NBA players collectively missed more time during the 2020-21 season than in any single year dating back to 2009-10, according to Kevin Pelton of ESPN.
"The average number of players sidelined per game due to injury, non-COVID illness or rest this season was 5.1 (includes both teams)," ESPN's Baxter Holmes wrote of his colleague's data.
"The increase was even more pronounced when focusing on the league's stars. This season's All-Stars missed 370 of a possible 1,944 games (19%), the highest percentage in a season in NBA history, according to Elias Sports Bureau. They missed an average of 13.7 regular season games each this year."
David Weiss, the NBA's senior vice president of player matters, addressed the story and said the league didn't see an increase in the frequency of injuries:
"Injuries rates this season were virtually the same as last season, and any suggestion to the contrary is inaccurate. The number of serious injuries was lower this season than last season. Although more players this season missed a single game because of an injury or rest, injuries resulting in many games missed were in line with normal historical trends. To operate this season safely in a pandemic has been physically and mentally challenging for everyone involved, and players and teams have risen to the challenge and avoided an increase in serious injuries."
Even with the schedule shortened to 72 games, this was one of the concerns behind staging a condensed season following a year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New York Times' Marc Stein wrote in July ahead of the NBA restart that "every coach not-so-secretly wishes his team had more prep time to reduce the risk of soft-tissue injuries." The same issue arose for the 2020 playoff teams that didn't have much time to rest and recuperate before they were right back at it again for 2020-21.
Holmes explained how the Miami Heat and Los Angeles had an offseason lasting just 71 days following the conclusion of the 2020 NBA Finals last October. Per Elias, it was the shortest turnaround ever across the four major American sports leagues.
Then the players had to adapt to a year in which they not only played more frequently than usual, but also experienced the logistical issues posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, Holmes spoke with an assistant coach who called the schedule "the worst ... I've seen in 25 years in the league" before adding the situation was "utterly insane."
One athletic trainer on a Western Conference team said players couldn't partake in traditional workouts in some instances due to the NBA's COVID-19 protocols and the fatigue accrued by the rapid succession of games. That, in turn, raised the risk of soft-tissue injuries.
According to Holmes, the NBA is expected to reach out to team representatives to discuss a number of issues including the schedule to line up the particulars of the 2021-22 season.