February 26, 2012By Cavalier Dave Forrester of Hugh M Cummings High School
NBA season reaches rare break during hectic schedule of shortened season
ORLANDO, Fla. — Phoenix All-Star guard Steve Nash is one of the few players left from the last time the NBA had a shortened season because of a lockout.
Just don’t ask him to recall the details of that 50-game season in 1999.
“I can’t even remember,” Nash said. “I’ve played a thousand games in this league, so I can’t even remember what that was like.”
Nash certainly knows what this shortened 66-game season has been like for himself and the rest of the players and coaches — hectic.
The schedule has been filled with back-to-back games and not much time for practice or rest. It’s made for a season that has featured some exciting games and others that have been hard to watch.
Nash said the level of play isn’t “drastically”different,butheacknowledged it isn’t where it was last season.
“We definitely have been taking time to round into shape,” Nash said. “The short training camp, you’re obviously not going to be as cohesive. The long layoff is going to make everybody on every team a little bit rusty, and then there’s so many games in such a condensed schedule is going to make recovery (time) a factor.”
Rest and recovery are hard to come by this season.
Teams don’t practice after playing back-to-back games, and there are more of those than ever this season. Teams have usually played more than 20 games by Christmas, but that was when this season started.
The league cut only 16 games from the original schedule even though nearly two months of the season was lost.
“Everybody has talked about the lack of practice time, but also what I think gets lost in that is a lack of rest,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to factor that in as well.”
Another factor is injuries. The Bulls have been able to stay near the top of the Eastern Conference despite reigning MVP Derrick Rose missing 10 games because of back and toe injuries.
Miami is tied with Oklahoma City for the best record (27-7), though Dwyane Wade missed nine games because of foot and ankle injuries.
San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili returned from a broken hand only to be sidelined by stomach muscle injury.
“I think the biggest difference is the number of injuries coming out of this (season),” said Boston’s Paul Pierce, who was a rookie during the 1998-99 lockout. “You didn’t see as many big names and key players get as injured in ‘99 during my rookie year as you see this year.
“I know it’s probably due to the scheduling and lack of practice time, guys probably not being in the best shape. In both cases you have a lot of games being crammed together, so it’s been really hard on a lot of players’ bodies.”
Kings coach Keith Smart feared center DeMarcus Cousins would miss a game last week because of back spasms, which also sidelined Rose. That injury isn’t associated with young players, but Smart said this season’s schedule makes everything different.
Smart said a younger player might recover faster, but injuries could affect everyone this season.
“You still have to train, you still have to practice, but everything is condensed,” Smart said. “You have to back off a little bit, but what’s going to happen, you’re going to see a lot of guys straining their backs.
“Rest and recovery is so important, but unfortunately, a lot of teams won’t have it.”
How injuries the second half of the season? It remains to be seen, but what won’t change is that in the NBA talent and continuity matter.
The three teams with the best records — Miami, Oklahoma City and Chicago — returned the core of their rosters from last season.
“It’s also important to have good players,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. “We have good players who are working hard and improving every day.”