The 2018 NBA playoffs are just a few short weeks away and some of the league’s biggest superstars are dealing with injuries. An argument can be made that three—maybe even four—of the world’s 10 best basketball players haven’t been able to suit up in recent weeks.
That doesn’t include the likes of Kevin Love and Klay Thompson, who are trying to get back on the court as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers prepare to potentially meet in a fourth straight NBA Finals.
Let’s take a look at the latest updates on each of the NBA’s injured superstars.
It shouldn’t be long before the Golden State Warriors get the two-time MVP back. The team announced Tuesday that Curry has been cleared to practice after making progress in his recovery from an ankle injury. He hopes to play later this week, which ESPN reported could mean a return Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.
Curry has been dealing with ankle issues throughout the year, missing 21 of Golden State’s 71 games. This latest ailment has cost him six games, producing a 2-4 record for the Warriors over that stretch. Golden State will likely enter the postseason as the Western Conference’s No.2 seed.
There still is no real timetable for Leonard’s return. The San Antonio Spurs could have their star back before the end of the regular season, though it’s possible that the forward is done for the year. It’s just the latest update on what’s been a confusing situation all season for one of the NBA’s best players.
Asked if Leonard could play in the playoffs without having returned during the regular season, Pop said, "I don’t speculate on any of that
stuff." He also said that as of this point, Kawhi has not been cleared by his own medical people to return. #Spurs
— Tom Orsborn (@tom_orsborn) March 17, 2018
Leonard missed the Spurs’ first 27 games with a quad injury. He returned on Dec. 12, playing in nine of the team’s next 17 games. Leonard hasn’t played since Jan. 13, and head coach Gregg Popovich said on Feb. 21 that he’d be surprised if the two-time Defensive Player of the Year returned this season. It wasn’t long after that Leonard indicated he could be back on the court soon, but he remains out as San Antonio fights to stay in the playoff picture.
Much like Leonard’s injury could keep the Spurs out the postseason, Butler’s injury could derail the Minnesota Timberwolves’ playoff hopes. The team seemed primed to get a top-four seed in the West before Butler suffered a torn meniscus that would reportedly keep him out four to six weeks.
The shooting guard recently said he expects to be back for the postseason, but there’s no guarantee Minnesota will be part of the playoffs. The Timberwolves have gone 6-5 in Butler’s absence, falling to the No.7 seed with just a two-game lead in the loss column over the No.9 and No.10 seeds.
A sore left knee has kept Irving out of the Boston Celtics’ last four games, and the point guard isn’t recovering at the pace that he’d like. That’s why, according to multiple reports, Irving will seek a second opinion on the injury.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Irving has no structural damage, and it’s believed that rest is all that’s needed for the injury to heal. The Celtics are all but locked into the Eastern Conference’s No.2 seed, and Irving likely won’t return until he’s 100 percent healthy. Boston is 7-4 without Irving this season.