The tweet comes after Kawhi Leonard’s possible ACL injury, via Shams Charania, The Athletic but it’s the crux of an NBA playoff run that has seen major injuries to stars like Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Mike Conley, and Murray himself among others.
Even the Western Conference Finalist Phoenix Suns might be without their star point guard Chris Paul after testing positive to COVID-19 according to John Gambadro, Arizona Sports.
The injury news comes at a sensitive time for the league after aiming to push this shortened season through so that it doesn’t clash with the Tokyo Olympics or the 2021-22 NBA season.
Even though the season only went for 72 games, the Denver Nuggets were the last team remaining who progressed past the first round out of the 2019-20 NBA Bubble Conference Finalists. Each of the other teams dealt with injuries or just couldn’t retain the same ‘mojo’ from the season prior.
So, that leads us back to Jamal Murray’s tweet. Is this year’s NBA champion simply going to be the healthiest? The last one standing?
Jeff Stotts, certified athletic trainer and operator of the NBA injury/health blog In Street Clothes says it’s just a matter of time until we know the severity of Kawhi’s ACL injury:
Without their best player, are the LA Clippers hopeless against the Utah Jazz? Utah guard Donovan Mitchell is “playing through pain” in this series with his own injury issues.
Can the Suns beat the winner of those two without Chris Paul? Backup guard Cam Payne might still have a sore nose from Game 4 against Denver…
On the other side of the bracket, there’s a world in which the Brooklyn Nets get past the Milwaukee Bucks without Kyrie Irving and James Harden not at 100 percent. Can Joel Embiid stay on the court if he’s to eventually meet them in the Eastern Conference Finals?
And it’s more than just Jamal talking about the injuries, LeBron James spoke about the issue in his own tweet thread:
"“They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t (sic) just “PART OF THE GAME”. It’s the lack of PURE RIM REST rest before starting back up. 8, possibly 9 ALL-STARS has missed Playoff games (most in league history). This is the best time of the year for our league and fans but missing a ton of our fav players. It’s insane. If there’s one person that know about the body and how it works all year round it’s ME! I speak for the health of all our players and I hate to see this many injuries this time of the year. Sorry fans wish you guys were seeing all your fav guys right now.”"
Before the Jamal Murray injury, FiveThirtyEight gave the Denver Nuggets about a ten percent chance at winning its first NBA championship. Immediately after, it dropped to four percent and we just watched how much they got beaten by the Phoenix Suns, a fully healthy team.
Injuries always play a part in NBA title runs and the playoffs. What’s different about this season is that it’s shortened. Are these injuries in the playoffs a product of the NBA being a grueling game to play? Or are they a result of the increased load on players?
Even with the injuries though, there has still been some of the best basketball we have ever seen. There are Denver’s high-scoring games against Portland, Trae Young’s playoff introduction in New York, and more recently, Kevin Durant’s best game of his career. And that’s just to name a few.
At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and while it might’ve made health sense to delay the start of the season, maybe even skip this season, the NBA has prioritized playing games and finding a champion.
The NBA’s debt is three-times its revenue according to disclosures by Fitch Ratings. Let’s hope it’s aim of decreasing that number isn’t ruining the on-court product.