Harrison Barnes pointed to a new concern for when the NBA season returns
June is always exciting for NBA fans. It’s the time where we see champions crowned and a new regime of players selected in the NBA Draft. It’s the time we typically use to speculate about each and every free agent and the season of player movement that opens on July 1st.
Excitement will remain for NBA fans in June this year, but it’s not the same. We’re excited this year about the NBA resuming its 2019-20 season, and not the conclusion of the season and the turnover to the 2020-21 league calendar.
COVID-19 has changed everything. For a time it seemed as though the NBA returning this year was far-fetched. Now, after having lived with the global pandemic in daily life for months, it seems as though the NBA returning this year is likely.
The NBA has officially announced it’s in discussions with Walt Disney World to complete its season in a campus environment in Orlando. Reports from Adrian Wojnarowski and Keith Smith imply it’s relatively likely the season picks up at some point in WDW.
The format is unknown, even to the NBA, who is still mulling over the best process. A group play setting has been thrown out so as to involve as many teams as possible. The league could jump right to the playoffs. There are a number of ways they could go.
One of the things the league has mentioned it needs to move past — the fear of a few stray positive coronavirus tests. Speculation from multiple reporters in the know seems to say that the league would not completely shut down if a player tested positive in Orlando like it did when Gobert tested positive. Instead, the league would quarantine that lone player and press on, a slightly scary reality to face.
That’s a fear, a big one, in and of itself. It will be one of the main focuses for the league and teams as they carry the season out in whatever format the league moves forward with. But there’s another fear with player health that the league and NBA needs to consider.
Harrison Barnes speaks on concern over NBA player injuries in Orlando
Harrison Barnes, forward for the Sacramento Kings, expressed some concern with the risks over starting the season back up haphazardly with Howard Beck on his podcast, The Full 48. Of course, Barnes first had concerns with the idea of coming to Orlando at all if his team had nothing to play for, siding with Damian Lillard.
Beyond that though, Barnes pointed to something that hasn’t been discussed all that much, the fact that player injuries could be a big issue when the season returns.
Barnes cited the rise in tissue/ligament injuries after the NBA’s most recent lockout.
“You see the rise in soft tissue injuries [after the lockout].” “Training I think during this time is important.”
He went on to talk about how being away from a daily regimen of training for so long can put your body in a weird place. Rust sets in, it becomes unaccustomed to the daily rigors of full-blown athletic competition. Coming back too soon without a gradual lean back into the game can be tough on the body.
“Not everyone has a private gym in their house for the last two and a half months. You know, everyone’s facilities and quality of training has been different. So trying to bring everybody in and starting from that day one phase, you know, it’s going to take a little bit.”
Barnes is right, the lockout season did have an increase in injuries per-day for the start of the year (but not on a per-game basis).
It’s not necessarily a for-sure thing that the injury rate increase can be directly attributed to the lockout, but it makes sense that it was a contributing factor.
It’s worth considering, too, that the lockout season allows for more of a gradual work-up. There is training camp and then regular-season games. While still competitive, they aren’t the full-blown competition that exists in the postseason.
Asking players to jump right into the postseason can launch them into an adrenaline-boosted state where they push the limits of what their body is willing to do. Some players may ignore injuries simply because the adrenal glands are pumping and they literally can’t feel it.
“This is just my personal bias of having a larger window of actual games before the playoffs, because naturally, the body, it’s going to take time,” Barnes said.
Barnes thinks at least three weeks would be needed to get everyone back into game shape on the same page. There’s almost certainly an advantage for players that have had more resources at their disposal, and those that live in apartment complexes likely haven’t had the ability to put the requisite work in to be ready for a jump straight into the playoffs this summer.
Injuries are one of the worst parts of pro sports. It will be something worth keeping an eye on. Hopefully, the appropriate amount of time to get back into shape can be allowed for each team.