Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James offered his thoughts Wednesday as the NBA playoffs will be down another marquee star.
Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium reported Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely for what the Los Angeles Clippers worry could be a right ACL injury. James wished Leonard well on social media:
The four-time MVP also vented his general frustration with the condensed schedule for the 2020-21 season:
LeBron James @KingJames
They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t just “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the lack of PURE
Leonard joined Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joel Embiid, Mike Conley, Trae Young and Kemba Walker in picking up an injury or missing time during the playoffs. And that's to say nothing of stars such as James, Victor Oladipo and Jamal Murray, who were out for chunks of the regular season.
On June 8, ESPN's Baxter Holmes shared data from colleague Kevin Pelton that showed 5.1 players were out per game this season, the highest figure since at least 2009-10. The trend was magnified when limiting the scope to top players:
"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 research. They missed an average of 13.7 regular-season games each this year."
David Weiss, the NBA's senior vice president of player matters, disputed the narrative that there was a higher 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."
Holmes previously reported on the situation in April and wrote "several teams [fear] player health has reached a boiling point." One assistant coach said the 2020-21 slate was "the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league" and "utterly insane."
Last week, Holmes reported team executives and medical staff were concerned about soft-tissue injuries since they can be connected to fatigue and stress. Players weren't afforded much time off between games, their workouts were impacted by the NBA's health and safety protocols, and they had to navigate the season during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Associated Press' Tim Reynolds reported Thursday that the league sent a memo indicating its desire to begin the 2021-22 season Oct. 19. While that would allow the NBA to return to its traditional calendar, the players would once again have a shorter offseason than normal, especially those who reach the NBA Finals.
That will inevitably lead to the same questions about player health next year.