‘They all didn’t wanna listen to me:’ Lebron James criticizes NBA as stars sit out playoffs with injuries

The Donlon Report

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – MAY 23: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns is looked at by team trainers after an injury during the first half of Game One of the Western Conference first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers at Phoenix Suns Arena on May 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — NBA superstar Lebron James has a message for the league: I told you so. James went on a Twitter rant after Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers missed Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals due to injury, saying he warned the short off-season would lead to players getting hurt.

“This is the best time of the year for our league and fans but missing a ton of our fav players,” James tweeted on Wednesday. “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.”

Leonard isn’t the only one stuck on the sidelines. Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving has been sidelined by a badly sprained ankle. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid is playing through a meniscus tear. Atlanta’s Trae Young is putting heat packs on his shoulder that appear to be roughly the size of a small vehicle. Brooklyn’s James Harden came back despite an ailing hamstring.

There were plenty of other top players — the Lakers’ duo of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Denver’s Jamal Murray and Miami’s Victor Oladipo among them — that also either limped to the finish of their seasons or saw them end prematurely because of serious injury.

Of the 27 players who were selected for the All-Star Game this season, Leonard was the eighth to have to miss a playoff game this season because of injury, joining Davis, Utah teammates Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Harden, Irving and Embiid.

Phoenix’s Chris Paul might become the ninth on that list. He’s not hurt. Paul — who is vaccinated — is in coronavirus protocols, leaving his status for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals next week in the air.

“Our guys are ready for the challenge,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “Everybody’s dealing with it. Look around the league; Philly’s got a situation, the Clippers have a situation, Utah’s had one for a while. Everybody’s dealing with it. So, we don’t feel like we’re the only ones dealing with a situation when it comes to health and trying to stay healthy. It’s what you prepare for as a staff and as a team and we feel like our guys are ready for whatever presents itself.”

Some injuries, it can be argued, may have happened because of an accumulation of wear and tear in a compressed 72-game season.

Others were simply acute, the bad luck variety. Irving landed on Giannis Antetokounmpo’s foot and twisted his ankle, while James himself labored through a high ankle sprain after getting crashed into by Atlanta’s Solomon Hill.

“Injury rates were virtually the same this season as they were during the 2019-20 season while starter-level and All-Star players missed games due to injury at similar rates as the last three seasons,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “While injuries are an unfortunate reality of our game, we recognize the enormous sacrifices NBA players and teams have made to play through this pandemic.”

Injuries also played a role in last season’s playoffs, and probably have in every season’s playoffs. Miami was without Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo for much of the NBA Finals last fall against James, Davis and the Lakers; the Heat lost that series in six games.

A month or so from now, the NBA will have a new champion. Odds are, it’ll be the team that stays the healthiest the rest of the way.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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