NBA now paying for shortsightedness with injuries

The Hawks' Al Horford is one of two NBA players who've suffered a torn pectoral muscle this season. (AP photo)

Al Horford is one of two NBA players who've suffered a torn pectoral this season. (AP photo)

We have seen sprained ankles and strained groins, torn ACLs and shredded Achilles tendons. We have seen Al Horford and Kwame Brown go down with injuries normally reserved for offensive linemen (torn pectorals) and Danilo Gallinari crumble to the ground with a sprained ankle and foot, thereby giving the Denver Nuggets their own little HMO nightmare (four starters down).

If the NBA altered its iconic logo right now, it would be a silhouette of Jerry West with, a crutch under one arm, a sling around the other, ice bags taped to both knees, ankles the size of cantelopes and a red light bulb on his nose, just like the poor schlep on the “Operation” game.

With only one-third of the season complete, at least seven players already appear done for the season: the Hawks’ Horford, Golden State’s Brown, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chauncey Billups (Achilles), Memphis’s Darrell Arthur (Achilles), Oklahoma City’s Eric Maynor (knee), New Jersey’s Keith Bogans (ankle) and Portland’s Greg Oden (although five knee surgeries for Oden would suggest this is the norm for him).

That doesn’t include the blur of players (including Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Dirk Nowitzki) who’ve been sidelined for days or weeks with ailments that can’t be healed during off days because … well, what’s an off day again?

Chauncey Billups went down with a torn Achilles. (Orlando Sentinel)

Billups is done with a torn Achilles. (Orlando Sentinel)

The Hawks played four games in five days and nine in 12 to open the season. They won’t have consecutive days off until next Thursday and Friday – after 30 games in 51 days, including six back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-oh-my-ailing-back.

Can’t wait for the playoffs. And the introductions.

And now! At forward! He was 6-9 in December, 6-7 in February and 6-3 in April! Hunched over! In a walker! Vaguely remembers his name and had Jello for lunch! Josh Smith!”

When asked if any of this could be lockout-related, NBA commissioner David Stern said, “The honest answer is, I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.”

Anthony is out two weeks with a groin strain. (Newsday)

Anthony is out two weeks with a groin strain. (Newsday)

Really?

There was the lockout. Then came the settlement in late November, the desire to start the regular season on Christmas (TV nirvana for the NBA) and to squeeze in a 66-game regular season. That meant short training camps, a hiccup of an exhibition season (two games) and fewer off days. Also remember that we’re dealing with pro athletes, most of whom stay in shape but, nonetheless, were coming off extended couch time.

This wasn’t wise.

The NBA is paying the price. So is the consumer. The product has been damaged because so many of the league’s stars are going down — and it’s only early February.

“I think this has a lot to do with the

Gallinari (ankle, foot) will miss at least one month. (AP photo)

Gallinari (ankle) will miss at least one month. (AP photo)

lockout,” the Hawks’ Josh Smith said. “In previous years, we didn’t have so many season-ending injuries. We have the condensed schedule, and guys didn’t have a chance to get their legs under them with a full training camp.”

Smith is one of the fortunate ones. He has avoided significant injuries, but it hasn’t been easy.

But even he conceded, “I’ve had more massages in this short period of time than I would normally have all season. I’m in the ice tub. I’m doing things now that I never did before.”

The Hawks play host to Miami on Sunday night at Philips Arena. The last time the Heat was in town, both Wade (foot, ankle) and LeBron James (ankle) were sidelined. James, in particular, received some criticism, but it’s easy to understand why players and coaches would be cautious, given the schedule.

This isn’t all Stern’s fault. Yes, he saw dollar signs, as did the owners, in mandating a 66-game schedule when 50 would’ve been safer. But the players’ union signed off on this deal. They wanted the revenue, too.

Smith acknowledges, “Guys were just so anxious to get back. We fought for so many different little things, we didn’t even care about how many games we played.”

Stern concedes more games will be lost to injury this season, but isn’t prepared to express regrets about his post-lockout strategy.

“Ultimately we’re going to have to deal with what it looks like at the end of the season,” he said. “To say the sky is falling because there were three or four injuries in a day doesn’t tell you anything. But it’s possible.”

At this point, the odds should tilt toward regret. And I think somebody’s red nose just turned on and buzzed again.

