Condensed NBA Schedule Hurts, Leads to Free Agent Signings

The shortened 2011/12 NBA season makes for more games for fans to watch each night, but it's doing a number on the league's players. AP Sports writer Jon Krawczynski examines the effect of the condensed schedule on NBA players.

Pointing to numbers from STATS LLC, Krawczynski notes that 727 games were missed during the first 307 games of the regular season due to injuries and illness. While this is 111 fewer games missed than at the same point last season, the types of injuries observed this season (pulled muscles, turned ankles and bum toes) reveal the stress placed on players' bodies.

"What's kind of stunk about this preseason was that it was so short," said Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver. "Our bodies didn't get acclimated to playing this many games in this many nights. … You'll probably see more injuries, on average, this year, than other years because of that fact."

These injuries have had various consequences, including the signing of free agents as stopgaps. Take Mike James, for example. Derrick Rose's sprained left toe caused him to miss five games in January. His first DNP happened on January 11th, when his backup C.J. Watson was still healing from an injured elbow. This left John Lucas as the sole point guard for the Bulls that evening, compelling the team to sign the veteran point guard James, who was released 17 days later.

A more recent example would be Keith Bogans, the 31-year-old guard signed by the Nets to add some depth while MarShon Brooks recovers from his broken toe and Anthony Morrow deals with a bad ankle. Francisco Elson is yet another example. The 35-year-old center was signed by the Sixers last week to give the team added depth in the middle while Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic recover from injuries.

The cascade of injuries hasn't affected just player signings — they've influenced the way coaches approach practice. According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has cut out full-contact practices during morning shootarounds before games, something he favored before this 66-game schedule.

"You don't want to do too much," he said. "We just try to watch film and do a lot of talking."

Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has adjusted his team's practice schedule, canceling some shootaround practices on game days to give his players more rest.

With the 2011/12 NBA season about a one-third finished, we can expect to see more unexpected signings to plug the holes in rosters riddled by injuries.

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