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Suns' Chris Paul defends NBA's compressed season despite unprecedented playoff injuries

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PHOENIX – Even if he remains eager to participate in his first NBA Finals appearance, Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul admitted not feeling thrilled with some of the circumstances.

The Suns and Milwaukee Bucks will play in the NBA Finals in Game 1 on Tuesday after an NBA-record nine All-Stars missed at least one playoff game because of injuries. But as the president of the National Basketball Players Association, Paul defended the NBA and the NBPA for beginning the 2020-21 season only 71 days after the Los Angeles Lakers won an NBA title in a campus bubble.

“Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players,” Paul said following practice on Monday. “Everything that's good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy. But everything has always been a conversation, and it's going to continue to be that way. So if people don't like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.”

Lakers star LeBron James became one of the most outspoken players about the league’s season well before the Lakers lost in a first-round series to the Suns. He admitted feeling surprised the NBA would start training camp in early December as opposed to mid January. He also called it “a slap in the face” that the NBA kept its All-Star weekend events.

Suns guard Chris Paul, the NBPA president, defended the league and union's decision to start the season in December.
Suns guard Chris Paul, the NBPA president, defended the league and union's decision to start the season in December.

Aside from notable injuries to star players -- including Lakers forward Anthony Davis, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo -- the NBA has cited internal data that said league-wide injuries are fairly the same to other seasons. The NBA also built a 72-game season with games being played every other day in hopes to maximize the value of its television contracts, host at least some games with fans and ensure a more traditional calendar for the 2021-22 season.

Nonetheless, James’ criticism rings significant for reasons beyond his stature. He has been close with Paul, and even worked with him behind the scenes to ensure the NBA salvaged its season following the Milwaukee Bucks’ refusal to play following the Jacob Blake shooting. Afterwards, the NBA and the NBPA agreed to more commitments toward using team facilities as voting sites as well as establishing a social justice coalition to influence lawmakers to pass various legislation to address police brutality and the criminal justice system.

“One thing about our league and its players is everything is always a conversation,” Paul said. “There's a ton of guys on the executive committee who are working hard on things right now as we speak -- day in and day out, traveling. I wish you guys knew all the things that are going on. So decisions that are made as far as playing or not playing, players are always involved in it.”

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NBA Finals: Chris Paul defends how NBA, NBPA oversaw compressed season