Now that NBA the season is upon us, the most oft-considered repercussion of the compacted schedule has been for whom is it an advantage. Fresh legs? Sharp minds? Old teams?
On media day Flip Saunders was asked if a youthful team brings any benefits to a scrambled environment in the aftermath of the 2011 lockout. ”I think if you have youth, you’re going to say yes, and if you have veterans, you’re going to say yes,” he said, implying that you can cook the perspective to whatever degree you like.
As with any NBA season, normal length or not, if a team is hit with the injury bug too harshly or with bad timing, it can significantly affect results. With a slate of 66 games in just 122 days, injuries are now more likely. Neither young nor old are immune. Sure, less aged muscles can recuperate faster, but those benefits are not as effective without proper time to recover.
“We just have to make sure that they can get the proper rest when they’re not playing,” said Saunders, “and so that’s going to be a main focus of what we’ll try to do too.”
“We got to really listen in and focus in on film session and listen to what the coaches are saying because there’s not going to be a lot of time to practice on the floor,” said Rashard Lewis, a veteran of the last NBA lockout, the shortened season afterward being his 1998-99 rookie campaign with the Seattle Supersonics.
Saunders also likened the compacted schedule, which for Washington includes 16 back-to-back sets and two occurrences of three games in three days, to an “AAU phase,” since players at that level are used to playing three games in a day, or even nine in a weekend. But cognitively speaking, Saunders might not want to make such a comparison, because the Wizards are susceptible to playing more like an undisciplined AAU team instead of scouring report students.
“You know, we’re pros. We have to bring professionalism to this locker room, which is what I want to do,” said Roger Mason Jr. at the onset of training camp. “You got to get your rest, you got to take care of your body, and if you don’t, the results will show that. I think the guys understand that. We’re packing a lot of games in a small amount of time.”
The Wizards took Christmas Eve off from grueling preseason practice that had begun to wind down. They open their regular season at home against the New Jersey Nets on Monday night, December 26. By the time they conclude their Monday evening a week later, five games will be complete — already just over 7.5-percent of the entire schedule.
Seems elementary: NBA players must make themselves stay off their feet outside of basketball more than ever before. That means for many young Wizards that “the life” will have to be curtailed, that life being the potentially physically draining temptations of fast fun and women that most all professional athletes are faced with. Keeping those factors in check won’t be easy for some on the team known for their abundant presence on D.C.’s nightlife scene. And we’re not even getting into eating habits.
Andray Blatche is the most known partier on the team and often lender of his good name to club night promotions. He’s partied while hurt. He’s sponsored end-of-season parties before the actual end of the season. He’s hosted “Lap Dance Tuesday.” More recently, Blatche evidently gave his name to hosting an “Evening of Sophistication” on New Year’s Eve. The Wizards are scheduled to play their second home game against the Boston Celtics at 6 pm the next day. Blatche’s name has since been removed from sponsorship on the event’s website.
When asked on media day about what adjustments he would personally make regarding Saunders’ stated key of rest during the upcoming season, Blatche said, “I mean, none. Just after each game you want to definitely try to get, if you’re home, get in that cold tub, and just relax, stay off your feet. You know, go get you something to eat and go home. Ain’t nothing more to it.”
Put that way, it sounds simple. For a better chance at success, NBA players, all of them, need more rest. Or in the Wizards’ case, they need to go from the club to the cold tub.