NBA Champion May Be Last Team Standing

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The Milwaukee Bucks were in the midst of a comeback against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, which lacked their top player Trae Young. A win would have put the team on the brink of making their first NBA final since 1974, as the Bucks advanced by two games to one in the best-of-seven series of the Eastern Conference finals.

Then a nightmare ensued in the third quarter: Bucks star and one of the best players in the league, Giannis Antetokounmpo, landed awkwardly as he tried to defend a tight dunk and collapsed, clutching his left knee and writhing in pain. With the help of his brother and teammate Thanasis, he limped off the field and never came back.

The Bucks lost the game and it’s unclear whether Giannis Antetokounmpo will be able to return for the duration of the series, with his left knee overstretched, the team said. On top of that, Antetokounmpo’s injury has discouraged NBA fans, who continue to hope that a wave of injuries will subside among the league’s biggest stars, and has highlighted questions about what it would mean for a team to emerge from a weak court as champions.

A record nine All-Stars have missed at least one game at the end of this season, and the number is poised to rise once again if Antetokounmpo fails to play in Game 5 in Milwaukee on Thursday. At a time when the NBA had its biggest spotlight, absences pushed the league’s most popular players aside. They also opened the door for a newly-started Hawks team to make an unexpected title race, despite not being seen as a top team prior to the season.

In a league where championships are often used to define a player’s legacy, being able to tick this box is important. But the sheer number of injuries that have knocked down some of the post-season’s most high-profile rivals will inevitably raise questions about whether some people will give this year’s title the dreaded asterisk treatment, a symbol of a flawed championship. Former coach Phil Jackson once described the 1999 San Antonio Spurs championship. came after the shortened regular season, as a “star”. The Houston Rockets’ two titles in the 1990s – one after Michael Jordan retired and the other months after his return late in the regular season – are viewed by some as the same.

“Playing during the pandemic this season has brought a number of challenges, and the physical and emotional cost for everyone involved has been enormous,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said in a statement. Said. “While injuries are unfortunate, they are a fact of our game every year, especially in these depths of the playoffs. Just like last season, this season’s eventual winner will overcome many challenges and prove to be a worthy champion.”

Other league figures already refute the chatter.

“There is no asterisk,” said Stan Van Gundy, who was recently fired as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. In a Twitter post on Wednesday. “The challenges of the last two seasons may be different from previous seasons, but last year the Lakers and whoever wins this year have handled them better than anyone else. Starless champions.”

There has been a fierce debate for months about the guilt of a compressed schedule for a shortened off-season and injury rates. Various team officials and players, notably LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, attributed this season’s wave of injuries to the difficulty of back-to-back seasons. The decision to play the 2019-20 show in a restricted-access balloon environment at Walt Disney World in Florida due to the pandemic has brought many physical and mental health issues to the players. Then, just 72 days after the Lakers won the title against Miami, this season kicked off.

League officials countered, insisting that injury rates have remained consistent with recent seasons, without disclosing the methodology or any details behind the data. As the losses of shooting star players increase from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the question of what it means to win in a year like this when so many stars are missing increases in volume. Even Antetokounmpo’s star counterpart in the Eastern Conference finals was injured, Young: He was sidelined in Game 4 due to a bone bruise on his right foot caused by accidental contact with a referee. It is unclear when and when he will return.

“So, for me, a champion is a champion,” said 10-year NBA veteran center Enes Kanter, who spent last season with the Portland Trail Blazers. It doesn’t matter if it’s the NBA bubble or injuries or something like that.”

Missing stars are fueling discussions about the upcoming season. Last year, there was even doubt that he would become a crowned champion due to the pandemic. This season, the stakes are different: Injuries derail a potential juggernaut with all-time talent (The Nets), a breakthrough for the blooming stars (Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics; Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets) and a chance at redemption. For the best-seeded Utah Jazz (Mike Conley) after last year’s first-round disappointment. There was also the quest for James’ fifth championship ring, which would tie him to Kobe Bryant and bring him closer to the six that are more fodder for the debate over who Michael Jordan’s greatest player in league history is.

Los Angeles Clippers best player Kawhi Leonard missed his eighth game Wednesday night after spraining his right knee in the Western Conference finals. His team continued Eliminated by Phoenix Suns Game 6, after losing 130-103. The Clippers were another team seeking justification after a playoff slump last year. Without Leonard, the team faced long odds.

Injury problems for top players began in the regular season and continued into the playoffs. On the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell came back to help the Jazz win the series after missing the last 16 games of the regular season and Utah’s first playoff game against the Memphis Grizzlies due to a sprained right ankle. Celtics’ Brown missed the end of the regular season and the team’s first-round streak against the Nets due to a torn ligament in his left wrist. One of the major injuries was in Denver Nuggets shooting guard Murray, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament of the left knee in April, and was removed from the game for the remainder of the season.

Team training personnel have long had a hard time attributing injuries to overuse, but the relentless wave of high-load players has put pressure on the NBA to provide further evidence that this season’s busy schedule, even with reduced travel, is not an injury accelerator. . Nets guard James Harden, for example, started the season quite shy of the top in Houston and then began playing heavy minutes for the Nets, making it difficult to determine what caused the hamstring injury that made him one of nine All-Stars. Missing at least one game during the playoffs.

Others like Young, Antetokounmpo, and the Nets’ Kyrie Irving, who sprained his ankle, have all been injured by the unfortunate landings that tend to be inevitable in basketball. Still, some of the injuries suffered by players were the kinds that medical professionals often attributed to overuse and insufficient recovery time. 16 – will end just before the Olympics in Tokyo next month.

All of this has had ripple effects that will affect the league for years to come, especially depending on who wins the championship.

In search of the Phoenix Suns’ first championship ring, 36-year-old All-Star quarterback Chris Paul missed the first two games of the Western Conference finals after he reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s an unfair burden, perhaps, but a win in the finals would cement Paul’s place as one of the best quarterbacks in NBA history. Without one—as players like Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Steve Nash, John Stockton, and Karl Malone have seen—many will always see their resume as incomplete.

The decision to start the season right after the last season and play in the tight five-month gap was not just tied to the league. It was done together with the players and their union. Instead of starting the season with fewer games in mid-January, both the league and its players have managed to generate an estimated $500 million in television and other revenue by starting the season. However, it was a bumpy year with dozens of games rescheduled as a result of health protocols regarding Covid-19, leading teams to play more games with tight returns late in the season.

What’s clear: Injuries have plagued these playoffs nonstop. Every season and every postseason has an injury component, but there’s a growing feeling that the next NBA champion will be luckier than good. The trophy can go to the healthiest team as opposed to the best.



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