Got sprained in knee. Strained hamstrings. Curved ankle. Shattered hopes.
The NBA playoffs have turned into a battle of strife as the league with many of its big stars have a growing list of injuries. No less than LeBron James, whose Los Angeles Lakers made exit the first round in a hurry He lost weight on Wednesday, blaming the league’s compressed schedule after his All-Star teammate Anthony Davis hurt his knee (and then his groin). Regular-season games began in December after a brief off-season.
“They all didn’t want to hear me talk about the start of the season,” James wrote on Twitter. “I knew exactly what would happen.”
It is worth noting that the league and its players’ union agreed on the program.
But injuries were a problem for many NBA teams even before the start of the playoffs – the Denver Nuggets, for example, were left without their starting point guard Jamal Murray when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in April. Was – and a fresh season’s post-injury batch has only exacerbated the issue. In fact, with two-plus playoff rounds remaining, the NBA has already set an outrageous record: Eight All-Stars (and counting, probably) have missed at least one postseason game.
Here’s a look at those players, and how their injuries and absences have affected their teams:
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers
Injury: Leonard was huge for the Clippers in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Utah Jazz on Monday, ending with 31 points and 7 rebounds in a win that also leveled the best-of-seven series in two games. But the Clippers’ victory proved costly: Leonard sprained his right knee.
effect: Leonard was expected to miss Game 5 on Wednesday night, and the Clippers did not offer a timetable for his return. One of the top two-way players in the league, Leonard is vital to the Clippers’ championship hopes. There is also a sense of urgency to the franchise, which has never made convention last and has been banking on the star-studded pair Leonard and Paul to help George land his first title: Leonard can opt for free agency after the season. Another disappointment could come in their decision in the playoffs. The Clippers would prefer that they didn’t have to find out.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
Injury: After helping the Lakers win it all last seasonDavies stumbled in the 2020-21 regular season, missing almost two months with a calf strain. It only got worse for him in the Lakers’ first-round series with the Phoenix Suns, as he injured his knee and groin.
effect: Despite spraining his left knee in Game 3 against the Suns, Davis played through the pain. to win. But he strained his waist in Game 4, then missed Game 5. He went limp in the early stages of Game 6 before going to the locker room in pain, and the Lakers lost the game and series Without him. The Lakers expected a strong title defense. Davis blamed himself. “We just couldn’t stay healthy,” he said. “A lot of that is on me.
James Harden, Brooklyn Nets
Injury: Harden, holding his hamstring, took less than a minute to skip Game 1 of the Nets’ second-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. Harden missed the next three games before making a last-second decision to play in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The same hamstring strain caused Harden to miss most of the last month of the regular season.
effect: The Nets’ top three stars – Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving—played only eight games together during the regular season. Harden is one of the most productive scorers in NBA history, and he was largely ineffective in his return Tuesday night in Brooklyn, with only 5 points and one field goal. Without Harden’s ability to shoot and play, and coupled with the loss of Irving, the Nets’ path to the championship becomes much more difficult. However, Harden is expected to play in Game 6 on Thursday in Milwaukee.
Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets
Injury: During the second quarter of Game 4 against the Bucks, Irving sprained his right ankle when he landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s right leg after a layup. He is out indefinitely.
effect: Losing just Irving, given the depth of the nets, would probably be a storm the team could weather. But his defeat, along with Harden’s problematic hamstrings, leaves the nets more vulnerable. This puts pressure on Durant to produce historic numbers like he did in Game 5 against the Bucks (49 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists). But even without Irving, the Nets, as he showed on Tuesday night, might be deep enough to get by without him. role players like Jeff Green continue showing.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Injury: Embiid sustained a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in the 76ers’ first-round series with the Washington Wizards after suffering a left knee injury for a couple of weeks during the regular season.
effect: Despite the apparent severity of his injury, Embiid has only been out once – Game 5 against the Wizards, which the 76ers won to close the series. He was brilliant in his conference semifinal series debut with the Atlanta Hawks, averaging 35.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, as the 76ers took a 2–1 series lead.
However, he struggled in a Game 4 loss, shooting 4 for 20 off the field, including a 0 for 12 in the second half. He later admitted that his knee was bothering him. “As far as being 100 percent goes, I don’t think it’s going to be until the year is really over,” Embiid told reporters. “I just have to go out and manage it.”
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazoo
Injury: Mitchell missed the last 16 regular-season games and Utah’s playoff opener against the Memphis Grizzlies because of a sprained right ankle.
effect: The Jazz lost their first playoff game without Mitchell against Memphis. After Mitchell returned for Game 2, the Jazz dominated the series. Mitchell averaged 28.5 points and 5.8 assists in four games on 45 percent shooting. In Utah’s second-round match against the Clippers, Mitchell has been even more impressive, scoring 37.3 points a game on 46.8 percent shooting during the first four games.
Mike Conley, Utah Jazoo
Injury: Conley missed Utah’s semi-final series against the Clippers due to a right hamstring strain. He also missed 20 games during the regular season due to hamstring-related injuries or rest.
effect: Conley, while healthy, is the starting point guard for the Jazz. In a team that sometimes relies heavily on Mitchell to make plays, Conley is another player who can help break down defenses to take the pressure off Mitchell. During the regular season, Conley made his first All-Star appearance and averaged 16.2 points and 6 assists per game on 44.4 percent shooting, placing him firmly in the upper tier of the NBA guard.
Jaylen Brown, Boston Celtics
Injury: The Celtics announced on May 10 that Brown would miss the end of the regular season and the entire post season due to a torn ligament in his left wrist.
effect: Brown established himself as a star this season, averaging 24.7 points and 6 rebounds per game. He also made his first All-Star team. But his presence didn’t make much of a difference in the playoffs, where the Celtics lost five games in the first round to heavy favorites the Nets.