Several NBA general managers and team health officials contend the league's compressed schedule is leading to a surge in injuries.
"Hands down, it's the worst schedule I've seen in 25 years in the league," said one veteran assistant coach. "It's utterly insane."
One veteran NBA head coach called it "brutal."
A veteran NBA head athletic trainer said it is far worse than the restart last July in Orlando.
"Going into the bubble, we had all these different anxieties about the games, but without travel," the head athletic trainer said. "This is literally exponentially more difficult. It's such a cumulative effect."
Added one NBA GM, "I've never experienced anything like our injury spate."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 2021 All-Stars have missed 15% of games this season, on pace to be the second-highest rate in NBA history. The only season that saw a higher rate was the 2014-15 season (16.8%).
"Every dumb soft-tissue [injury] that can happen is happening and will only get worse," the NBA GM said.
"In planning both this season and last season, we have communicated on a daily basis with our teams and NBA players, agreeing on two very different season formats that each made sense as a way to continue operating safely during the COVID-19 pandemic," an NBA spokesperson told ESPN. "Injuries have unfortunately always been a part of the game, but we have not seen a higher rate of injuries this season than last. We will continue to work with teams and players to complete our season in the best and safest way possible that promotes both physical and mental health during this challenging period."
The extensive COVID-19 protocols includes early morning testing.
"We have defaulted to survival mode," said a second NBA GM.
The Finals are scheduled to end on July 22nd with the league returning to its normal schedule beginning in October next season.
"This whole two-year period will have a marked long-term effect on players many years down the line," said the second GM. "It's like if your power goes out. You have to burn candles if you want light. If you burn them, you won't have them the next time your power goes out. We are burning through the players right now at an alarming rate. But again, what's the alternative? 25-man rosters? Fewer games? It's not just a 'league thing.' It all required collaboration with the NBPA. It's a shared responsibility, driven almost exclusively by the seduction of [money]."