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Dan Woike: LeBron James on mounting NBA injuries: I told you so
AP

Dan Woike: LeBron James on mounting NBA injuries: I told you so

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls at the Laker bench in the first quarter during game six of the Western Conference first round series at Staples Center on June 03, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.

Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers falls at the Laker bench in the first quarter during game six of the Western Conference first round series at Staples Center on June 03, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Harry How/Getty Images/TNS)

LOS ANGELES — With each cellphone chime, the day got a little crazier.

One tweet said Kawhi Leonard’s knee, which he said was “good” on Monday, was in fact not. He’d miss Game 5 and maybe more. Then one said Stan Van Gundy, the experienced coach and expert communicator hired to shepherd Zion Williamson’s ascent, was out in New Orleans after one season.

Then another chime and Chris Paul was out, placed into the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols (a reminder that the pandemic is still very much happening). And then, like a tiny little morsel of dessert, Scott Brooks and the Washington Wizards parted ways, another head-coaching job suddenly open.

Only then was it time for breakfast.

“Wild-ass morning,” one NBA general manager texted.

Hours later, the Dallas Mavericks shook up their front office, getting rid of general manager Donnie Nelson just days after a report in the Athletic about turmoil in the organization (a report that owner Mark Cuban called “b—”).

But the injuries, in particular Leonard’s, shook the league the hardest.

It was a painful reckoning for the NBA as it approached the finish line of its second pandemic season, the shadows from Kevin Durant’s giant performance Tuesday night quickly undone in a series of league-altering news.

James Young joins Ariel and Ben to discuss what it would look like if the Suns did not have Chris Paul for the Western Conference Finals

Team medical personnel around the NBA are quick to point to the league’s compressed schedule and postseason — decisions driven by a desire to play as many games as possible to satisfy the league’s TV partners while ensuring that the money faucet doesn’t get turned all the way off.

It’s impossible to know if this is bad luck or the result of a tighter schedule in an effort to wrap the playoffs before the Summer Olympics (and to get the NBA back on a normal schedule next season). But the inference is being made — this isn’t coincidence.

LeBron James, a critic of the NBA’s December start, tweeted an “I told you so” on Wednesday.

“They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen. I only wanted to protect the well being of the players which ultimately is the PRODUCT & BENEFIT of OUR GAME! These injuries isn’t just “PART OF THE GAME. It’s the lack of PURE RIM REST rest before starting back up. 8, possibly 9 ALL-STARS has missed Playoff games (most in league history),” he said in a series of tweets. “This is the best of the year for our league and fans but missing a ton of our fav players. It’s insane. If there’s one person that know about the body and how it works all year round it’s ME! I speak for the health of all our players and I hate to see this many injuries this time of the year. Sorry fans wish you guys were seeing all your fav guys right now.”

James then tweeted: “And I know all about the business side (factors too) so don’t even try me! I get it.”

That stat James is referencing is per Elias Sports, with eight All-Stars having missed at least one game in the NBA playoffs — Leonard joining Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Jaylen Brown, Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. Paul will make it nine.

For all of the conversation about the Lakers’ bubble title needing an asterisk, that season ended credibly — James holding the trophy against a healthy Heat team that had navigated the mental challenges of the environment better than almost anyone else.

This year? The Brooklyn Nets, the league’s most talented team, might end up as the eventual champions, but they’ll have gotten there by navigating a playoff more notable for who was missing than for who grabbed the title. (The Nets are still missing one star — Kyrie Irving — and played two others a combined 94 minutes in Game 5, so who knows?)

The Suns said they’ll update Paul’s status Saturday — even if vaccinated, he could miss extended time if he tested positive. He’ll be able to return once he tests negative twice (separated by 24 hours) or if he’s asymptomatic for at least 10 days and gets cleared by medical staff.

The Western Conference finals could start as soon as Sunday.

Even if the Clippers somehow get there, Leonard’s availability would be a real surprise considering his injury history and pending free agency.

But for once, a curse isn’t too blame — at least not according to LeBron James.

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