LeBron James, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, Joel Embiid, Chris Paul, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. That's a list of NBA stars who have suffered injuries during this year's Playoffs, not including those who didn't play at all because they were sidelined before the start of the postseason.
According to ESPN, the average number of players sidelined per game due to injury, non-COVID-19 illness, or rest this season was 5.1 (includes both teams). That's the highest mark since 2009-10 when they started the tracking and a 5% increase compared to last year's 4.8. It's even worse when focusing on the league's All-Stars -- they missed 19% of total games, the highest percentage in NBA history.
Instead of crowning the best team, many argue this year's NBA title will be earned by the healthiest roster, and LeBron James, whose postseason run was also ruined by injuries, has already gone on record, blaming the league for it.
LeBron represents the voice of those blaming the NBA and NBPA for beginning the 2020-21 season only 71 days after the Lakers won an NBA title in the bubble. The 36-year-old superstar disapproved of the league's decision to start the training camp in early December instead of mid-January. He was also the loudest critic of the NBA holding the All-Star Weekend during a compressed 72-game season, calling it a "slap in the face."
But Chris Paul doesn't see it that way. As the president of the National Basketball Players Association, the Suns point guard defended the league and union's decision to start the season in December, calling out the critics for not being more involved in the decision-making process.
Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players. Everything that's good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy. But everything has always been a conversation, and it's going to continue to be that way. So if people don't like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.
CP3 doubled down on the collective decision he helped negotiate during the 2020 offseason. Even though he himself suffered an injury during this year's playoffs and was even sidelined throughout the start of the Clippers series due to COVID protocols, Paul believes both parties did the best they could, given the circumstances. Everything else has been nothing but an unfortunate turn of events.
But even that could've been prevented if someone actually challenged NBA and NBPA's agreement when it was time to do so. And by someone, I mean the face of the league, whose voice isn't just one among many.
One thing about our league and its players is everything is always a conversation. There's a ton of guys on the executive committee who are working hard on things right now as we speak -- day in and day out, traveling. I wish you guys knew all the things that are going on. So decisions that are made as far as playing or not playing, players are always involved in it.
It's no use crying over spilled milk LeBron. Especially when you could've done something to prevent it. Doing it retroactively, trying to create the "I told you so" narrative, is helping no one.
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