Al Horford has been diagnosed with a torn left pectoral muscle and will miss at least the next three months of the season. This ends his fantasy season for all intents and purposes and is a huge blow for the Hawks and his fantasy owners. Zaza Pachulia becomes the starting center and a low-end option in standard leagues - given 30 minutes, he can average around 10/8 with unimpressive percentages and occasional steals and blocks. Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Jeff Teague will be asked to carry more of the load for the Hawks' offense, and Marvin Williams and Vladimir Radmanovic also get slight upgrades here. VladRad at 6-foot-10 can technically play center in a pinch or against very small lineups, but it's not a look that the Hawks will employ regularly - Jason Collins will see the vast majority of the backup minutes.
• Kwame Brown has also suffered a torn pectoral muscle and will also miss at least three months. Andris Biedrins and Ekpe Udoh will get the minutes at center with Brown gone, and Biedrins should get a flyer in most deep leagues. He's set to return Thursday after missing three games due to an ankle injury - a matchup with Dwight Howard immediate upon arrival doesn't work in his favor, but the Warriors desperately need him to show some semblance of his previous form moving forward. Consider rostering Udoh if your league is deep enough for Biedrins to already have been claimed. Potential roster moves as a result of the Brown injury: the Warriors may cut Ishmael Smith in order to create room for a free agent big man, most notably Kyrylo Fesenko or Earl Barron.
• Kobe Bryant says his wrist is healing despite the volume of shots and hits that he's taken through the first 12 games of the season. As this column from the OC Register mentions, you get the feeling that he would prefer that it actually doesn't heal so that the doubters (yes, like me) and the haters can continue to eat crow. Kobe acknowledged that he doesn't know when it will get better - "Does it matter?" - and he's still receiving numbing injections before every game, so we're not out of the woods here yet.
The injection Bryant takes before every game numbs the wrist for five or six hours. He pushes it where he needs it to go on the court, and aside from rotating it all the time to maintain range of motion and fearing a blow so strong it could knock the bones out of alignment, playing with it is sort of the easy part.
There's so much maintenance and treatment at all hours otherwise — and so much ice that you'd think Bryant would have had someone design some Nike Ice product for him by now. But all that work is stuff Bryant, always believing there is a solution and being dedicated to finding his way, doesn't mind doing.
Bryant's wrist ailment has limited his three-point output (20% 3PT on the season), and his recent scoring binge has been a barrage of mid- and long-range jumpers. If playing through this injury is sustainable, one aspect of his scoring may not be: Bryant is successfully converting 51 percent of an amazing 8.8 "long twos" per game, compared to historic averages around 40 percent and closer to six per game. But his wrist has yet to keep him from playing and the improved state of his right knee shouldn't be understated, and his stats over the past six games include 36.7 points on 50-percent shooting, 84-percent foul shooting, 5.8 boards, 5.3 assists, and 3 turnovers in 39 minutes. But with Kobe, it's not so much about the current numbers and conventional wisdom and really comes down to a gut call - as in, you either believe Kobe can keep all of this going or you don't.
• Reports are that Derrick Rose's injury is a sprain and not a potentially serious case of turf toe. He's officially day-to-day but was in a walking boot Wednesday and has to be considered questionable for Friday's game in Boston.
• Other status updates: Andray Blatche (shoulder) has left the team to consult with a doctor in New York. Trevor Booker is the add here while we await word .. Rudy Gay (hip) is expected to play Thursday .. Rick Carlisle said that Jason Kidd (back) is doing "a little better" but we aren't going to know his official status until Friday .. Byron Mullens will start for the Bobcats at center on Thursday, while Tyrus Thomas (fatigue) is expected to play .. Michael Beasley (foot) and J.J. Barea (ankle) are both out for at least the next two games .. For the Nets on Friday: Deron Williams (ankle) will play, DeShawn Stevenson (knee) is questionable, Damion James (foot) it out .. Spencer Hawes (back) is iffy for Friday, and a home-and-home against the Wizards seems like a perfect opportunity to give him extended rest .. We should know the results of Andrea Bargnani's MRI (calf) sometime on Friday.
• Omer Asik has logged more playing time than Joakim Noah in four of the past eight games, including Wednesday night's win 78-64 win over the Wizards. Noah left briefly because of a thumb injury, played 19 minutes overall, and did not leave the bench in the fourth quarter (4 points, 4 boards, 1 block, -4), while Asik packed production into his 28 minutes (8 points, 14 boards, 5 blocks, +17). Noah acknowledged that Tom Thibodeau's choice to run with Asik lately is nothing personal and that he needs "to find a way to affect winning." Noah been a bad combination of tentative and inefficient on offense (40% FG), an issue compounded by Asik's presence in the Bulls' most effective defensive lineups thus far. We may not see a change in the starting five any time soon, but Thibs has every reason to feel comfortable with Asik on the court over Noah these days. Per-game averages over the past eight games: Noah (25 minutes, 5.5 points, 36% FG, 7.4 boards, 0.4 steals, 1.1 blocks) and Asik (20 minutes, 4.3 points, 52% FG, 7.5 boards, 0.9 steals, 1.6 blocks). Noah's fantasy owners should absolutely be concerned, and, given the recent minutes distribution, more deep-leaguers need to take a look at Asik (2% owned).
• Josh Howard played a season-high 34 minutes Wednesday (18 points, 2 threes, 4 boards, 1 steal) and has been pushing for more time in Tyrone Corbin's rotation since the season started. Howard is fourth on the Jazz in minutes played over the past four games (28 minutes, 14.3 points, 51% FG, 1.3 steals) and appears to be at the head of what has largely become a three-man unit at shooting guard and small forward (Howard, Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell). Howard had been dealing with a quad injury and will never be a good bet to stay healthy, but the Jazz are desperate for production on the wing and Howard could emerge with an impact here, particularly if he can threes to fall with some regularity.
• Linas Kleiza returned to the court Wednesday after almost a full year off due to microfracture surgery. Kleiza was reasonably productive (14 minutes, 10 points, 3 boards) and Dwane Casey says he has no minutes cap - given Rasual Butler's laughable offense (23% FG, 22% 3PT), Kleiza should be pushing for the starting small forward gig in short order. Deep-leaguers that want to get in on the ground floor will need to do so sooner than later (2% owned).
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Mario Chalmers has emerged as the clear lead in the "platoon" with Norris Cole. Chalmers has averaged 33 minutes over the past six games to Coles' 21 .. T.J. Ford's hamstring injury isn't going to do Gary Neal any favors if Gregg Popovich only gives him the backup point guard minutes while Kawhi Leonard starts at shooting guard. I'm waiting another game or two to see how it shakes out, but I won't blame you for cutting Neal for a different option .. Devin Harris may see his minutes get a bump with Earl Watson headed for an MRI on his knee. The real problems with Harris' game is that his usage has fallen off and he's settling for jumpers instead of getting to the rim .. Brandon Bass is still seeing regular playing time for the Celtics his supporting stats have completely disappeared (1.6 FTA, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals, 0.6 blocks in January). The best use of Bass at this point is as a Kevin Garnett handcuff, so try shopping him to the KG owner in your league before an outright drop.