Father time catches up with everyone. Players usually know the end is near because of what’s going on off the court, not on the court. 82 game seasons, and particularly playoff runs take their toll on the body. When recovery and warmups become longer than the actual workouts, you are in trouble.
I just couldn’t recover fast enough. You play into basically June, and then it’s like you’ve got to spend a month-and-a-half just getting healthy, calming the body down.David West, Basketball News
This is what all the great ones that play into their mid to late 30s say – your recovery time becomes unmanageable. In his last season, Dirk didn’t start because he was good enough, but because he worked on getting warmed up for so long that coming in off the bench wasn’t an option. The moment he went off the court, Nowitzki got on a stationary bike. Stuff that wasn’t even a factor became crucial in his ability to perform.
For instance, checking the weather report. West remembered a game in Philly when Steve Kerr told him he had to guard Embiid that night. He specifically pointed out it was cold that day. Why does that matter? It does when you’re 37.
There was another game my last year [where I felt that way]. We played the Lakers, and it was cold. When you’re over 6-foot-6 and in cold weather, getting warm is just a struggle. I couldn’t get warm the whole day — shootaround, massage after shootaround, my body wouldn’t loosen up.David West, Basketball News
That night, West tried to post up Josh Hart. Basketball-Reference has West listed at 6-9, 250lb; Hart is at 6-5, 215lb. A perfect situation for a guy who prides himself on some low post bully ball. Situations like these were a major reason why David West made over $90 million in his career.
He jumped right up under me, he got up under me early, and I couldn’t post him up. Literally, during the game, I’m like [telling myself], ‘Yo, if you can’t move this cat, you gotta go. It took all day just trying to get your body [warm], and it wouldn’t do it. It’s time.’David West, Basketball News
To be fair, Josh Hart has a reputation for being extremely strong in the post. A lot of players are surprised when they can’t move him. But for West, this was the moment he knew it was done. The pain and effort needed to get ready for a game, just so Josh Hard can become an immovable object in the post, was not worth it.
West started thinking about his family, being able to play with his kids without being in pain – and there was a lot of pain. In his last season with the Warriors, West turned an ankle against the Spurs, and everyone was convinced he was out for a prolonged period of time. A few moments later, he was back in the game. After the game, he explained that he probably turned his ankle over 100 times in his 15-year career. It got to the point where his body just gave up, and the ankle didn’t swell at all.
For most guys, the love for the game never disappears. It just gets drowned in between the ice packs and the physios.