With the announcement of the NBA’s plan to put an end to teams resting healthy players ($100,000 fine) last Thursday it’s time for the league’s 30 franchises to figure out a new way to get their players rest throughout the grueling 82-game campaign.
The season starting two weeks earlier than usual certainly helps, as it will space out games and do away with a lot of back-to-backs and four-games-in-five-nights sets. But that alone isn’t enough to ensure guys will be at 100% each and every time they take the court this year, which means teams will have to figure out additional ways to get their players the recovery they need to remain effective.
The Celtics think getting more sleep will help keep their players from wearing down. Coach Brad Stevens has pushed his practice times back to around noon while also delaying the team’s shootarounds on game days. Of course, while the extra time to catch a few more z’s in-season is a nice luxury, it’ll be up to each guy to decide whether they want to take advantage of it or not. So far, it appears they’re all for it.
“I love it,” Kyrie Irving said after a team practice last week. “It goes a long way in having later practices at a standard time where you can get a good night’s sleep, whether it’s on back-to-backs or regular game days. I’m appreciative of it and I know the younger guys will as they get older. A lot of our older guys are as well so I’m grateful for it.”
“I think it makes sense with the sleep and avoiding some of the traffic issues, for sure,” Gordon Hayward said. “I’ve always been someone who gets up and does things super, super early so I’ll just have some more time on my hands—a chance to hang out with the girls, I guess, before practice. It definitely makes sense.”
Hayward makes a good point about the traffic; it’s something Stevens has mentioned as well. If you live in the Boston area you understand how much of a nightmare the commute to work can be on the highways. That ultimately cuts into sleep time.
“A lot of that is due to the idea that, obviously, you want them to be able to sleep as much as possible as the season is going on,” Stevens explained. “If you have a 10 a.m. shootaround, just because of the traffic issues at that time, then guys are getting up even earlier to deal with that. For us, 12 o’clock makes more sense and it kind of jives with the rest of our schedule as we go through the entire year. The good thing is guys get in here and get their shooting done and their lifts in. Then you practice and go on about your way.”
“It’s a great thing to know that our head coach and medical staff believe in just getting a lot of sleep and just a lot of recovery,” Irving said. “That was one of the primary things that Brad and the medical staff stressed to me is that our practice schedule and our routine is based on getting optimal recovery for [us] to perform on the floor.”
Since the Celtics haven’t been a team to rest healthy players very often in recent years, Stevens understands the NBA’s stance on this issue. With Boston having an extremely young roster it hasn’t had to worry about sitting guys down for a game or two.
“We totally get the idea of resting players. But, obviously, hopefully the way the schedule works itself out it’s a win-win for everybody,” Stevens said.
“I think everybody looks at it from a standpoint of the number of games guys are playing. But I think you can also look at it from a minutes standpoint and how much you’re practicing during the season. I think there are different ways to manage all that but clearly the biggest challenge, physically, is a game.”
While Stevens isn’t sure the organization’s new approach to handling rest will translate into every guy playing in all 82 games, Irving is hoping to do just that.
“That’s what you shoot for,” he said. “Obviously there are things you can’t control that happen during the season that you kind of what to avoid. I think its best to kind of get out in front of it before it happens than just waiting for it to happen. It’s best to be prepared as much as you can. I’m doing my due diligence, as well as my teammates, to be prepared to be on the floor. When you’re working in congruency with a great medical staff and great coaches who understand how important it is to get your rest, then he’s giving us a chance to be at our optimal level to perform on the floor.”
Whether or not Irving should play out the entire schedule is up for debate. That’s a different conversation entirely. But it seems as though the players are buying into the idea of getting more sleep (who wouldn’t) and the Celtics hope it will pay off on the floor.