Friday evening the Los Angeles Lakers were battling the Golden State Warriors for a playoff spot. In the waning minutes of the game, All-Star guard Kobe Bryant goes down in a crumpled heap and tears his Achilles tendon. Done for the season. Done for the next 6 – 8 months. Done are the Lakers hopes for winning a title (what little hope that was after the fiasco that this year has been).
One of the topics this week has been star players in the NBA resting and missing games. For no other reason than resting up for the playoffs. Some of them might have some knick knack injuries to let heal, but there is debate about the others. In particular, Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the morning gets really fired up about this topic insisting that the players should be playing just like they did in the old days.
Fans pay good money for these tickets and should need to see the stars play.
First of all, any fan I talk to usually says they don’t pay any attention to the NBA and if they do, it doesn’t start until the playoffs. What is the knock on most players who are good, it doesn’t mean anything if they can’t win in the postseason.
It doesn’t bother me if a star player sits in the regular season to prep for the playoffs. Cry me a river that the one time you go to an NBA game Lebron sits. Watch a few more regular season games and know a few other players on the court and maybe we can talk.
It is a different day and age than the likes of Larry, Magic, and Michael.
The league has changed since the golden days of the 80’s and even the 90’s. Most of these players are making way more money than their predecessors and management wants to take care of their investment. You see this happening in every sport.
Plus, in basketball these kids are playing way more games than what the older generation did. I know fourth graders that are playing 40 – 50 games in their basketball season. High schoolers play a regular season of 20 games and maybe an extra 8 or 9 if they get to the state title game.
Tack on AAU season and summer ball and that is a lot of games on the body as these kids are trying to grow. Kobe Bryant is 34, but he’s in his 17th year of the NBA. Their bodies are breaking down earlier and earlier. Remember Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O’Neal. They’re shells of themselves and they are younger than Kobe. The body can only take so much.
We also know so much more about the body. If you have older veterans like Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant, you should be preserving their minutes throughout the regular season so they can play well in the playoffs. You can’t run them into the ground like they are in their 20’s and expect them to bounce back. Even a well conditioned veteran is going to have issues.
Upper management for the Lakers caused Kobe’s injury.
Let’s get back to Kobe. The Lakers are an older team. Most of their key players are in their 30’s. They also have specific skill players that fit well for particular systems. No offense to Mike D’Antoni, but when he was hired as coach of the Lakers, it was the wrong fit for these players. His frantic style of offense was going to wear these players down.
I think it did culminating with Kobe’s injury on Friday. Every key player on the Lakers has missed some time because of injury this season. Lots of time. Maybe Kobe would have tore his Achilles anyways, but if he could have averaged less minutes a game and a better system for this team, it might have been different.
Heck, Kobe was being played like a fiend his last games. 45 minutes, 47, 48, 47, 47, 43. I think March 28 was the last game he played less than 40 minutes and that was 36. That is an awful lot for a 34 year old to handle. Upper management should have assessed what they had and picked a better coach (cough…cough Phil Jackson).
Take this lesson for your younger athlete.
This is a topic for another day, but the younger athletes and parents should be aware that the body needs rest and preparation to handle all these games. A fourth grader should not be playing more basketball games than a high schooler. Don’t assume that the youth can recover quickly from these games. Eventually it will take effect. That is why there is a big increase in youth injuries. Major youth injuries.
I know you want your athlete to be the best they can be, but step back and assess the situation. Does he/she need to play one sport year round as a fifth grader with no break into another sport? The chances of that athlete continuing on to play into college is slim. Think about that before you sign up for that stud travel team that will travel all over the world and you fork over tons of dough.
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr