NBA Injury Reporting: Pretty Good, But Everyone Thinks It Can Be Better

The league has instituted new rules for reporting injuries, but the process could still be tightened
NBA Injury Reporting
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Good, not great.

That pretty much sums up what sportsbooks, sports bettors, and the NBA itself have to say about the current state of injury reporting in the league.

And as anyone connected to the gambling industry can tell you, having a solid injury report, fully transparent, is of supreme importance. The NFL, of course, has long been the gold standard. It is exceedingly rare to see Friday NFL doubtfuls suit up Sunday, and once-in-a-blue-moon rare to see a starter actually get scratched on game day.

The NBA, obviously, is a different animal. Instead of once a week, teams sometimes play back to back, and smaller injuries can have bigger impacts due to the nature of the game.

But in recent years, the NBA has come a long way in getting its injury reports up to snuff. 

“It’s vastly better than its was two or three years ago,” said Andy Means, who heads up the NBA analysis department on Rotogrinders (a sister site of US Bets). “If you look back five years ago, you would get the late scratches more frequently. Surprise scratches were happening nightly.”

Not only that, but starting lineups sometimes weren’t announced until 10 minutes before tipoff, and, in some cases, not until after “lock” time.

Now, though, there is a daily injury report updated throughout the day, and starting lineups need to be announced 30 minutes before tip.

“The injury report really does help. People forget how often this stuff would happen before,” Means said. “Now, so many times we’re getting news at 11 a.m. that someone is sitting out, when that stuff used to hit 30 minutes or less before a game.”

So it’s better. Clearly. But it’s not perfect. And there are certainly some teams — Means names the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers as two that stand out — that seem to skate around the rules.

COVID issues

“I think the COVID piece has given people a little more license to be iffy,” said an NBA source with knowledge of the league’s policies. “The teams know they have a little bit of leniency there, and they’re probably taking advantage of it in some cases, but I don’t think it’s widespread and I don’t think it’s often.”

The source noted staff in the NBA office stay on top of these things, and in the last two years there have been only six fines of teams for futzing with the injury policy (and yes, the Clippers and 76ers both made the list).

But the source also thinks the NBA is a little more lenient than it should be, and that post-COVID, things should tighten things up. 

To be clear, the source thinks the league is in a “really good spot” with injury reporting right now, but also noted that no one at the league level thinks it’s a finished product. 

An information game

And some like the process just fine.

“It’s a fun challenge,” said Jeff Sherman, the vice president of risk management for Westgate Superbook. “I’m a big NBA guy, so I like this stuff. The best thing the NBA does is get us prepared for other sports — we’re on our toes with everything.”

Sherman said a sportsbook’s best tool when it comes to the NBA is Twitter.

“If you’re not up to speed on Twitter and you’re relying on internet news, you’re going to be a step below,” he said. “You have to be resourceful, and if you’re not, you’re reactionary. We just have to pay close attention to beat writers, and Twitter is our main resource, and we try and stay on top of it — and when we get the information we make quick adjustments.”

Sherman said the biggest change with the updated injury reports is that some books will sometimes take games down in the moments leading up to the reports being released, and sometimes next-day games won’t be posted at all books — especially in back-to-back situations — until there is some clarity.

“Would it be easier if it was more structured? Sure, but there’s still different ways of finding information out,” he said. “And those that pay close attention, it’s going to be more of a benefit for them. We pay close attention to all these things across all sports. We have a crew on top of it, and as far as I’m concerned, the way things are now it’s beneficial to us, and we’re able to get ahead of what’s going to be the eventual market and put our book in a better position.”

Noted professional gambler Capt. Jack Andrews (not his real name) also seems content with the way things are.

There’s definitely a lot of insider information in the NBA,” he noted. “So much so that you can often learn the news before it actually hits the tape just by watching betting markets. But overall? I think the NBA does a decent job of trying to standardize injury information.”

Some gamblers are more wary

Not all bettors, however, feel the same. Brad Feinberg, in fact, doesn’t even bother anymore with betting “pre-flop,” as he refers to it, “because of the uncertainty.”

I try and deal with certainties,” he said. “There’s two schools of thought:  If you think you have better information than the sportsbooks, then you have a big edge. But to me, time-wise, it’s not worth it. There’s always something going on with the NBA. I’ll bet player props and I’ll live bet, but I’m not betting before the game. The NBA definitely sees less of my gambling dollar because of the uncertainty surrounding each game.”

And Feinberg also notes the obvious: The more people that are betting, the more people will engage with the game. The NFL is exhibit 1A on that score.

“The NFL wants transparency,” he said. “They know betting made the NFL what it is today. If a guy is injured, they want people to know. They know millions, billions of dollars are bet on these games — they want to make sure everyone has the proper information.

“The NBA?” Feinberg continued. “It’s 6:55 and this guy is out — where did this come from? It’s the opposite of healthy. It’s a detriment. And listen, [NBA Commissioner] Adam Silver has been somewhat progressive with gambling, but it’s a negative the way players will get scratched.

“And if you’re the NBA, you want as many people watching your business as possible, whether it’s through gambling or fantasy or whatever. You want all that TV money, you want interest in the games, you want people to attend your events, you want to have something people are talking about. By hiding the injuries, it can only hurt the overall long-term health of the sport. Why is it so hard to do what the NFL does?”

Integrity comes first

The NBA source noted changes were originally made for the “integrity of the process,” and said the idea of greater transparency was the driving force to create a more robust process. 

The source noted when they first instituted the injury report, there were no set times it had to be filed by. Now, there’s set times throughout the day. The league also created the active list, and mandated teams announce starting lineups at least 30 minutes prior to gametime. And while this was all done in the name of transparency, the league realizes the gambling part of the equation has taken on significant importance.

And for people in the gambling space, where information is king, an even more robust system would be appreciated. 

But no one is exactly holding out hope.

“There’s not enough of an outcry, at least not yet,” Feinberg notes.

Sherman is even more pessimistic.

“Only if there’s complaining among sportsbooks that have affiliations with NBA, and persistent complaining at that, and I doubt there is,” he said. “They get what they’re expecting to get.”

Photo: Shutterstock

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