League's Injury Policy Gives NBA Bettors & Sportsbooks Little Time to React

Jason Lake

Monday, April 27, 2015 5:26 PM UTC

Monday, Apr. 27, 2015 5:26 PM UTC

They’re the bane of every coach. But sports teams are forced to cough up injury reports, giving away valuable information about their players – valuable for our NBA picks, & valuable to the enemy.

Jason’s record as of Apr. 27: 74-74-5 ATS, 11-16 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML

Pardon us for the cross-sport reference, but you may have heard the delightful profanity-laden tirade that Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price unleashed on the press before last Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Price was very unhappy about having to give the reporters information about his injured players. The Cincinnati Enquirer counted 77 expletives during Price’s rant, which checked in at five minutes and 34 seconds.

Price was right, for the most part: There’s nothing about giving away this information that helps his team – not directly, that is. Everyone knows that injury reports are there for bettors, and that bettors make up a very large piece of the viewing audience that brings teams like the Reds all that sweet, sweet cash. That’s why the leagues – the NBA included – make injury reports mandatory. But do these reports impact the teams and the NBA odds at the micro level?


We Don’t Talk Anymore
While this problem has existed for decades, the specifics have changd over the years. The NBA doesn’t have the same working relationship with the media as it once did – same with the media and its audience. Consider the recent Grantland expose into the frostiness between the Oklahoma City Thunder and local scribes. Writers are no longer being granted the same level of access to players, and teams are controlling their product by using in-house media.

That doesn’t mean there’s zero communication between the two sides. According to the NBA’s media guidelines, as updated for last season, practices have to be open to reporters for 15 minutes – down from 30 – and dressing rooms have to be open for 30 minutes before games – down from 45. Players with long-term injuries also have to be available to speak to reporters. Those who don’t show up are subject to fines. But it’s not difficult for players to give “boilerplate” answers that reveal the minimum amount of information possible. It’s part of their training.

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One Day in Your Life
Clever teams always find ways to get around whatever rules are put in front of them. It used to be possible to stash NBA players on injured reserve, even if they weren’t medically verified as injured. In theory, that provision went out the window with the creation of the inactive list in the CBA that was signed before the 2005-06 season – but the NBA still remains fairly lax when enforcing this rule.

Then there’s the whole dance about what terms are used to describe injuries. Instead of slapping a projected timeline on a player’s return, it’s not uncommon to see them listed as “out indefinitely,” or even “day-to-day.” Those days can add up to extended absences. Garrett Temple has been listed as day-to-day for the Washington Wizards since March 9 with a tender right hamstring.


League of Denial
At some point, it wouldn’t be surprising to see NBA shift its injury policy to reflect what’s been going on in the league since 2008. That’s when teams were freed from the burden of having to specify what kind of injury a player has – instead, they only have to announce when a player is going to miss a game, and they can use terms like “upper-body injury” and “lower-body injury” when talking to reporters.

As always, teams and players will do whatever they can to keep things on the down-low. Earlier this year, Taj Gibson of the Chicago Bulls had a Grade 2 tear of a ligament in his left hand, and managed not to tell anyone about the severity of his injury for nearly a month. Meanwhile, the best we can do with our NBA picks is take things one day at a time, give it 110 percent, and the good Lord willing, everything will turn out all right in the end.

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