Five takeaways from new NBA schedule

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The NBA schedule is out and there are a number of games worth watching, from when the banner goes up in Oracle Arena opening night to what could be Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game in Los Angeles on April 13th.

But the schedule is more than just a list of 1,230 games, it tells you about the priorities of the league. Some themes emerged out of the NBA schedule. Some were expected, some not so much.

Here are five takeaways from my reading the new NBA schedule.

1) Adam Silver wasn’t kidding about building more rest into the schedule. We’ve already written about this, but it bears repeating — players are going to get a lot more time off in this season. And that’s a good thing. Last season there were 70 times teams had four games in five nights, that’s down to 27 this season. Teams will average 1.5 fewer back-to-backs, and the back-to-backs where teams travel across a time zone drops from 111 to 84. We knew this was coming, NBA Commissioner Silver had talked about this at the All-Star break, but the fact they did this while not starting the season earlier (as they may well do in future years) and keeping the week break around the All-Star Game is impressive. We will see if this reduces the times coaches rest star players next season, but in a league where the wear-and-tear on players leads to injuries, this is a good first step in dealing with scheduling challenges.

2) The league is finally starting to promote Anthony Davis like he’s a superstar. On the court, Anthony Davis was a top five player in the NBA last season — at age 21. He was an All-Star and led the New Orleans Pelicans to the playoffs. His PER of 30.8 was the best in the NBA — better than LeBron James, James Harden, Stephen Curry and everyone else. Yet the NBA mostly ignored him and the Pelicans, who were on NBA TV a couple of times and on no other national broadcasts. Not this time around. Opening night Davis and the Pelicans take on Golden State on TNT. Christmas Day you get to see Davis and the Pelicans. There will be 13 appearances on ESPN/ABC and TNT for Davis. As it should be. This is (arguably) the third best player in the NBA right now, and in five years or so may well be the best player in the world. He’s a budding superstar, they needed to get him out there. Finally, they did.

3) So much for another easy path for the Warriors. So much for the league playing favorites. Last season, on the way to a title, all the breaks seemed to go the way of the Warriors (particularly in terms of health). They do not catch any breaks with this new schedule. In the first days of the new season they face the Pelicans twice, the Rockets and the Grizzlies (all their playoff opponents from last season). If it’s tight at the end of the year, their final four games are against the Spurs and Grizzlies (twice each). They have 20 back-to-backs, tied for the most of any team in the league and one more than they had last season. The Warriors are still title contenders, but Curry and company are about to find repeating is a whole lot harder than winning the first time around.

4) Yes, you’re still going to see a lot of Lakers. Such is the power of the Lakers’ brand. Such is the draw of what could be the Kobe Bryant farewell tour. The Lakers are not going to be very good this season and yet have 19 games on ESPN/ABC and TNT — the same as the Houston Rockets and more than the Heat, Grizzlies, Wizards and a host of other teams. Why? Because this is a business and you give the people what they want — the Lakers grab eyeballs. Yes, Miami and even Milwaukee may be far more interesting and entertaining, but people watch the Lakers and the business is to deliver viewers to the advertisers.

5) Plenty of teams are unhappy. A lot of teams feel the new schedule is stacked against them. Take Orlando, a team that desperately wants to make the playoffs this season (they have not played the multi-year tanking game). The Magic open the season at home against the Wizards and Thunder, then go on the road against the Bulls, Pelicans, and Rockets, only to return home and get the Raptors — they could very well open the season 1-5 or 0-6. Portland has 20 back-to-back games. And maybe nowhere are people as unhappy as Detroit, something Andre Drummond summed up this way.

 

LeBron James says Daryl Morey was “not educated on the situation” with China Tweet

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When Stephen Curry was asked about how the NBA moves forward in its relationship with China, he gave an answer backing Commissioner Adam Silver’s second position and playing it straight down the middle.

LeBron James was a little more aggressive, saying he didn’t have the necessary information to comment, and suggesting Rockets GM Daryl Morey had no idea what he was getting into. Via Marc Spears of ESPN and Ben Golliver of the Washington Post.

LeBron’s comments quickly blew up on Twitter, and soon after he clarified what he meant, saying he was referring to the backlash from the Tweet.

This issue will not die.

Both the NBA and China would like it to, and both are working on relaxing tensions, including NBA preseason games being shown in China again. Both sides want to move on. It’s not good for the NBA’s bottom line, and in China the NBA is incredibly popular with younger generations.

But the questions about relations between the NBA and China are not going away, and issues are going to flare up again.

 

 

Rookie Tyler Herro scored 14 straight points for Heat Monday night (VIDEO)

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Tyler Herro is having himself an impressive preseason.

