The game of basketball — excluding MMA and boxing — is one of sport’s most physical. Bodies collide. Ankles twist. Knees inflame.
This 2020-2021 season, more players have limped and hobbled due to injuries than possibly at any time since the NBA started in 1946.
According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, the average number of players absent per game because of injury was 5.1 this season. How does this number compare to previous years? It is five percent higher compared to the previous record of 4.8.
For the All-Stars, it’s worse. On average, All-Star players missed 13.7 regular-season games this season. They missed 19% of all games (370 of 1,944 games) due to injuries.
This is the highest percentage in an NBA season. Ever.
LeBron James waddled to the locker room last March and was out for 26 of the Lakers’ final 30 regular season games. Kawhi Leonard may have recently suffered an ACL injury and we’re unsure if he’ll return when the Clippers face the Suns on Wednesday.
Jaylen Brown underwent surgery on his wrist to fix a torn ligament. Jamal Murray’s surgery because of a torn ACL on his left knee was instrumental in the Nuggets’ 0-4 elimination.
Anthony Davis, during the 72-game regular season, missed 36 games because of a strained right calf. In the playoffs, he hyperextended his right knee and suffered a strained left groin injury.
The result: Bye, bye, Lakers.
Kyrie Irving’s case is — literally and figuratively — painful. His landing on the foot of Giannis this week was excruciating to watch. Kyrie is the 7th All-Star this 2021 to miss a playoff game — the most in NBA history. Among his injured classmates include Joel Embiid (who forced a Game 7 yesterday), Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden, AD and J. Brown.
What does this injury-plagued season mean?
One, it can translate to an unexpected NBA champion. While the Lakers and Nets were predestined to meet in The Finals, this script is now discarded. The winner might be the one who can say “We’re the least-injured team and we won!”
Two, was the NBA off-season too short, resulting to this deluge of surgeries? Yes. After L.A. won last year (on Oct. 11), only 72 days passed before the Dec. 22 start of the next season. This was the shortest turnaround ever; it beat the previous record by 55 days.
I side with LeBron when he claims that this contributed to the spate of crippled and debilitated players. With LeBron and AD, had the duo been healthy all season long, how far would the Lakers have progressed? My answer: At least to the NBA Finals (en route, beating the Suns and Clippers) to face the (if-they-were-healthy) Brooklyn Nets.
Finally.. if Kyrie Irving (and Harden) were totally healthy versus the Bucks, would they steamroll past Giannis and go on to win the Larry O’Brien trophy? Yes.
CEBU. Speaking of injuries, I’m happy to note that — and I speak from experience — during the unhappy moments when we do get injured, Cebu can lay claim to having two of the best doctors in the country: Tony San Juan and Rhoel Dejaño.