When the NBA Playoffs come around each year, different expectations are set for different players. A star player that is playing 30 minutes a night will now be asked to play 38 or 40 plus minutes. That nagging injury which would normally take a week to recover from is now being ignored. The game itself is more physically demanding as the referees swallow their whistles. With all of the injuries that have happened this year, the short season has caught up to the NBA.
The Short Season Has Caught Up to the NBA
The Abnormal Off-Season
The past two seasons in the NBA have been unusual. The Covid-19 pandemic caused the 2019-2020 NBA season to be put on hold in March of 2020. Then, the NBA then put the best teams down in a “bubble” in Disney World to finish out the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. When the NBA Finals finished in October, the question surrounding the 2020-2021 season was when it would start. Many players wanted the season to start in January due to the quick turnaround. The NBA eventually decided on December 22nd as its start date. The last time the NBA had a December start date was 2011, the lockout year. Instead of reducing the schedule significantly, the NBA decided to only cut 10 games out of the normal 82 game season. This would set in motion one of the most injury-riddled seasons the NBA has ever had.
Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Joel Embiid, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul, and Kawhi Leonard. What does this list of players have in common? They all either got hurt or are currently playing hurt in the playoffs. As fans, we want to see the best play the best in the playoffs. After all, nobody wants to see somebody win just because they had more healthy stars than the other team. The sad reality though is that the playoffs are starting to become a war of attrition. The Phoenix Suns for example beat the Los Angeles Lakers due to Anthony Davis being injured as well as the Denver Nuggets due to Jamal Murray being out with a torn ACL. With the number of injuries starting to increase in these playoffs, the NBA needs to take a look at its scheduling this off-season.
The solutions to this issue involve giving players more rest as well as spreading games out over more days. This year, teams that got hit by Covid had additional games tacked on to their normal schedule late in the season. The Grizzlies, for example, had to play five games in seven days at one point. Cutting the season down by 20 games would be ideal. However, fewer games mean less revenue for owners and fewer game checks for players, so this will not happen. Another possibility is spreading the regular-season games out over another month. Fewer back-to-back games mean less rest for star players. The downside is a shortened offseason which players covet. The NBA can also implement these strategies for the postseason by having a shortened first round and more rest between playoff games. These changes could make a difference in extending players’ careers.
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