NBA

NBA team officials anonymously lament injury issues resulting from compressed schedule: ‘It’s utterly insane’

The NBA has been hit hard by injury issues this season. A plethora of stars have missed major time with various injuries, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Jamal Murray. While injuries occur every year and are part of the game, the frequency seems to be a bit higher this season. Some NBA team personnel members say it’s the direct result of the compressed 2020-21 schedule, as the league wanted to fit in a whole 72-game schedule despite the season not starting until the end of December. 

Additionally, postponed games have added stress to the schedule. Games that were postponed earlier in the campaign due to the league’s health and safety protocols were all rescheduled for the back half of the season, and that has forced teams to play a lot of games in a short period of time. At this point in the season teams are playing virtually every other night. Last year, the average number of games played weekly per team was 3.42, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. That number bumped up to 3.6 this season and jumped to an even higher 3.75 since the All-Star break. In short, the league’s teams are currently dealing with a brutal stretch of schedule, and some aren’t too happy about it. 

“Hands down, it’s the worst schedule I’ve seen in 25 years in the league,” one NBA assistant coach told ESPN about the schedule. “It’s utterly insane.”  

Playing an entire season outside of a bubble in the middle of a pandemic was never going to be easy, and the league knew that going in. With money as the main motivator, the NBA and the NBPA both agreed to the current schedule, but it’s possible that they would have done things differently in hindsight given how many games have been missed by big-name players, both because of injuries and the protocols in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The players selected as 2021 All-Stars have missed 15 percent of games this season — a number that is on pace to be the second-highest ever, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. 

“I’ve never experienced anything like our injury spate,” an unnamed NBA GM said of the season. “Every dumb soft-tissue [injury] that can happen is happening and will only get worse.”    

One team impacted hard by injury is the Denver Nuggets, who will be forced to play the remainder of the season and playoffs without star guard Jamal Murray after he tore his ACL in the left knee earlier this week. The injury occurred after Murray was already struggling to stay on the court. He had missed the four previous games with soreness in his right knee. In addition to drastic injuries like the one suffered by Murray, the long-term effects of the wear and tear players are experiencing this season is also a major concern.

“This whole two-year period will have a marked long-term effect on players many years down the line,” another NBA GM said to ESPN. “It’s like if your power goes out. You have to burn candles if you want light. If you burn them, you won’t have them the next time your power goes out. We are burning through the players right now at an alarming rate. But again, what’s the alternative? Twenty-five-man rosters? Fewer games? It’s not just a ‘league thing.’ It all required collaboration with the NBPA. It’s a shared responsibility, driven almost exclusively by the seduction of [money].”  

At this point, there’s not much that can be done about players suffering more injuries this season. The schedule is set, and it’s not going to be altered. Teams just have to hope that they can complete the current campaign without losing any more players to serious injury issues. By next season the schedule should be back to normal, or at least close to it. 



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