By Jeff Schultz

45 comments Add your comment

Pepe

February 10th, 2012
1:45 pm

First…now to read the article

Paul

February 10th, 2012
1:50 pm

Sad to learn Greg Oden out again. That I didn’t read about this heretofore only underscores how far this guy has fallen (pun).

Bravesfan79

February 10th, 2012
1:59 pm

Poor guys, have to play a game of basketball every 2 days. Meanwhile my last job i worked 6am-6pm 6 days a week for around 10 bucks a hour. Majority of that time spent picking up heavy break pads and putting them back down. Cry us a river, because the hard working public dosent care.

Lenny Wilkins

February 10th, 2012
2:10 pm

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
2:27 pm

Money trumps everything except for death. Death can’t be persuaded or negotiated.

Rothschild

February 10th, 2012
2:27 pm

Hope Erik Dampier can still play a little.

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
2:27 pm

Injuries, Sminjuries. Who cares, let’s play ball. The end of the year product? Well anything is possible, says Stern

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
2:30 pm

Hope so too Rothschild but he’s only a Big Mac short of 300 it should be noted. And both Dampier and Larry Drew admit his playing shape and condition are going to take some time. How much time? Well he’s only signed to a 10 day contract. Maybe he’ll be in shape just in time Collins gets back and we release him.

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
2:32 pm

conditioning

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
2:32 pm

Only thing I remember about Dampier was that Shaq some years ago called him “Erica”. Now that was funny

lanier

February 10th, 2012
2:38 pm

Dampier is a joke now even if he was in shape

El Bravo

February 10th, 2012
2:54 pm

Schultz, you wrote a very lazy article. How about backing it up with hard stats? Is there a statistically significant difference between the number of injury days missed as compared to previous years? How about a difference in season-ending injuries? I have a feeling you are correct but using anecdotal evidence (which is all you used in this article) is journalistic irresponsibility…

PMC

February 10th, 2012
3:12 pm

The good news for us is that we have a lot of good players though none are great.

If they can get Horford healthy and no one else hurt, this is the kind of year that could benefit them in the playoffs.

jds

February 10th, 2012
3:18 pm

why don’t you include the past 10 seasons to show what injuries were the first 6 weeks of the season? i don’t believe it without actual factual data. you just act like it’s worse without supporting your argument. typical of an ajc employee. especially with politics.

Hankie Aron

February 10th, 2012
3:27 pm

I do think it’s true guys, although some actual factual data, I like that jds, would be nice

Detlef's Shriveled Schrempf

February 10th, 2012
3:28 pm

Puhhhhleezee….EEEnough about tha poor little undereducated millionaires who have to play a game for a living. The only ones paying for the shortened season are the FANS who support this junk that the NBA is trying to pass off as Basketball. Jeff your article should have been under the heading like the TV show “Survivor” show call it “Survivor-Stern Island”

Detlef's Shriveled Schrempf

February 10th, 2012
3:44 pm

Does this mean that the players are also partying less because of the condensed schedule..Jeff, maybe an article needs to be filed next year utlizing your scientific analysis. Compare to past years the number of stripper club appearances, baby mommas, paternity suits and other debauchery and mayhem. What kind of impact did the season have on surpassing one of the NBA’s all-time unofficial records: Wilt Chamberlin’s record of conquests..You could also have an article listing Wilt’s potential challengers and the impact of the shortened season on the annual conquest average in the race to “Shoot” past the House that Wilt Built..

Richham

February 10th, 2012
3:50 pm

Nobody is watching anyway. NB…What? Wake us when baseball or football season rolls back around.

Evader Holyfield's Last Remaining Brain Cell

February 10th, 2012
4:13 pm

@Bravesfan79- should’ve worked on your jumper. Playing all these games close together are contributing to injuries dummy.

heartofdarkness

February 10th, 2012
4:15 pm

I would think the rotations would expand. Should enhance the status and importance of the coaches in the NBA.

kbb

February 10th, 2012
5:02 pm

LOL @ Nobody is watching.

Nobody watches the stinking Braves. Ratings were down last year across the board for the MLB. The all star was the lowest rated in history. The World Series was the second or third lowest rated even with a classic game 7. Nobody knows who the “stars’ of the MLB are except for Pujols, Arod, and Jeter who are all in their mid 30’s. The game of baseball has the oldest fanbase of any sport. These are facts.

