Dating back to 2005-06, there’s been an average of three ACL tears each NBA season, according to injury buff Jeff Stotts at In Street Clothes. Jamal Murray’s season-ending injury last week marked the fourth player to tear his ACL during this cam
“Blame it on whatever you want, everyone’s in the same boat,” said one Eastern Conference assistant coach.
Assessing fault for this rash of injuries is quite complicated.
After a late end to last season and with the Olympics looming in July, the NBA has managed to squeeze in a full season, one that surpassed 70 games and included an All-Star event to satisfy the league’s lucrative media rights contracts. Those financial benefits support the players, coaches and executives as much as the league office. There are still many veteran league personnel, after all, currently unemployed from when teams furloughed or laid off staffers due to the pandemic.
Yet this truncated NBA calendar, which will only grow thornier as teams make up the 32 earlier-scheduled contests that were postponed for health and safety protocols, has left players and team officials alike battered and exhausted. As injuries have mounted and the league calendar churns onward, you can hear the fatigue in coaches’ voices, even over the phone or through Zoom.
Several assistants contacted by Bleacher Report specifically mentioned the league’s stringent COVID-19 testing protocols—a necessary procedure—as another negative factor on players’ rest and recovery time.
“Some nights we fly in at three in the morning and have to get up for a test at 8 a.m.,” another assistant coach said.
These compounding elements have left many teams with vastly incomplete lineups. It seems all of the league’s contenders have faced their fair share of maladies to superstars and key contributors. “Nobody’s got continuity, really,” said one Western Conference executive. And it remains to be seen how that lack of consistency among teams’ active rosters will impact postseason performance.
Then Donovan Mitchell sustained a scary ankle injury on Friday afternoon. The Jazz All-Star is expected to miss several games. And that’s not to mention Kevin Durant returning from his 23-game absence just in time for James Harden to come up with a limp hamstring...only for Durant to leave Sunday’s outing with a thigh contusion. Joel Embiid may even lose out on MVP honors for having missed 18 games.