The Cleveland Cavaliers have the oldest roster in the NBA. And, dare we say it, LeBron James, now in his 15th professional season, has a lot of miles on him.
So, in a nod to those factoids, the Cavs have tried something different. Rather than flying out of a city after a game, the team is spending the night and flying out the next day. That, James said, has given him a chance to have a late dinner in his hotel room and get something resembling a good night’s sleep.
“We’re old, man,” James, whose 33rd birthday is coming at the end of December, told ESPN. “Whenever we get a chance to stay over for the night this season, we have to do that.”
It’s not like they’re crossing the International Date Line, but 41 road games do take their toll. In a nod to how grueling it can be, the league reduced back-to-back games this season, going from an average of 16.3 per team last season to 14.4. Completely gone, even for the league’s whippersnappers, are stretches of four games in five nights.
“The biggest thing for recovery is sleep,” said Steve Spiro, the Cavaliers’ head trainer. “There isn’t anything better, and for these guys that are taxing their bodies through travel and through their workload on the court, and practice and extra work or whatever, we can have all the technology in the world, but obviously a great night’s sleep plays a role into performance. There’s no doubt about it. So you have to have your finger on the pulse of it.”
The Cavs, who have an average age of 30.3, play the fewest back-to-backs — 13 — of any team. As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin describes it, a typical day on the road looks like this:
For a 7 p.m. tip, players can be showered, dressed and out of the arena by 10:30, back at the hotel by 11 and in bed by 12:30 [a.m.], even if they have a late meal. Flights the next day are typically around 2 to 3 p.m., which means players can easily sleep in until 9 or 10 the next morning and still have time to get in a workout or medical treatment before bag collection at 12 or 12:30 [p.m.], and the bus to the airport around 1 or 1:15.
How’s it working so far? The Cavs, winners of their past three, are 3-4 at home and 5-5 on the road.
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