Athletic Trainers Concerned About Player Health, Safety For 2020-21 NBA Season

With the announcement that the 2020-21 NBA season would tipoff on Dec. 22, teams had to quickly shift to preparing for the upcoming campaign.

The 22 teams invited to the Orlando bubble will have less time to rest and recover than the other eight, and the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat face an even steeper uphill climb. The Lakers and Heat last played on Oct. 11, meaning they will have just about seven weeks before training camp opens on Dec. 1.

Los Angeles and Miami will likely be pacing themselves when the season opens, but the rest of the league may follow suit given the rigors of a 72-game schedule. Injury risk is a massive concern and training staffs will need to approach this even more carefully than usual.

According to Baxter Holmes of ESPN, athletic trainers acknowledged that this ramp-up period will be even more difficult than the one for the bubble:

“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.”

Teams had a couple of months to prepare for the 2019-20 season’s restart, but this is a different challenge altogether as the 2020-21 season will include more games and travel in between. These factors coupled with the threat of contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus) is bound to throw unexpected curveballs at the NBA.

LeBron James was originally against the idea of the earlier start, but later came around because of the financial implications starting later would cause. James is one of the best athletes in professional sports at taking care of his body, but he and the rest of the players will need to take extra precautions to make sure they get through the year in one piece.

How Frank Vogel can manage Lakers

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel was able to limit James and Anthony Davis’ minutes during the 2019-20 season, and will need to do so again if they want to repeat as champions.

Younger players such as Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, and even Talen Horton-Tucker should receive more playing time, allowing the veterans on the roster more time to recuperate. Vogel could also look to strategically sit key guys throughout the year, assuming of course their record affords them some cushion.

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