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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: The 2020-21 NBA season has been a disaster

David Skinner

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton warms up on the court prior to his NBA Summer League debut versus the Dallas Mavericks on July 6, 2018, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.

I remember the 2019-20 NBA finals like they were yesterday. Watching LeBron James and Anthony Davis embrace as they and the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned NBA champions at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World. It had been 10 years since I saw the Lakers win a title and I was even more excited because I knew they were good enough to repeat. 

Instead, I have watched their season and the entire NBA fall apart right before my very eyes. 

It all started when the NBA announced that the season would begin on Dec. 22, 2020. Since last year’s season was suspended in March and did not resume until July, the Lakers played their final game on Oct. 11. That meant teams like the Lakers and Miami Heat would only get around two months off, which was the shortest offseason in NBA history. Other teams that were in the bubble, such as the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks, would also have a shortened offseason. In a normal season, teams that do not make the playoffs get around six months off. Even teams that make the finals get around four months off. 

Athletes, especially NBA players, need the offseason to heal and rest their bodies. The NBA did not care about player needs and would not budge on opening day. 

What also made no sense is why there had to be an All-Star game this year. With most cities still in lockdown at the time and many players and teams were forced to miss games because of the pandemic, was the All-Star game necessary? I understand that it was a part of contract negotiations, but the NBA should have known better. Plus, none of the players wanted to even participate. Many were still recovering from injuries since they could not do that with a shortened offseason. 

Speaking of injuries, let’s get into that, since the only news coming out of the NBA right now is who else got injured.

I will start with my team who got the least amount of rest, the Los Angeles Lakers. Fatigue was starting to set in around early January due to the shortened offseason. It was all downhill after that. Power forward Anthony Davis got hurt against the Nuggets and has been out since Feb. 14 because of a right calf strain. Small forward LeBron James sprained his ankle in the first game of the season but, being the king, he played through the sprain all year. Then on March 20 against the Atlanta Hawks, forward Solomon Hill leapt for a loose ball and fell on James’ ankle. This time, James would not overcome the injury and was forced to miss significant time. Several other players on the roster have also missed time due to sprains and strained muscles. 

RELATED: OPINION: Are the Phoenix Suns contenders or pretenders?

Their cross-court rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, have also had injury woes. Shooting guard Paul George is now classified as day-to-day because of a foot injury he sustained in February, which caused him to miss seven consecutive games. The Clippers have also been without their newly acquired center Serge Ibaka. Ibaka went down March 14 has missed 15 games because of a back injury and has no timetable for return. Point guard Patrick Beverly fractured his right hand on April 8 and is expected to miss at least a month. Even their star small forward Kawhi Leonard is out with a foot injury and will miss his third straight game. 

Even a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder could not escape injuries. Starting point guard and franchise player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander injured his foot March 22 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and has not returned. Power forward Mike Muscala recently injured his ankle against Golden State on April 14 and has no timetable for return. 

Some of the saddest news was when Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray tore his ACL against the Golden State Warriors on April 12. To make matters worse, he tore it with only 50.6 seconds left in a game where the Nuggets were more than likely going to lose. I had written a column about how excited I was to see him, and Aaron Gordon play together, but now that is not going to happen. 

I thought the news of Murray would be the worst, but it is not. While writing this, Utah Jazz shooting guard Donavan Mitchell went down with an ankle injury and is expected to miss several games. The Jazz are currently the No. 1 seed in the West and are having one of their best seasons ever. While they will still easily make the playoffs, it is so frustrating to now see Mitchell go down with an injury. 

If you think only the West faced these awful injury reports, there were plenty of trouble in the East.

Indiana Pacers small forward T.J. Warren, who made a ton of noise last year in the playoffs, is out for the season. He only played in four games before he hurt his foot. Center Miles Turner hurt his ankle against the Chicago Bulls on April 6, and he has no timetable for return. 

The Miami Heat, who had as much rest as the Lakers did (which was none), have been plagued by injury. Small forward Jimmy Butler missed a lot of time at the beginning of the season and most recently had an ankle injury scare. Shooting guard Victor Oladipo hurt his knee on April 8 against the Lakers and the team is not sure when he will play next. 

Back-to-back MVP winner and defensive player of the year Giannis Antetokounmpo missed significant time for the first time in his career. Antetokounmpo missed seven out of 12 games, including five straight. He is returning to action, but he had never missed more than two consecutive games in his career. 

The Brooklyn Nets have felt it just as hard too. After signing small forward Kevin Durant while he was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon last year, Durant missed 23 consecutive games this year because of a strained left hamstring. His new teammate James Harden also suffered a hamstring injury on April 5 against the New York Knicks, and he will not return till the end of April, maybe. The Nets also lost shooting guard Tyler Johnson and point guard Spencer Dinwiddie for the season. It was also tough when newly acquired center LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement due to health issues. 

What all these teams have in common is that they were all in the bubble last year during the playoffs. None of these players got the proper rest they needed, which is why I believe that so many of them are getting hurt. 

Now with all these superstars hurt, I think it is fair to call the legitimacy of MVP into question this year. With players like James, Durant, Harden and Murray now out of the run, who really deserves it? 

Even the rookie of the year award can be called into question. It will most likely go to T-Wolves big man Anthony Edwards. Only problem is the two rookies who were competing and were likely to win it above him also went down with injuries. Warriors rookie center James Wiseman tore his meniscus on April 10 against the Houston Rockets, and Charlotte Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball fractured his right wrist on March 20 against the Clippers. Both young men were coming of multiple back-to-backs, or “trap games.” In another insane move by the NBA, they decided it would be a good idea to play four games in five days, hence why the players are trapped. These games, along with the shortened season, have caused so many injuries to stars and role player alike, it is enough to make you sick. 

While these men are athletes, they are human. Even the toughest person on the planet cannot play on a torn ACL or a shattered wrist. What has happened this season should never happen again in the NBA, or in any other sport.  

Follow Sean Fagan on Twitter 

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