The nba’s numbers are up even in a season where the play is sloppy at best. Ratings are up 50-80 in most markets, and NBA tv and TNT have experienced ratings that are the highest in history. I work in marketing so I watch these numbers every day. By the way, even college football had numbers that have decreased. The national championship game had the lowest numbers in BCS history. Bowl games were down across the board as well. Their numbers for college football are still very good just somewhat flat.

Eaassyy

February 10th, 2012
6:14 pm

I would like to see a link to these numbers on college football>

kbb

February 10th, 2012
6:43 pm

Paul in NH

February 10th, 2012
7:29 pm

If you think it is bad now, wait until we are 50 games in. My local team is likely to see 3 future Hall of Famers out by then.

Ted M

February 10th, 2012
9:31 pm

Well somebody is gonna win it all and they are gonna be ecstatic…unfortunately its not gonna be the Hawks.

IAW

February 10th, 2012
10:52 pm

Jeff Schultz would never write a column that NBA ratings are up. He is anti NBA. Just like the clowns on the airwares in Atlanta.

Snake Doc

February 10th, 2012
11:09 pm

blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – Who frakkin cares!

Stinger2

February 11th, 2012
5:25 am

kbb: You conveniently left off the comparitive NBA and College Basketball rankings with other sports. I read the article showning MLB tied with college football at 13% for each. Next came NASCAR before the NBA and C. Basketball with something like a 5% ranking.

blame game

February 11th, 2012
7:20 am

the nba players are not happy about all of this and may go on strike again! The rich owners need to give them more money to make up for all the injuries.

IAW

February 11th, 2012
8:28 am

What does Greg Oden’s injury have to do with the shorten season? terrible column

IAW

February 11th, 2012
8:37 am

Stinger2 -Funny how a poll shows MLB is three times more popular than the NBA but tv ratings, which measure fan behavior over a time, shows them to be even. So much for the poll. In fact the NBA has better ratings with the under 50 viewer than baseball.

kbb

February 11th, 2012
12:28 pm

Stinger,

That poll that you read was not conveniently left off. It was never the topic. That poll that you are referring to asked “what is your favorite sport”. The NFL was far and away number one, followed by CFB and the others were also rans. That poll asked only 2000 people. Those Harris polls are hit or miss, but they didn’t prove anything we didn’t already know. Nobody disputes that football is KING in this country. I didn’t even say CFB’s overall ratings were down. I just said they were flat. However the title game’s ratings were down which is a fact that can’t be disputed.

The number 2 sport is MLB, but the NBA is gaining on them. The notion that “nobody watches the NBA” usually comes from middle aged Southerners. That is probably because nobody in their immediate circle is a fan of the league. For people under 50, minorities etc (they are ppl too you know!), the NBA might be their 2nd favorite league.

The MLB is going to be in serious trouble soon because their core fanbase is dying off. They haven’t manufactured new stars. And while the game might translate well to older people, younger people are bored by it. It doesn’t translate well to the youtube world. Go watch a video of a Blake Griffin or Lebron dunk. They have 5-7 MILLION views.

Felix

February 11th, 2012
2:11 pm

The average American has been getting shafted by outsourcing employers/corporations, wall street greed and corrupt politicians for so long now that I just don’t think there will be any sympathy for these overpaid, pampered, and showboating NBA players; nor for the owners.

I really don’t think there will be many tears shed by the average Joe over this.

Vol4ever

February 11th, 2012
2:56 pm

These pampered million dollar primadona ballplayers. What a joke, with most people going to work everyday just to make a living. Everyday American worker making $10 bucks an hour and sports charging at least $50 a ticket. Somehow I dont see the American public being sympathetic with players who sit out a week with sore muscles. Ive been a Hawks season ticket holder in the past, but the clown ownership group and the jr high coach they have I will stay away.

kbb

February 11th, 2012
6:45 pm

The Hawks are a hard working rag tag bunch. There are no prima donnas (outside of Josh). For Pete’s sake our All-star is so low key and shy, i dont even know what his voice sounds like. I think perception doesn’t coincide with reality when you apply the stereotypical thug NBA player to the Hawks. The NBA’s new stars have very high Q Ratings as a matter of fact. Durant, Paul, Griffin, Love, Rubio, Lin, Westbrook, etc etc are all likeable guys.

