But on a more positive note, several basketball players who haven't set foot on the court this season for the same reason are nearing a return, particularly in the coming weeks. For every fallen superstar is another one raring to bounce back and help his team's cause.
The rest of the league should watch out once these comeback kids make their respective debuts:
Joe Johnson (Utah Jazz)
Injury/target return: Wrist/late December
2016-17 NBA season: 9.2 ppg 3.1 rpg 1.8 apg
Don't let the numbers fool you; Utah signed the seven-time All-Star in 2016 for his veteran presence. But losing Gordon Hayward to free agency will demand more vintage performances from "Iso Joe"—just ask the Clippers. Together with freshman phenom Donovan Mitchel, a healthy Rudy Gobert, plus encouraging starts from Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors, Johnson could legitimize the playoff hopes of the 7th-seeded Jazz.
Seth Curry (Dallas Mavericks)
Injury/target return: Leg/mid-December
2016-17 NBA season: 12.8ppg 2.7apg 1.8spg 2 3pg
The other Curry may have to leave the bench once he comes back, unless Rick Carlisle opts for a small-ball starting lineup of Dennis Smith, Jr.-Seth-Wesley Matthews-Harrison Barnes-Dirk Nowitzki. Curry is the ideal backcourt partner for Smith mainly because of the former's shooting (43 3p%). The Mavs have sucked so far (7-18 at the bottom of the West), but they could at least make things interesting in Nowitzki's farewell season.
Zach Lavine (Chicago Bulls)
Injury/target return: Knee/January
2016-17 NBA season: 18.9ppg 3apg 2.6 3pg
The back-to-back dunk champ joining the Bulls for the first time since being traded by the Minnesota Timberwolves is both boon and bane. Lavine will finally get the chance to develop chemistry with fellow young studs like Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. But he can also ruin Chicago's odds at the 2018 NBA draft lottery if they start winning (currently worst in the East at 3-20). The ball is in coach Fred Hoiberg's court.
Isaiah Thomas (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Injury/target return: Hip/late December
2016-17 NBA season: 28.9ppg 5.9apg 3.2 3pg
When the Cavs were reeling to start the season, many are saying you can't judge them until Thomas suits up. Well, with Cleveland rolling right now (13 straight wins), and the MVP 's recovery ahead of schedule, "you know what time I.T. is." The smallest player in the league will give the Cavaliers a huge boost, especially with a bigger chip on his shoulder after the Boston Celtics traded him for Kyrie Irving.
Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
Injury/target return: Quadriceps/any time now
2016-17 NBA season: 25.5ppg 5.8rpg 3.5apg 1.8spg
The Spurs are fine. LaMarcus Aldridge is having a revenge campaign (22.6ppg 8rpg 1.2bpg), seven other players are averaging eight points or more, and Pop is being Pop. It's scary to think that San Antonio (17-8) is currently the third best team in the West despite the fact that its franchise cornerstone hasn't played a single game since Game 1 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals. What's more frightening is the thought of Leonard making up for lost time.
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