Although the NBA represents a life of fame and wealth via hard work and dedication, many players will see beyond the glitz and the glamour once they enter the league.
Professional athletes’ lives, especially those in the NBA, is physically demanding. This upcoming season, players and coaches will face 82 games in 170 days, with very few off days, causing fatigue for several players. Each team plays four games (two home, two away) against each team in their conference and plays two games (one home, one away) against each team in the opposite conference, according to the NBA.com. In addition, some teams are on the road more than others.
As the 2016-2017 NBA regular season begins, sleep experts who consulted with NBA teams reported that there are 42 games this upcoming season in which the current NBA schedule creates a competitive disadvantage for one team, according to ESPN. Factors included in this report included whether a game was at home or away, how rested opponent teams were from play and travel, times elapsed between tip-offs, and whether it was part of a long run of four games in five nights, or five games in seven. Amounts of rest and sleep while on road trips can have huge impact on the play of the players and the outcome of the game.
“It’s very point-blank — like, this schedule is not great for sleep. But the bottom line is the schedule hasn’t changed, it’s not going to change, so how do you manage it the best you can? That’s why when the schedule comes out, for me, I go through the whole thing that day and plan the whole year and think about it,” Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens said to ESPN.
Improving the NBA regular season schedule has been a priority of the current Commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver since he addressed the issue during the 2015 All-Star Weekend.
“Certainly our players and our teams, that there’s nothing more important than the health and welfare of our players. And ultimately we want to see players getting appropriate rest and playing at the highest level,” Silver said to ESPN.
Life on the road for an NBA player is hard as they are traveling to away games via planes and buses. Several road trips have players playing sometimes for example, four games in five days and departing immediately after one game to travel to another city and play another team the very next day.
The NBA travels more miles than any other professional sports league in America. In addition, several teams travel more than others. According to NBAsavant.com, the team on the road the most during the 2015-2016 regular season was the Golden State Warriors with 53,575 miles while the NBA team on the road the least was the reigning NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers with 35,055 miles. The average NBA team flies at least 44, 214 miles per season, according to .
Silver has proposed to tweak travel time for teams in by trying to reduce possible four games in five nights situations with possibly starting the season earlier and ending later. It all depends on the league’s scheduling practices, according to ESPN. This solution will be very beneficial for players’ performances on the court, bodies, and mental states if done.
“We’ll come as close as we can to eliminating the four-in-five formula. We think we can make a dramatic reduction,” Silver said to ESPN. “We hear everyone loud and clearly. It’s a function of number of days in the schedule.”
Four games in five days road game situations affect players’ performances in games due to a lack of rest. Teams often travel from one city to another to play games and get there all in one day, having to play a game a couple of hours after arriving. The current NBA schedule’s logic and length is demanding for most players, especially rookies, as they have to adjust to life on the road, something they don’t do in college basketball.
Larry Nance Jr., an NBA sophomore who completed his rookie season last year with the Los Angeles Lakers, first believed road trips weren’t going to be a big deal as he expected a lot of free time. However, he learned it was the complete opposite as there was little free time and sleep.
“After 13 days in eight different cities, your mind says, ‘Go get that loose ball,’ but your body doesn’t respond in the same way…When veterans say there are certain things a rookie has to experience, this is what they mean. Now I’ve done it, though, so it’s something that I’ll learn to prepare for and fight through,” Nance Jr. said in his Rookie Diary on “The Player’s Tribune.”
With the lack of free time or during road trips and multiple back to back games, it causes players to feel fatigued and affects their performances should they not have enough time to rest. NBA players usually struggle in the second game in a back-to-back game situation and dunk 20 percent less in the fourth quarter compared to the first, ESPN reported.
Dunking in the fourth quarter is extremely rare. Additionally, injuries are most likely to occur when players are playing sleep-deprived and fatigued. Last season, Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls suffered a knee injury in the fifth game of a seven game road trip, forcing him to miss the All-Star Game.
Silver has proposed to shorten pre-season in order to allow more rest days during the regular season. This proposal was used during the NBA Finals where there was a designated rest day for the Warriors and Cavaliers when they had to travel from one city to another during the series.
Benefits for all teams having extra rest days during road trips for away games is they can rest their bodies and be prepared mentally and physically to play more games. Extra off days mean less injuries occurring and rest could make a player play more efficiently since their muscles aren’t as sour.
The NBA should implement some road games where teams play each other for two games over the course of four days. In addition, teams will play their star players after having an extra off-day, which will generate more revenue for teams because the fans are getting to see the best players play.