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When will Hassan Whiteside return from his sprained MCL? Good luck guessing

Hassan Whiteside will not be playing Monday night in Game 4 against the Toronto Raptors. 

That much we know for sure. But anything beyond that is anyone's guess right now.

A sprained medial collateral ligament can be tricky and not everyone reacts the same.

Soon to be two-time league MVP Steph Curry hasn't played since he sustained a Grade 1 MCL sprain in Game 4 against the Houston Rockets. Other players like Deron Williams and John Wall have missed one game or none at all. 

And the Heat are simply listing Whiteside as day-to-day right now.

"He's not playing tonight and that's the only thing I'm concerned about right now," coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday morning after his team's shoot-around. 

"Obviously all of us were very concerned [on Saturday when he was hurt]. When we left the building we tried to stay positive, but you're also aware of the different scenarios there could be. It's a non-surgery option, which I think is obviously the best option considering everything."

Veteran Udonis Haslem, who played a season-high 22 minutes and 12 seconds in Game 3 and is in line for more minutes as the series moves forward with Whiteside out, has played through a number of injuries in the playoffs -- from a broken foot to broken fingers, ankle sprains and more. He's also played with a sprained MCL.

"It feels like your leg is kind of not stable. Your knee is not stable," Haslem said Monday. "It can kind of go any direction at any given time. And it's kind of painful to walk, to run, to bend."

Is it simply about playing through fear and pain?

"I don't think mine was as severe as his," Haslem said. "So, his process may be a little different than mine's was."

ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell joined 790 The Ticket's morning show with Jonathan Zaslow, Brett Romberg and Amber Wilson Monday and did a good job providing some insight and background into MCL sprains

"Basically, the MCL is the ligament that protects the inside of your knee," Bell said. "It gives you your stability -- especially when you're moving laterally, when you have to cut, when you have to pivot. But even just running up and down the court, if you have a significant injury to your MCL it's going to make it difficult to move your knee. It's going to stiffen up and your going to lose range of motion. I heard [Spoelstra] said they got 'the best news possible.' What that tells me is it's not a complete tear, they didn't probably see any structural damage on the MRI. That's why they're calling him day-to-day. Because it's truly a matter of function and pain and what he can do and what he needs to do to play. But I've got to tell you a turnaround of 48 hours is pretty quick."

Whiteside, due for a big payday this summer, could potentially hurt his asking price this summer if he were to return and tear his MCL or ACL and further injure his knee. 

He said Saturday the pain he experienced was something he had never felt before -- even after he strained his right knee when he slipped on the court in Game 1.

Spoelstra said Monday Whiteside's injury in Game 3 was not related to what happened in Game 1 and said "this was a contact injury."

"Who knows if it's exactly the same area of his knee, but the fact he had already done something to that side seemed to aggravate it fairly easily," Bell said. "He had a fall [Saturday], but still it didn't look that dramatic in terms of the worst way you can injure your knee. So maybe it was already setup from the first way he did it in Game 1. Now, he's got this. You're not going to put him out there if he can't move well because that would really set him up for potentially greater injury."

Bell said there are ways the Heat's medical and training staff could alleviate some of the discomfort for Whiteside. 

"You can wear a brace what gives you lateral support," Bell said. "It's a medial or lateral bracket if you will, like a little metal piece that kind of reinforces the side. But those aren't always comfortable. Certainly, the rehab staff, the athletic trainers or physical therapists, can do tape jobs that help. They could offer a lot of comfort, kind of help reinforce the inside of the knee.

"I've heard people reference football players that came back the next week [from an MCL injury]. But they may not need to move in a fluid or dynamic way. They're not jumping all the time. They're not necessarily running and changing direction on a short surface. So it's really difficult to compare one athlete to another even when you're talking about the same grade of injury."

Would Bell allow Whiteside to return if he were clamoring to play?

"Only if he could show me that he could move as well he said he felt," she said. "It really comes down to performance and they don't want to put somebody in if they're a compromised version of themselves. Because that doesn't really do anyone any good either. So while you appreciate his effort to get back on the court and certainly they want him there if he can be what he needs to be, it probably will come down to how he looks [in shoot around] and in pregame warm-ups and can he do what he needs to do for them to feel comfortable putting him in."




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