NBA’s short offseason, quick restart concern health officials around league

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Health officials around the NBA have expressed concern for how to prepare players for a potential 72-game regular season with a training camp that starts on Dec. 1, less than a month away — especially for the teams that haven’t played games since March and the two conference champions.

“It’s going to be especially challenging to not only get ready to play Dec. 22 or whatever, but to maintain that for a period of four or five months,” said one head athletic trainer of a Western Conference team, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“This is going to be another period of unchartered territory. As unchartered as the [Orlando] bubble was [this summer], this is the bubble times three or four or five [because we’re] trying to extend it to that period of time with a minimal ramp-up.”

The league’s 71-day offseason from its NBA Finals conclusion in mid-October to its resumption on Dec. 22 would mark the shortest offseason in the history of the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB, according to Elias Sports Bureau data.

Trying to jump-start the league in December presents obstacles, these health officials said, especially as they enter a longer slate of games than what teams played in the bubble. And while they acknowledge the financial and scheduling realities in the push to start the next season, health officials point to travel as a health and physical factor that didn’t need to be considered to conclude the 2019-20 season.nike jerseys nfl cheap1

“I’d be more worried about travel, because we saw in the bubble, not having travel really helped guys recover,” said one official intimately involved with player health. “So I don’t know if it’s actually the amount of games [72], but it’s just the fact that you’re getting to 2 a.m. in the morning and you’re traveling now — that becomes a bigger issue.”

League officials are confident that the reduced number of games and adjustments to reduce travel will aid teams. Such adjustments, although not finalized, would include more instances of teams playing the same opponent twice in the same city, as well as instances when teams would play more games against teams in nearby markets. (For example, more teams visiting Los Angeles would play the Lakers and Clippers on the same trip.) One other instance that could reduce travel is limiting one-game road trips.

League officials also noted that a shorter offseason is typical during years in which there is an Olympics or other international offseason, which is to say they believe the timeline players are facing now isn’t unusual.cheap nfl jerseys from china nike

In terms of conditioning, several health officials said they were hopeful that teams would be able to return to game shape in a three-week ramp-up, particularly if they followed the same blueprints as when they had a similar timeline before the Orlando bubble. But they also pointed out that they would have to build up a stronger base of conditioning and strength to last for the 72-game slate, especially to stave off soft-tissue injuries that deconditioned players tend to suffer, such as hamstring strains. It was noted that more players stay in shape in the offseason and have been doing so in the past month as chatter has built about a December restart.

In a late October memo, the NBA informed teams that they’re allowed to open their facilities for offseason group practices and scrimmages of up to 10 players provided that they undergo daily COVID-19 testing — a move several health officials said should help. Still, these officials were unsure about this timeline for the eight teams — Chicago, Atlanta, Golden State, New York, Minnesota, Charlotte, Cleveland and Detroit — that didn’t play in the bubble.

“They haven’t played competitively since March,” said one veteran head athletic trainer for an Eastern Conference team. “How are they gonna react?”

Said one official involved in player health, “I would be more worried about the teams that haven’t played in over eight months, honestly, as opposed to [the other 22] teams.”

In a typical offseason, one Eastern Conference athletic training official noted, players would start returning to the team practice facilities after Labor Day in early September to work out about a month before training camp, which would last about a month.