I don’t see how any one can down the NBA and be a fan of the MLB or college football if you are going to throw ethics into the pot. The slime of bigtime athletics in general is disgusting. There are more thugs per capita on the UGA football team than in the NBA. In the MLB we have a bunch of lying steriod freaks. Isn’t the reigning MVP (who by the way no one knows), suspended next season for steroids? Isn’t the most well known player (AROD) a admitted drug abuser. The best pitcher in the league smokes more weed than Rasheed Wallace and Iverson combined (lincecum) and the best hitter in baseball is a crack head (Hamilton). Its not like these other leagues are full of humble choir boys

Eddie "Long" Coat

February 11th, 2012
9:27 pm

Did jesus not die on the cross for our sins? Who cares about injuries ??? Players are human just like you and I…Lets play ball you star struck heathens !!

juice sourcer

February 12th, 2012
7:03 am

A 66 game schedule was and is rediculous. Greed and supidity prevails again.

Paddy

February 12th, 2012
8:35 am

Detlef………the fans are not suffering, they are not going to games in record numbers!

Paddy

February 12th, 2012
8:35 am

Detlef………the fans are not suffering, they are not going to games in record numbers!

Bill

February 12th, 2012
8:21 pm

The injuries are only part of the story. These guys are “pacing themselves” so they can avoid injuries which they knew would rise with less conditioning and rest. They all play defense like the Washington Generals vs. the Globetrotters. Its like the All Star Game or the Pro Bowl. The fact that the Knicks’ Lin, undrafted out of Harvard, drops 38 on the Lakers by shooting open “J’s” from the foul line says it all. I’ll tune in in the second round of the playoffs to see if anyone is playing hard. ‘Til then its college BB for me rather than watch basketball’s equivalent of pro wrestling..

player revolt

February 12th, 2012
9:37 pm

next year, the rich, greedy owners better give the players better benefits and a better schedule to stop these injuries—if not, the players will strike again and not come back until they get a lot more money.

JerryWest

February 12th, 2012
10:27 pm

Now we know why the Hawks take a game or two off every week. We will be fresher in the playoffs.

J

February 15th, 2012
8:12 am

yeah, most of the knucleheads commenting on here have never played 40 minutes of basketball, at the fastest pace possible, back-to-back-to-back days. It’s the equivalent of playing two NFL games within 3-4 days of each other.

i agree though, bravesfan should’ve worked on his jumper. Hey, bravesfan, while you’re bashing the NBA, how about the MLB players that play a simple game and get paid millions as well? Some of those guys are making $25K per plate appearance. Kind of ironic how you come on here and bitch about NBA players making money, but yet you follow a game that also does the same. yeah, we get it, you don’t like the NBA. Now piss off!

J

February 15th, 2012
8:21 am

kbb, you’re pretty much dead on with what you say. southerners don’t follow basketball (take a poll from these blogs, you’ll see that pretty much everyone bashing the Hawks are southerners with blog names that have either dawg or braves in them). the NBA’s ratings last season started to go up higher than they have been in years past due to new emerging stars like Blake Griffin/Kevin Durant. The Clippers game was sold out here last season and OKC is pretty much selling out arenas all over the country. The Knicks are big now b/c of jeremy lin, and we know the asian community supports their players with a fierce passion. I can bet you the Knicks game will now start selling out over the country too.

anywho, how bout them Braves??? haha

Crimson Crush

February 16th, 2012
6:17 am

@kbb

Looks like a person who CLAIMED to be in marketing and “following the numbers every day” would have known that while the BCS ratings were low by over the air broadcast standards … they were the second HIGHEST audience CABLE TV has ever had right behind the BCS game from the year prior .

Why would that be important ? Because the EXACT same way that Monday Night Football was shot in the head several years ago by a move to ESPN , the BCS championship game was moved OFF the free over the air broadcast model and on to a subscription based cable/satellite ESPN ONLY broadcast a year and a half ago .

Pretty basic stuff for a so called “marketing expert who looks at these numbers every day ” to know . I guess they didn’t cover those type subjects when you were going to Bleacherreport University to get your “marketing” degree :-)