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Injuries and load management are detracting from the NBA’s fan experience

Superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are both out for tonight’s Black Friday showdown agains the Denver Nuggets.

Cleveland Cavaliers v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The once captivating and distinct promise of sports wanes beyond us.

Whether it’d be a French football fanatic flying across the globe or an NBA devotee flying in from the most remote parts of North Carolina to check in on the Los Angeles Clippers, the fans are yet again met with disappointment.

Blame COVID protocols, injuries, load management — the team’s best players and fan-favorite superstars are missing game after game.

From the team’s standpoint, this could mean a few things.

The team plays without its best players and potentially loses a game; a different, usually less skilled, player replaces the sidelined player; chemistry issues are manifested in the high-stakes game as the team hasn’t played many games at full strength.

For the fans, however, it means more than just a few things.

The Los Angeles Clippers will compete in their Black Friday showdown against the Denver Nuggets without their two franchise stars: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Not even the team’s fan-favorite sharpshooter Luke Kennard will play.

Leonard played in just five games this season, and the Clippers had just four occasions in which both Leonard and George were on the floor at the same time.

For the fans — flying in from all parts of the globe — that schedule a day based on and pay a hefty price for an NBA game, injuries and load management are killing the spirit of the game. Without the superstars playing, much of their reason for buying the high-priced tickets — as a birthday gift, an early Christmas present, or a special date — vanishes.

They don’t get to see their favorite players in action. Rather, the fans’ hopes and expectations are crushed — without a refundable ticket or a foreseeable timetable for them to return to a different game that their favorite players might play in.

That isn’t to point fingers at the players. They, too, want to play and put on a show in front of their fans, after all.

And it’s, to a large extent, an inevitable and uncontrollable facet of the game. It’s not like they’re actively looking to get injured. It’s just when super-sized, strapping athletes are running, jumping and diving up to 48 minutes a night for 82 nights, there’s no preventing injuries.

But there is one thing that is in our hands — more precisely, in the hands of NBA commissioner Adam Silver: the number of games a team is expected to play per season.

More games? Fewer games? No more play-in tournaments? A mid-season tournament?

Sure, there is not a solve-it-all cure to the issue that’s been plaguing all sports leagues and competitions around the world. But these are the types of questions we should be asking for the safety of the players. And for the enduring memories that the fans could make.