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Will Rash of Late-Season Injuries Force NBA to Consider Shorter Season?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 24:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder is looked at by a trainer after a leg injury during Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena on April 24, 2013 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Thunder defeated the Rockets 105-102.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jimmy SpencerNBA Lead WriterApril 27, 2013

Perhaps the Miami Heat should just consider resting their stars through the NBA Finals.

This sweeping fire of injuries has already torched various contenders, underlined by the news on Friday of Russell Westbrook’s pending knee surgery.

The rampant injuries to some of the league’s top superstars late this season include Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, David Lee and Danilo Gallinari. Last season, Derrick Rose went down in the opening round of the postseason.

Add those names to a list that also includes Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger, Amar'e Stoudemire and the larger list of superstars—Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Dwyane Wade—who have missed significant time late in the season in an effort to keep players rested for the postseason.

The harmful effects of a lengthy 82-game season are certainly part of the problem.

The tallying minutes of an extended schedule that includes a lengthy preseason and a protracted postseason calendar take a toll on the body. 

At some point, the excess of games is ruining the product of the league’s sweetheart: its postseason.

The season begins with training camp in September and concludes with the finals in June. A count of the fingers, and yup, that’s 10 calendar months filled with NBA basketball poundings of the body.

There is little time to rest, especially for superstars who play late into the postseason.

It's also important to note that Bryant and Westbrook played for the 2012 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team this past summer. Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love was also part of that Olympic team, and he lost most of his season.

The NBA, as much as revenue drives the huge enterprise, needs to protect its players’ abilities to perform at the highest level. This season, the final product has become watered down because of injuries.

It becomes a game of health as the best team to keep key players off the injured list wins.

That isn’t how it should be. A 70-game schedule would save legs and allow for an enhanced product come the playoffs.

But, of course, there’s way too much money at stake. Millions and millions of Armani-buying cash, for the owners and the players.

If you cut the season by 12 games, that’s also a loss of 15 percent of regular-season revenue. The bottom line is boss, and you can’t expect league owners to cut from the same margins that pay the hefty contracts of these same injured superstars.

There’s no actual incentive for anyone, the owners or the players, to adjust the length of the schedule. And there’s no way the league would cut from its current postseason revenue stream.

Eventually, though, if a watered-down postseason becomes a consistent trend, the league may have to take a closer look at shortening the regular season.

 

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