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NBA GM: We Are in 'Survival Mode' Because of Injuries, Condensed Schedule

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 14, 2021

Shen Chunchen/VCG via Getty Images

NBA executives, coaches and health personnel have expressed concerns about the impact the league's compressed 72-game regular-season schedule has had this year on player health as injuries continue to mount across the Association.

ESPN's Baxter Holmes provided the exclusive report.

"Several NBA general managers and team health officials say the unorthodox and compressed schedule, attempting to make up games postponed due to COVID-related issues, has led to a rash of injuries around the league, with several teams fearing player health has reached a boiling point.
"These concerns have been voiced in interviews with ESPN by a number of GMs, members of coaching staffs and athletic training staffers, though there is universal acknowledgment that the schedule is the byproduct of the coronavirus pandemic."

One NBA general manager told Holmes that "we have defaulted to survivor mode," and another GM said he's "never experienced anything like our injury spate."

A veteran NBA head coach called it "brutal," and a veteran assistant said "hands down, it's the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league." He added that the slate is "utterly insane."

An NBA spokesperson provided comment to ESPN regarding the concerns:

"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. 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."

Per the Elias Sports Bureau (h/t Holmes), "2021 All-Stars have missed 15 percent of games this season, on pace to be the second-highest rate in NBA history." The 2014-15 season had a 16.8 percent rate.

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This year's injury list is littered with some of the game's biggest names.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (high ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (calf strain) have been out for extended periods of time, and the same went for Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (hamstring strain).

Other star players who have missed extended time because of injury include Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (left knee bone bruise), Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (fractured foot) and Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis).

Denver Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray is notably out for the season after suffering a torn ACL on Monday.

That list doesn't include star players forced to miss time because of COVID-19, a list that has Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum on it. Tatum noted that he is still feeling the effects of the disease and needs to use an inhaler to open up his lungs.

The NBA season began Dec. 22, two months and 11 days after the previously postponed 2019-20 campaign ended in the Disney World bubble on Oct. 11 with Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The regular-season slate will end May 16, with playoffs starting May 22.