The sleep doctor was Charles Czeisler, director of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, whom Rivers had consulted before the season, asking him to identify trouble spots on the schedule. Czeisler noted that the Celtics would be flying into Phoenix after facing the Trail Blazers in Portland the night before — and Cleveland in Boston two nights before that. With so much travel across so many time zones in just three days, “your instincts will be bad,” he said. “It’ll be like playing drunken basketball. You will not win this game.” After the loss, Rivers realizes that Czeisler was right and that it’s time to start adjusting routines. He calls his Big Three into the office: “We’re changing, immediately.”
Today, Rivers is keenly aware of which games are “unwinnable” — so much so that he’s actually considered the once-unthinkable: forfeiting. Rivers, now the Clippers’ coach, recalls that LA was scheduled in 2014 for back-to-back games, the second on the road, immediately following a seven-game road trip. “I contemplated keeping the team home, literally,” Rivers says. “We knew we were walking into getting our ass kicked, and that’s what happened. “What is it they say? If you have less than five hours of sleep for three days in a row, your reactions are that of a legally drunk driver? We’ve seen that with our own eyes.”
Marc Stein: Of course, as soon as the NBA shrinks the preseason and guys starting getting hurt in November, we’ll say they didn’t get enough prep time. Jared Dudley: Well deal with that when we get there! 😂 I vote for 4 pre season games ✋🏽
Many NBA players and teams are reluctant to travel 12 or 13 hours to Asia. When the Los Angeles Clippers played the Charlotte Hornets last year in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, L.A. head coach Doc Rivers said if given a choice he would rather keep his players at home. NBA teams have played regular-season games before in Asia. Between 1990 and 2003, there were 12 regular-season games in Japan, involving 10 teams. Many Chinese fans are upset about China not getting the same treatment, especially given the fact that the Chinese market has been bringing in massive revenue for the NBA. But, for now, they’ll have to keep waiting.
Count Steve Kerr among the supporters for a shortened NBA preseason. “I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”
League sources say NBA players had occasionally taken games off before 2005-06, with teams typically covering it up with bogus injury labels such as hamstring soreness or a back strain. This season, with a record 46 players competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio, many around the league expect the number of healthy scratches to climb as teams manage the schedule. Says one long-time NBA exec: “We have to strategically choose a few lambs to slaughter.”