Team personnel from across the NBA, including general managers, health officials, and coaches, believe the league's compressed schedule is causing more player injuries this season, ESPN's Baxter Holmes reports.
One head coach called the schedule "brutal," while a head athletic trainer said it's "exponentially more difficult" than the NBA's Orlando bubble. An assistant coach even told Holmes this season features "the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league."
There's universal acknowledgment the schedule is due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent postponements, Holmes notes. Several team executives said concerns regarding player health were voiced to league leadership, including commissioner Adam Silver, before the season. Yet the executives and team health officials cited financial concerns and the Tokyo Olympics as dominant motivators for the parties involved.
An NBA spokesperson, citing internal data, said the frequency of injuries was lower this season through 50 games than last campaign.
However, 2021 All-Stars have missed 15% of games this season, which is on pace to be the second-highest rate in league history, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"In planning both this season and last season, we have communicated on a daily basis with our teams and NBA players, agreeing on two very different season formats that each made sense as a way to continue operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson told Holmes.
"Injuries have, unfortunately, always been a part of the game, but we have not seen a higher rate of injuries this season than last. We will continue to work with teams and players to complete our season in the best and safest way possible that promotes both physical and mental health during this challenging period."
Multiple team executives and health officials also believe the compressed schedule has resulted in a lack of competitive contests. According to ESPN Stats & Information, 52.6% of games this season have been decided by double digits, marking the highest percentage since 1971-72.