Mike’s Take: To Play or Not to Play

It’s hard to win games without a healthy team. But as the rugged NBA season wears on, the physical demands of the game take their toll on even the toughest of players. A lot of guys around the league are playing hurt and last week more than a half-dozen teams lost players including the Blazers, Nuggets, Heat, Hornets, Suns, Cavs, Knicks and Clippers.

One of the most important and challenging jobs we have as coaches is handling injured players properly. And come game time one of the most crucial decisions we have to make – with our indispensable trainers and physicians – is whether an injured team member should play or sit.

In some cases a hurt player wants to push through the pain and may even hide the extent of an injury to stay on the floor. We all love “gamers” who will do anything to win. But sometimes it becomes necessary to save a player from himself and take him off the court to prevent his injury from becoming more serious.

It’s not always easy because the competitiveness that makes that player great for you on the court can also make it uncomfortable in the locker room. But as a coach you have to be able to stand up for what you believe is right for the player and the team over the long haul – even at the expense of a loss.

On the other side, if a player appears tentative after returning from injury the coach must push him along and help restore his confidence. To play at the top of his game he must believe he can cut, run or jump without fear of re-injuring himself.

This season it seems like more star players have suffered injuries than usual. That can be tough on a team. It’s easy to get demoralized. As a coach you need to rally the team and not let them use injuries as an excuse. Together you must find ways to win and heal.