The NBA, like all pro sports, was forced to adapt to the new climate set by the COVID-19 pandemic and the new regulations set in place in order to slow the spread. However, their efforts this season have brought upon what seems like more NBA injuries this season than any previous season in history. This is due to a multitude of reasons, but some of which could have been avoided, and the league would not be in this mess with less than a month of regular season left to play.
The Number Of NBA Injuries This Season Is Getting Out Of Hand
Injuries Are a Part of the Game
To place the blame of the growing number of NBA injuries exclusively on the league itself is a little unfair, but they have been largely responsible due to the current format of the 2021 season. The NBA was rightfully commended for being able to pull off the unprecedented NBA bubble this past summer, with zero positive COVID-19 cases to show for. They undoubtedly handled the return to action in their sport better than the other three major sports.
That all being said, it is amazing to see that hard work do a 180-degree flip this season, as the league decided to squeeze 72 games into a four-and-a-half-month regular season. This is coming off of the shortest offseason in league history of just barely two months. With the rapid pace that these games are being played, and the early chaos of the first half-season schedule, there is no wonder why we are seeing so many NBA injuries this season, especially to franchise stars across the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers
After reaping in the rewards of a 17th NBA Championship in franchise history, the honeymoon phase ended rather abruptly for the Los Angeles Lakers, as the team is now feeling their championship hangover in one of the most brutal ways imaginable. On paper, they are a more talented team than they were a season ago, and props to them, as they have needed that added assistance with LeBron James and Anthony Davis missing extensive time.
James has been out since March 20th with a high ankle sprain, and Davis finally returned to play Thursday night after missing the Lakers’ last 30 games, logging just over 15 minutes of action. Granted, these are spur of the moment, freak injuries, they have been stockpiling across the league, as the Lakers are amongst 29 other teams battling both injuries and health and safety protocols set by the league. The Lakers have been out their two franchise superstars for quite some time now, and with LeBron now at the age of 36, how will this continued trend affect the back nine of his career?
The Boston Celtics
Fortunately for the Boston Celtics, they have not had to sacrifice a major star to the growing list of NBA injuries this season, but they have probably been the team most affected by this year’s trend. Kemba Walker missed the first month of action rehabbing his knee injury dating back to the 2020 All-Star Game, Romeo Langford finally made his season debut and has made an immediate impact, and the health and safety protocols have affected nearly every player on the roster for them.
What is so interesting about the Celtics this year is that they are yet to play a single game with a fully healthy roster. The Celtics have made great improvements in their roster this year, and were on quite the hot streak, but they are still not at their ceiling yet (evident by their 119-115 loss at the hands of the abysmal Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, their third loss in a row).
While this makes it tough to measure the team amongst the East’s best, it has made them all the more deep, which will pay dividends in the postseason. Hopefully, the injury bug has finished making its way through Boston and we get to see Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and company at their full potential in this last stretch of the season.
Stars Going Down Around The League
The growing trend of NBA injuries has already set multiple alarms. And, while there is value to any player on any team in the league, the NBA’s best have become the ones who have been most susceptible to the injury bug this year. Some of the best young stars and established veterans alike have gone down and missed extensive time, as the workload combined with the lack of rest has taken a toll on their bodies.
Jamal Murray, Trae Young, Joel Embiid, LaMelo Ball, and Gordon Hayward make for just a few names that have missed extensive time that may bring serious ramifications to their teams this next and moving forward, especially Murray. A torn ACL is one of the most devastating NBA injuries for a player to withstand, and time will tell how much it will affect his trajectory.
Does Load Management Sound So Bad Now?
The interesting thing about the amount of NBA injuries suffered around the league to its best attractions is that, perhaps, maybe load management is not such a bad idea after all. The 2021 NBA season has been moving at a rapid pace this year, and with just ten or so games left in the NBA season, it is critical that the marquee teams in the league hold onto their core rotations for the postseason.
We may start to see more and more teams choose to rest their stars to preserve their legs. Let’s use Jayson Tatum as an example. As stated before, the Celtics have been hit with the injury bug and COVID-19 protocols more than anyone this year, but aside from his quarantine period earlier this year, Tatum has remained relatively healthy, and thus, he has had to carry the workload for quite some time now. He had a very impressive month of March and April, but that was because he had to, with many of his teammates going down with injuries. How much more can his body take before he gets added to the list?
Despite popular opinion, load management is probably the best route to go moving forward, and fans may just have to accept that it is now just a part of the league now.