, is that backup guard Monte Morris has been way too good for the Nuggets to simply sideline him. Minutes are going to be hard to come by. 

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Michael Porter Jr. DEN • PF • 1
Back injury -- no timetable for return

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. 

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Dejounte Murray SA • PG • 5
Torn ACL -- out for season

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. 

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Denzel Valentine CHI • SG • 45
Ankle injury -- out for season

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.

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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