Luol Deng (Getty)Luol Deng made one of nine shots in Thursday's 99-94 loss to the Magic, dropping his shooting percentage over the past four games to 34 percent. Deng admitted after that game that the pain level in his left wrist has "escalated" and that he's been trying to avoid using it when possible in recent games. But he's already committed himself to playing through the injury and neither he ("I know I can play with it"), Tom Thibodeau ("He has the capability of playing well when he's not shooting well"), nor Derrick Rose ("I know he should be able to play through it") are entertaining thoughts of his getting some down time. The Bulls are 14-3 since Deng returned from missing six games following the injury, and he's averaged 39 minutes, 14.7 points on 40-percent shooting, 2.2 threes (on whopping 48-percent shooting), 5.8 boards, 4 assists, and 2.1 turnovers.
• Kyle Lowry's short-term availability is in quesion after he checked himself into a hospital on Friday for tests on abdominal distress and a fever, and he also is dealing with a sore groin muscle. Initial diagnostic tests were negative, as were tests on his groin, but he at least seems unlikely to play on Saturday at this point. The Rockets play four games over the next five days [schedule], and Goran Dragic would be in line for big minutes whenever Lowry sits. Dragic is also dealing with a foot injury of his own, but it's not considered serious. Jonny Flynn is the third point guard, but he's totaled 81 minutes on the season and has not played since January 28.
• Andrea Bargnani was a full participant in the Raptors' practice for the second straight day Friday, but the team has yet to commit to when he'll return to the active roster. Dwane Casey offered the following on Friday:
"We're going to see how he feels. Whether it's [Saturday] or Sunday, we'll see. I don't want to speak out and then [Saturday] night he's not ready to go. So we'll see: [Saturday] or Sunday, or it could even be Tuesday of next week."
Fantasy owners should plan on the team exercising caution in the initial stages of his return, whenever that happens to be. The Raptors' next ten games all come as back-to-back sets over the next 15 days [schedule], so he may be held out through the weekend just to soften the immediate impact of the schedule.
• Status updates: Blake Griffin (ankle) will play on Friday .. Zach Randolph had his best full-contact practice on Friday but still doesn't expect to play before the Grizz host the Lakers on Tuesday .. Tyson Chandler (hamstring) is expected to miss his second straight game Friday. Mike D'Antoni says he'll likely start Amar'e Stoudemire at center .. Joe Johnson (knee) will be a game-time decision on Friday .. Nikola Pekovic (foot) will play Friday .. DeMarcus Cousins missed Wednesday's game with food poisoning but will return Friday .. Carl Landry (knee) is expected to return next week, possibly as early as Monday .. Anderson Varejao (wrist) will be re-evaluated on Saturday. Friday marks four weeks into his four-to-six week timetable .. Tony Allen (illness) is questionable for Saturday .. Jason Richardson is day-to-day with a left ankle sprain .. James Johnson was limited by a knee injury on Wednesday but is expected to be fine moving forward .. Doctors have told Richard Hamilton that it will take a month for his shoulder to fully heal. Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and C.J. Watson will share minutes in his absence ..
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Perhaps the most interesting thing about Ekpe Udoh's line against the Grizzlies on Wednesday was his four assists (to go with 9 points, 6 boards, and four blocks). He had a few nice looks out of the high post to produce those dimes and Mark Jackson should look to take advantage of his versatility. Udoh averaged 13.9 points, 9.8 boards, 2.7 assists, and 3.7 blocks as a senior at Baylor .. Timing isn't Marreese Speights' strong suit. He averaged 6.6 points on 39-percent shooting and 5.2 boards over his first 17 starts, but has lifted those numbers to 12.3 points on 55-percent shooting and 7.6 boards over his past nine games, just in time for Z-Bo to return .. Luke Ridnour has had an excellent March thus far with tons of playing time (38 minutes, 15 points, 1.3 threes, 4.3 assists, 1 steal) but could be due for a hit if he's dealt to Portland for Jamal Crawford. It's unlikely, but not impossible, that the Blazers would deal both Crawford and Raymond Felton. .. Iman Shumpert will be back to the bench on Friday as Mike D'Antoni continues to shuffle his starting five. Shump should still maintain most of his fantasy impact with 25 reserve minutes.
• Week 19 Schedule Grid
Games remaining, through end of NBA season (April 26):
28 - GSW
27 - CHA, CLE, IND, LAC, SAS, WAS
26 - BOS, MEM, MIA, PHO, UTA
25 - ATL, DET, LAL, MIL, NOR, NYK, OKC, POR, SAC, TOR
24 - DEN, HOU, MIN, NJN, ORL, PHI
23 - CHI, DAL
Games remaining, through end of default h2h playoffs (Week 23, April 9-15):
21 - BOS, GSW, IND, LAC, UTA, WAS
20 - CHA, CLE, LAL, MEM, PHO, POR, SAC, TOR
19 - ATL, DET, MIA, MIL, MIN, NJN, NOR, NYK, OKC, SAS
18 - DAL, DEN, HOU, ORL
17 - CHI, PHI