It happens practically every year during the NBA Finals.
Stars on one of the team’s competing for the chip are physically peeled off one by one, leaving us with “what if” questions to wrestle with days, weeks, and years later.
It’s like clockwork. And it’s unfortunate.
Last year it was the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant and his Achilles tear and Klay Thompson and his ACL tear.
This year it’s the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.
Until Wednesday, the injury bug had been kept out of the Disney World resort athletic complex in South Florida.
But the second quarter arrived in Game 1 of the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers NBA Finals series, and it was full-on war on the Heat. Dragic, Miami’s veteran point guard, went down with a plantar fascia tear in his left foot in the second quarter after making a jolt against Rajon Rondo on his way to the basket. He didn’t exit the game immediately, but his facial expressions said it all. He wouldn’t return in the second half.
Midway through the third quarter, Bam Adebayo, Miami’s 23-year-old big man, went down due to a neck strain. It’s likely on the same shoulder he injured last series after getting tangled up with Celtics wing Jayson Tatum.
Jimmy Butler also rolled his ankle just before halftime and returned in the second half with a thick wad of tape wrapped around his ankle.
Adebayo and Dragic are doubtful for Game 2.
These injuries happen every year. And it’s crushing not only for the team these players belong to but to fans who were looking forward to a competitive series.
Don’t get me wrong, I – like many people – felt this was the Lakers’ title to lose — but with the way the Heat have been playing in the Bubble, the series could have been highly competitive. Butler, Dragic and Adebayo have been the Heat’s top scorers this season. If they are sidelined the rest of the series, this will likely end in a sweep.
Over the years, reflecting on the 2015 NBA Finals and the shoulder injury Cavaliers forward Kevin Love sustained earlier in the playoffs and the kneecap break Kyrie Irving dealt with in Game 1, the injuries are frustrating as a spectator, so I could only imagine how the players feel.
I wish it didn’t happen.
Teams competing in the Finals are the last two standing every year, and to watch injuries take out a team’s key players on basketball’s biggest stage leaves all of us with so many questions we can’t answer.
Maybe it’s good debate material down the road to look forward to in dialogue leading up into the enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Not sure if Adebayo and Dragic will be making it to the Basketball Hall of Fame, but these injuries will become essential context when speaking about their careers — especially if they never get back to another Finals.