Injuries and the NBA Playoffs

Fisher DiSimone, Staff Writer

Injuries have been a large problem in not just basketball, but rather all sports across the globe. However, are players starting to intentionally injure other players? The answer is unclear as of right now, but these injuries play a large part in the outcome of a series. For example, if a team has one major player that carries the team in a majority of categories and he goes down with an injury, this once-playoff team turns into a lottery team. Yes, there are other instances where a star player goes down and the rest of the team rallies and ties together some wins, but this is unlikely.

The 2022 NBA Playoffs have been electric so far. With absolute walking highlight reels, to bona fide legends once their career ends, it has been fun to say the least. What if we take those players away though? What happens without Ja Morant’s bunny hopping ability, Joel Embiid’s dominating presence, and even Luka Doncic’s magic on every play? Even players like Steph Curry are missing some minutes due to injury. And it’s not just injury that’s messing with the fate of some NBA teams. Covid-19 Protocols are still lingering, with Paul George being one of the most recent victims, the day before his Play-In Tournament elimination game which gave the Clippers their inevitable loss. What if he played in that game? They could’ve won, but we will never know. 

Nonetheless, the biggest mystery of the NBA playoffs took place in the Warriors vs Grizzlies round two series, where Grizzlies forward Dillion Brooks appeared to have intentionally injured a player twice. Now this hasn’t been confirmed, but the plays were quite puzzling to say the least; anyone with a solid knowledge of sports in general can say that this wasn’t a “basketball play,” but more like UFC or WWE. His first offense was against Warriors guard Gary Payton II where he smacked him on the side of the head as he was going for a layup.This was a flagrant 2 foul, which got him ejected and suspended for the next game. We thought it would end there. However, in game 6 Brooks had another interesting “basketball play” on none other than Steph Curry. This play had Brooks unnecessarily shoving Curry to the ground with no motive, earning him a flagrant 1 and ultimately remaining in the game afterward. Since this series was 3-2 (Warriors lead) at the time of that second foul, what if Steph Curry got hurt? The star player on the Warriors and possibly the greatest shooter of all time could have been out for the rest of the series. Yes, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson are both tremendous players, but with a team’s best player out it certainly doesn’t help their chances at winning the series. 

A star playing getting hurt and affecting the whole series actually did happen this playoffs. Philadelphia 76ers star player Joel Embiid had to play through multiple injuries to keep his team alive against two tough teams. This definitely put a toll on the superstar big man. These injuries weren’t small things either. Embiid was diagnosed with a mild concussion and an orbital fracture, ultimately keeping him from playing the first two games in the second round against Miami. These games without Embiid were absolute blowouts, with the Heat winning by 10+ each night. Embiid’s impact was also seen in bold as the backup center for Philly, NBA veteran DeAndre Jordan, was an absolute liability on the defensive end, something Joel Embiid specializes in. For example, Miami Heat star center Bam Adebayo had a 90% FG% against DeAndre Jordan in games 1 & 2, then suddenly in game 3 with Embiid back that jumped all the way down to 22%. His defensive presence was obvious in his return, and he also added 18 points on the other end. Despite the 76ers losing this series in the end, Joel Embiid played his absolute heart out through many injuries. Who knows what could’ve happened if he played those first two games in Miami.

Yes, injuries in sports are inevitable in any case, but if players start going down the road of intentionally injuring players for their own benefit, things won’t look good for the NBA as a whole. The playoffs this year have been far from boring, from back-to-back game 7s, to the former juggernauts of the NBA like the Phoenix Suns falling to surprise teams like the Mavericks. However, if the star players that create this electric, entertaining environment are out due to (sometimes purposeful),that would be catastrophic for the game of basketball.

* photo via Google Images under the Creative Commons license