The NBA and a future of uncertainty; has greed ruined the league? ( Comment )
One night, two ACL tears.
One night, two ACL tears.
Any realistic title aspirations the Chicago Bulls had were vanquished in seconds when their franchise player and the reigning league MVP crumpled to the court in the dying seconds of the Bull’s game this past Saturday night.
Later in the evening, it was the Knicks who received their blow, albeit less fatal.
Iman Shumpert, an emerging rookie shooting guard and New York’s best perimeter defender tore his ACL in Game 1 of their first round match-up against the Miami Heat.
As one of the truly elite players in the league Rose’s injury took the spotlight from Shumpert.
The first reaction, aside from disappointment, was pointed rage at Bulls head coach Tom Thibodea.
With the Bulls carrying a double digit lead with less than two minutes to play, many questioned why Rose, who missed 27 games this season due to various injuries, was on the court.
The Bulls GM was quick to stand by his coach and Thibodea’s explanation made sense.
“I do not work backward like you guys,” he told media after the game.
“The score was going the other way. He’s got to play. Derrick has to work on finishing, on closing. Our team did not handle that part great. That’s what I was thinking.”
Basketball is a game of momentum. The Sixers were making a late push and with volatile scorers Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday on the court anything could happen.
The L.A. Clippers proved it the following night by overcoming a 27-point deficit to upset the Memphis Grizzlies, 99-98 in one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history.
Trailing 95-71 with 9:13 remaining in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series against Memphis, the Clippers held the Grizzlies to just one field goal the rest of the game while piling up the points on their end.
It was a burst of momentum, with the Clippers catching fire in the final minutes, depleting the energy of the Grizzlies and silencing the hometown crowd.
Thibodea’s reasoning for playing Rose is perfectly acceptable.
What’s not acceptable is for NBA commissioner David Stern to deny the notion that this lockout shortened season has had serious repercussions on the health of his league.
With the franchise owners and the players union greedily bickering over a new collective bargaining agreement for 161 days just months ago, the NBA season was reduced from 82 games to 66.
Those 66 games occurred over four months.
In a regular season, teams play 82 games over six months.
The physical and mental endurance of the players, coaches and referees were put to the test this year.
Every team played in back-to-back-to-back scenarios multiple times, while cramming in practice sessions and basically eliminating any time away from the hardwood to recuperate.
An increased rate of play combined with decreased period of rest. Certainly seems like a recipe for injuries.
When the lockout was completed, the league was up and running within two weeks.
Stern was adamant about getting in 66 games. He recognized that the last lockout-shortened season of 50 games in 1999 is now viewed with an asterisk beside it. It’s seen as an incomplete season, not a true test of the players and their abilities.
“I think it will be received as completely legitimate,’’ Stern told the New York Post in regards to this years season.
“People will look back and say they got here and we’re glad they got here with a 66-game schedule, rather than a 50-game season.”
Stern made sure the league debuted on Christmas Day, with only a couple of weeks of training camp and two pre-season games available for each team.
The sooner the product was back on the floor, the sooner the money was back in the league’s pockets.
The ill effects of the unrelenting pace of this season were notable early in the year.
The games were sloppy. The players were out of shape. The scores fluctuated greatly.
The only thing constant throughout the league was the rapid fire schedule.
The halfway point of the season gave way to one of the most disappointing All-Star weekends in recent memory.
The slam dunk contest, a fan favorite, was embarrassing.
The game itself, while still entertaining, was played a noticeably lackadaisical pace.
By rushing the players back onto the court Stern drastically reduced the value of his product.
Not only has this season been disappointing, the wear and tear of the increased play could tack years onto the health of the league’s premier players.
Only a handful of players remain from the NBA’s renaissance in the late 90s.
Players like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Steve Nash.
These guys are already playing on borrowed time. This season could be the final time the fans are able to see them play, fully healthy.
The short sightedness of this circus is the most disturbing part.
The health of the players represents the health of the league.
While younger talent waits in the wings to take over for the fading stars and veteran players, their natural abilities are trumped by years of experience and accumulated success.
The next generation of NBA stars face a long journey before they’ve built up similar fan followings and achieved the same measures of success.
And the viewers that decided they would pay attention to the league for the first time this season? They probably won’t be coming back.
In an attempt to salvage as much profit as possible and to prevent this season from being marked with an asterisk, Stern has placed an even bigger mark beside it.
This season will be remembered for the injuries, the inconsistency and the lack of trust, lack of accountability and a lack of awareness by management.
The players that failed to qualify for the post-season, the ones that are already enjoying some down time on the golf course and preparing their summer training regimes, may actually be the leagues luckiest players.
With the Summer Olympics beginning in July, the leagues brightest stars will once again be denied an opportunity to repair and refuel.
The harmful effects of this ill-prepared season are evident now, but the long-term effects are still to be felt.