The NBA playoffs are 1 of the finest shows in sports. In extra normal situations, they’re a two-thirty day period marathon that includes a handful of the most athletic people today in the planet doing at the prime of their online games, with a whole lot of money—and a whole lot of legacy—on the line.



The 2021 playoffs have been a fantastic exhibit, but they’ve also come to be a brutal war of attrition. Numerous of the league’s finest players have sustained all forms of injuries after an unparalleled condensed season—which by itself followed an unparalleled season interrupted by COVID-19.

This calendar year, the postseason isn’t just about which crew will earn the NBA Finals. It’s also increasing inquiries about how to operate a sports league in a pandemic, why so a lot of players are dropping, and how extended it may well just take them to recover.

The NBA playoffs really feel especially marred by the harm bug.

Injuries are a component of every single sport, and they’ve affected the NBA playoffs just as much as any other level of competition. In 2019, the Toronto Raptors conquer the Golden Point out Warriors in the finals, and we’ll never ever know if the final result would have been different experienced Golden State’s stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson not been hurt in the latter online games of the series.

But injuries in 2021 really feel extra pervasive. Anthony Davis hurt his groin in the fourth activity of the first round versus the Phoenix Suns, robbing the Los Angeles Lakers of successful engage in from their celebrity heart. The Lakers may well have been capable to conquer that if LeBron James hadn’t been dealing with a poor ankle that made him search like a shell of himself in that similar series. For their component, the Suns were capable to conquer Chris Paul’s poor shoulder to earn that series Paul has toughed it out and delivered what may well be the defining postseason operate of his career.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ MVP-caliber heart, Joel Embiid, tore his meniscus in the Sixers’ first-round earn in excess of the Washington Wizards. The Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic experienced a serious nerve concern in his neck and performed as a result of it as the Mavs fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in a seven-activity first-round series. Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, one more 1 of the game’s fantastic increasing stars, has experienced to get the job done as a result of an ankle sprain.

By the conclude of the first round, a lot of of the league’s most crucial players experienced sustained injuries. Then the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA’s superteam of the second, lost two of their Huge 3 future Corridor of Famers, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, to wellness troubles. Now only Kevin Durant stays nutritious as the Nets try to obtain a way around the Milwaukee Bucks in their second-round series. (Harden appeared in Game 5 but does not look to be at whole toughness.)

The knowledge shows this postseason has been especially brutal. An ESPN investigation discovered that even excluding COVID-similar absences, extra players skipped time to harm this calendar year than in any season because at the very least 2009–10. All-Star players skipped 19 p.c of feasible online games this season, the greatest level at any time. NBA players, especially the finest of them, truly are finding hurt extra.

Could the NBA’s pandemic-altered agenda be the trigger?

The NBA usually finishes its playoffs in mid- or late June. In 2020, the playoffs lasted way beyond that—until Oct. 11—because the league paused from March right until the conclude of July when COVID-19 raged.

The league experienced no choice but to thrust back the commence of the adhering to season. But it didn’t delay much, and teams were back taking part in preseason online games by mid-December. Teams performed a seventy two-activity regular season in significantly less than 5 months, as opposed to the common 82-activity season in about seven months.

That condensed agenda put an monumental actual physical stress on the league’s players. They experienced a shorter offseason, and they experienced much significantly less recovery time in between online games than they would get in a normal season. Provided the powerful agenda, it’s hard to see the improved injuries as just a coincidence.

Funds made it take place.

It’s tempting to blame the NBA crew owners and commissioner Adam Silver for subjecting players to a meat grinder of a season in purchase to chase as much revenue as feasible. But the league’s players required to engage in as much of the 2020-21 season as feasible. They seen it as their finest route to guard their own monetary well-getting.

The players’ union agreed to the seventy two-activity season on the timeline the NBA laid out after the league claimed it would eliminate in between $five hundred million and $one billion if it waited right until January to commence play—losses the players would share along with the owners.

This strange, unpleasant NBA season took place for very much the similar rationale every thing in expert sports takes place: revenue. The league required to engage in a compressed agenda to make revenue. The players agreed to engage in a compressed agenda, also to make revenue.

As a outcome, the 2021 NBA playoffs have turned into a war of attrition. Like every single calendar year, the last crew standing will earn it all. But now it’s not just a sports cliché—it’s a assertion of every single remaining playoff team’s precise route to victory.

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