The NBA heads into the final week of the regular season trying to fight through the fatigue and injuries. The next ten slides of big name players like Derrick Rose, Metta World Peace and Dirk Nowitzki aren't all of the injuries in the Association, which should tell you how much players are wearing down. The success or failure of teams is measured in wins and playoff seeds, but how do we assess how medical staffs have done throughout the long NBA season?
That's an interesting question, with the easy answer being "wins and playoff seeds." At the heart, any medical staff's biggest task is to maximize the time a player is spending on the court versus on the inactive list. That's not always easy, since some measure of injuries is going to happen. The key is to minimize, to prevent where possible and to rehab as quickly as is prudent.
It's that last part that is the toughest to balance. We don't have wins, losses, plus/minus or tempo-adjusted stats for injuries. Jeff Stotts of Rotowire is doing the lord's work in putting together an injury database for the NBA the way I have for MLB and the NFL, but there's no realistic way to go back and put together an historical record. The information is not there in the same way we can check out a box from a game between the Ft. Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers.
(Which reminds me ... why does "Lakers" not bother the discerning fan in the way that "Utah Jazz" does? Is it the alliteration?)
John Hollinger has moved from the press box to the front office, which is symbolic of the kind of statistical changes in the NBA. What we don't have is a Stotts in the front office, though there are some very forward thinking teams that take the medical side of the game seriously. You'll see some of those teams in the playoffs—the San Antonio Spurs, led by Will Sevening, or the Oklahoma City Thunder, who's Donnie Strack is a visionary—and some that will be soon and for a long time.
As NBA teams get ready to bring in the next generation of stars and millionaires, don't ignore the doctors, athletic trainers and other health personnel. The teams that do are about to start thinking about next year rather than the playoffs.
Let's look around the Association: