Everyone knew the toll of playing through the coronavirus pandemic would be immense as teams came off both historically short and long offseasons. Owners and players just agreed to prioritize the money. Lots and lots of money.
Now that people in the league are living through the burdens of a compressed schedule, frequent coronavirus testing, coronavirus cases, lingering effects, injuries and actually having to try to win games… a different perspective has emerged. There’s more emphasis on the hardship than the revenue.
“Hands down, it’s the worst schedule I’ve seen in 25 years in the league,” said one veteran assistant coach. “It’s utterly insane.”
One veteran NBA head coach called it “brutal.”
Added one NBA GM, “I’ve never experienced anything like our injury spate.”
“Every dumb soft-tissue [injury] that can happen is happening and will only get worse,” the NBA GM said.
“We have defaulted to survival mode,” said a second NBA GM.
I have no doubt this season has been especially trying for people within the NBA. These times have been especially trying for nearly everyone.
But it’s probably not a coincidence the people quoted are general managers and coaches – not owners and players, whose incomes are more directly tied to NBA revenue. The league structured the season to maximize revenue, because that’s what owners and players wanted. It was one of the many difficult choices coronavirus has forced.
This season has undoubtedly been tough for injured players, and it’s easy to focus on them. But injuries happen every season. In fact, the NBA told the Associated Press that injuries are down 6% this season compared to “traditional” seasons. The league argued that some high-profile injuries make this season seem worse.
Though we can never know, I suspect, if the NBA shortened its season and accepted the accompanying revenue loss, the people harmed would be griping instead. The grass looks greener on the other side.