Dallas Mavericks

Luka Doncic to miss time with ankle sprain: Will he really miss two weeks?

The young Dallas Mavericks’ star injured his ankle over the weekend and is expected to be out at least two weeks. However, don’t be surprised if the recovery takes longer.

A mere two minutes had elapsed during the contest between two of the NBA’s most pleasant surprises — the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat — when early MVP candidate Luka Doncic stepped on opposing guard Kendrick Nunn’s left foot. Doncic hopped to the near baseline before falling to the floor grabbing his right shin and wincing in apparent excruciating pain. Doncic would not return and radiographic imaging conducted in the bowels of the American Airlines Center returned clean.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon would later report that Doncic had suffered a moderate right ankle sprain and may miss two weeks. While this would be undoubtedly good news for the Mavericks and the league at-large, don’t be surprised if the recovery takes longer.

Doncic suffered a lateral ankle sprain, also known as an inversion ankle sprain. It is the most common injury suffered in basketball athletes and involves the three ligaments of the outer ankle — the anterior talofibular, the calcaneofibular, and the posterior talofibular. The severity of a lateral ankle sprain, much like any other sprain or strain, is graded on a scale of one to three.

Grade one sprains involve the talofibular ligament in isolation, with less than 10% of the ligament’s fibers being torn; these injuries usually heal within 7-10 days, meaning the athlete only misses one to two games at most. Grade two sprains typically involve both the anterior talofibular as well as the calcaneofibular ligaments and are more severe; it’s not uncommon for approximately 25-50% of the ligament fibers to rupture and the injury results in greater amounts of bruising, instability, and dysfunction. Grade two injuries may take 3-6 weeks for NBA athletes to return from. Grade three injuries may involve all three ligaments and surgical intervention may be required; these injuries can take months to recover from.

Because sprains among NBA athletes are usually reported along with their associated grade, the wording of the severity of Donicic’s injury is a little obscure. The two-week timeline suggests that Doncic’s injury was a grade one sprain, however, the term “moderate” suggests that the injury more resembled a grade two sprain. Due to the conflicting nature of the reports surrounding the severity of his injury, it would not be all that surprising if Doncic ultimately missed more than two weeks. MacMahon further reported that Doncic would not travel for Dallas’s upcoming game against the Milwaukee Bucks and that his status would be updated on Wednesday.

The Mavericks currently find themselves as the third seed in the Western Conference and only half a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets. Dallas will face the Eastern Conference’s murderer’s row — Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto — before games against the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors; one would imagine that Dallas would be happy to achieve a 3-3 record over that stretch.

Losing Doncic for longer than two weeks would be a tough blow for Dallas. Doncic is the primary catalyst behind Dallas’s strong start as he helped lead the Mavericks to an NBA leading 116.7 offensive rating. In just his second season in the NBA, Doncic is averaging 29.3 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game, numbers that are simply LeBron-Jamesian. Fellow second-year guard Jalen Brunson will likely slide into the starting lineup in Doncic’s stead.

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