He already dropped 18 points in a preseason game last week and throughout the preseason has shown he’s ready to knock down shots at the NBA level.

Monday night he went 5-of-5 — 4-of-4 from three — to score 14 straight points for the Heat.

He’s also showing he can do more than just shoot, crowd him at the arc and he can put the ball on the court and make a play.

Herro’s fellow rookies voted him the best shooter in this draft class and he’s looked every bit of that. The No. 13 pick out of Kentucky started to show that in the Las Vegas Summer League, where he scored on catch-and-shoot chances, pull-ups, step-backs, running off screens, and he could get out in transition as well. Doing that in Summer League is one thing, doing in the NBA preseason is a step up from that — but the real test, the NBA season, is a whole different level.

In Miami, they love the production but what fans really like is Herro plays with swagger.

We’ll see how his rookie season goes, but put that shooting and hustle next to Jimmy Butler for stretches and Miami becomes a lot more interesting.

CJ McCollum, others talk NBA sleep issue: “Lack of sleep… messes up how you play”

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The NBA season is a too-long, marathon of a grind. It’s 82 regular games spread across six months — and that’s before things get intense in the playoffs. Players wear down physically, making injuries (and shorter careers) more likely. It’s also why we all know the phrase “load management.” Sixers coach Brett Brown was the first person I have heard put it this way, but it’s nearly a mantra around the NBA now:

“This is a recovery league.”

At the heart of that recovery is sleep — and players simply do not get enough of it.  Playing games that go into the night, followed by travel and strange hotel rooms, then a shootaround the next day, is not conducive to getting eight or more hours of sleep. Or seven. Or often six. That lack of sleep — particularly good, deep REM sleep — has a physical toll on players, and the league is just starting to understand the science of it all.

In a must-read article by Baxter Holmes at ESPN, he gets into the “dirty little secret” of NBA players’ lack of sleep, and the impact that has.

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum began taking naps in high school and seeking nine hours of sleep a night. And in the NBA, he gets into bed as early as possible. “Lack of sleep messes up your recovery, messes up how you play, your cognitive function, your mindset, how you’re moving on the court,” McCollum says. “Sleep is everything.”…

So how much sleep do NBA players get per night during the season? Ballparking a figure is tricky, but Czeisler, who has worked with three NBA teams, says five hours per night is not an uncommon answer from players… That said, one former and four current NBA athletic training staff members all separately say that six hours of sleep per 24-hour cycle is common among players, an estimate that combines the nightly sleep and the pregame nap that is typical for many NBA players…

By January, just three months into the 2012-13 NBA season, the testosterone [which decreases with lack of sleep] of one player in his 20s had dropped to that of a 50-year-old man. (Those reductions in testosterone, it’s worth noting, are not permanent, but they do require multiple days of recovery to offset.) And as testosterone levels fell for more players, the injuries seemed to correspondingly accumulate.

It’s worth reading the entire article to see the science and impact. For example, multiple trainers suggest most players get five to six hours of sleep a day, and that includes afternoon naps (and science shows those naps are not as beneficial as sleep at night.

Fixing this sleep deficit issue is not simple, it taps into the scheduling issues — and the number of games — that is a topic around the league without a clean and easy solution. There’s a growing consensus there should be fewer games total and they should be spread out more to get players more recovery time, but doing so likely impacts revenue — through gate receipts, television deals, and more — and nobody wants to give up some cash.

Players recognizing the issue is a start, they can take charge of their own health. Just keep your eye on the sleep issue over the coming years, because the lack of sleep issue is going to move more front and center with teams and players.

Stephen Curry on how NBA goes forward in China: “Staying true to who we are a league”

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With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving leading the way, the Nets’ and Lakers’ players in China for exhibition games didn’t want to be the face of the NBA’s suddenly-fraught relationship with China. The players rightfully wanted the league to speak first.

That doesn’t mean the questions are going away.

Stephen Curry — who is the face of Under Armor’s basketball shoe and clothing line, and who helps sell a lot of apparel in China — was asked on Monday how he and the league move forward in their relationship with China. Nick Friedell of ESPN had the answer.

This basically echos Adam Silver’s second statement, one where he talked about the league’s commitment to free speech, just phrased a to make it more of a “who we are as a league” comment.

For now, tensions between the NBA and China seem to be relaxing, including NBA preseason games being shown in China again. Both sides would like this story to fade from the headlines. It’s not good business for the NBA — who came off poorly from a PR perspective in the exchange — and in China the NBA is incredibly popular with youth and cutting that off starts could lead to a backlash.

However, the underlying issues, the trade concerns, the differences in cultures and how they view free speech, none of that is going away. It’s going to flare up again at some point.

Whenever that is, expect the league and the players to be better prepared with how to handle it.