NBA commissioner David Stern seems to be opening up to the idea that his league's lockout-shortened 66-game schedule could be a contributing cause to a recent rash of injuries.
Asked by Jim Rome on CBS Sports Network on Tuesday whether the schedule and the injuries were linked, Stern softened his stance, which was a firm denial as recently as last week.
"I don't know," Stern said. "As I was reading about it this morning, I think there's some part of it that may be related to that. Some part of it is luck. Some part of it is lack of preparedness by our players before the season began. It's a combination of things."
During the first round of the playoffs, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and New York Knicks guards Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis all went down with season-ending knee injuries. After Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, went down, Stern said there was no substance to those questioning the league's decision to play a 66-game schedule that didn't begin until Christmas due to the lockout and ongoing labor negotiations.
"I don't think it's related at all. Zero," Stern said on ESPN Radio on April 30, in reference to Rose's injury being impacted by the schedule. "When anything happens, [second-guessing is] going to happen. But I was just reading something from a doctor who said that he just doesn't believe it. There's no evidence that the wear and tear ... and on Derrick it's kind of interesting, it was horrible to watch, but he was out. He missed 27 games earlier this year, so he only played in 40 of those games that we had in this quote condensed schedule. So what's your suggestion?"
On Tuesday, Stern said there hasn't been an inordinate amount of knee injuries this year, despite the high-profile postseason string.
"We've done all the numbers," he said. "We think there are actually about the same number of injuries. When Derrick Rose went down with his ACL everyone said it's the compressed schedule. Usually you have five of those a year, this year we had two before the playoffs and now we have two in the playoffs, so now we have four."
He did acknowledge that a great portion of games were lost due to injury this season than in prior seasons because of the condensed nature of the schedule.
"The one thing I do know, we've had more lost games because of injuries because the compressed schedule takes away a day of rest for a minor injury," he said. "And therefore the player is kept out by his coach for what is a game taht would have been an off day before."
Stern said the NBA plans to conduct a review of the injury data following the season, noting that other factors, such as offseason training and in-season practice schedules could play a role in the discussion.
"We're going to look at the precise numbers at the end of the season and we'll try to have a view of it," he said. "It's spread out differently as well. Some teams don't practice, some teams do. I don't know whether it relates. Some teams worked out with players alone all summer, some didn't. We're going to try to see if we can learn something from this compressed season."
As for whether the NBA would consider adopting a shorter, more compact schedule in the future, Stern said he had heard media voices who would support the idea but said that significant financial roadblocks stand in the way of any deviation from a standard 82-game season.
"The reason we don't make it a shorter year is because of the infrastructure that's been built," he said. "You've got all of these buildings that have been selling an 82-game schedule, you have these local TV deals, these network TV deals, we would have to negotiate with our players to take 20 percent less in salary every year, that is a problem."