On Monday night, Denver Nuggets star Jamal Murray suffered an ACL tear, the latest in a series of injuries that plagued an NBA season already plagued by COVID-19.
As soon as Murray fell, before test results revealed the severity of his injury, the NBA world reacted on social media, wondering if this truncated season, full of streaks and fewer days rest than ever, was going worth it in the end.
Too many players are injured with this shortened season ️ must not repeat this one
– Josh Hart (@joshhart) April 13, 2021
The Utah Jazz, meanwhile, have been one of the very few teams in the league to have managed this season relatively unscathed. At this point, they had no major injuries or health issues with their base rotation, and their starting unit of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Royce O’Neale and Bojan Bogdanovic played the second. most minutes of all training in the NBA this season.
The Jazz have experienced the normal bumps and bruises of a season, and there have been precautions the Jazz have taken. Joe Ingles’ 384-game-played ironman streak was interrupted in January when he sat down with a sore right Achilles. Conley has rested on one side of most back-to-backs this year to avoid worsening a hamstring injury. Players at the far end of the bench faced issues with COVID-19 and there were minor injuries, but nothing that kept a key player out of the rotation for an extended period.
The Jazz were lucky.
“I think that’s a bit of everything,” Conley said of the team’s attention to detail this season. “Our performance team has done a great job with us, even before the season, and our coaches have done a great job of monitoring situations and practices and limiting the shots and what time we travel, how many time we sleep, to our leader. and what we eat. Everything plays a role. And obviously, it takes a little luck. It’s a long season, a lot can happen and a lot of moving parts, so we got lucky on that side. “
On Tuesday, for the first time this season, a Jazz player, O’Neale, was excluded from a game, not because of an injury, but specifically for rest. Conventional wisdom says that if O’Neale has some free time, so will a larger portion of Jazz’s roster likely.
In the past, players have reported tiredness or fatigue and noted that being fatigued is no excuse, but recently the level of exhaustion has been more noticeable and players have admitted to feeling the weight of a shortened season. .
Jazz coach Quin Snyder said he had watched the movie of the Jazz season opener and it was clear that the players had lost a stage, that they were less energetic after 53 games in one season. of 72 games.
“You could tell it was the first game we were shot by a cannon,” Snyder said. “There’s just some extra gear, and you’re not necessarily going to have it every night and you won’t have it when a guy comes back from a game to rest, but all of those things matter. We have been aware of this throughout the year. Obviously you balance that with continuity and what you’re trying to accomplish in the regular season, but it’s important. “
The 2020-21 campaign began on December 22, two months later than the season would start in a normal season, and from the start, COVID-19 cases and contact tracing affected teams. The league predicted the likelihood of that happening, releasing only the first half of the schedule so they can catch up on games that have been postponed into the second half of the season.
In total, 31 games have been postponed due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Usually, matches have been postponed because a team affected by contact tracing was unable to field the required eight players.
The second half of the regular season schedule, which ends on May 16, just a month after an NBA season’s normal shutdown, has been full of games with teams barely able to field eight players, not because of COVID-19 or contact tracing, but because injuries plagued the teams.
There is no research or data to back up the theory that the condensed season was the reason for so many injuries, but it could be that tired players are more likely to get injured and this season the players are tired.
Jazz’s schedule for the second half of the regular season included eight consecutive game series and Jazz regularly play four games in five nights, five games in seven nights and rarely have time to practice, shoot or rest. , not only because tight turnaround times between games, but also because COVID-19 and testing protocols take up a lot of their downtime.
The Jazz largely attribute to their health, performance and training staff, led by VP of Performance Health Care Mike Elliott, for the way things have run smoothly this season, but Murray’s injury for the Nuggets. was the last reminder to exercise caution and caution. , especially since the Jazz faces the last month of the regular season and turns to the playoffs.
“We are very fortunate with the situation we have and the people who are employed here,” said Ingles. “Obviously, part of that falls on the players. We have to be responsible ourselves to get there early, to stay later … but I feel like the whole organization from top to bottom, we have the right players who know what to do and then obviously the staff that if you need advice or if you just need to be told what to do, they are there to do it.
Murray’s injury, like many others, has impacted not only the regular season, but also what can and will happen during the playoffs. The Nuggets, in the middle of the Western Conference playoff field, will no doubt feel the impact of losing their second-leading scorer and main ball handler. The defending Los Angeles Lakers champion has been without LeBron James and Anthony Davis for over a month and have gone from second place in the West to fifth.
The Eastern Conference favorites Brooklyn Nets were deprived of Kevin Durant for 23 games with a hamstring injury before bringing him back and James Harden came out with a hamstring injury. The Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks are battling to hold onto their place in the Eastern Playoffs with a number of injuries and even teams that are not contending for the playoffs face injury issues and of fatigue.
As injuries increase and the playoffs approach, promising an increased level of physique and competition, the idea of letting players rest and paying even more attention to their bodies has started to become a priority.
“I think it’s super important, especially with the number of games we’ve played in a short period of time,” said Georges Niang. “I’m just thankful that we have (the performance staff) on our side to sometimes be careful and keep us going when we go too far.”
While the Jazz have been lucky this season and plan to take every precaution necessary to provide a healthy squad in the playoffs, they don’t want to lose any of the perks they’ve gained by having their primary rotation available through the. regular season.
The main benefit of having mostly the same team this season as the Jazz last season was being able to enter 2021 with continuity and chemistry that some of the other teams might not have had.
Their luck and diligence on the health side has given the Jazz even more of a chance to build on that continuity and if they start playing with the rosters and rotations so close to the playoffs, there is a chance that ‘they can upset the balance or lose their place as the No.1 seed in the West.
But, at the end of the day, the Jazz would rather have a healthy, injury-free squad ready for a deep playoff run, rather than enter the playoffs as a No.1 seed, but risk it. to injure one of their key players. And, the team that brings the healthiest roster to the playoffs could be the one that wins a title.