The Phoenix Suns are back on the road after a seven-game homestand, which is more of a hassle than it normally is because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
With required testing to get done, it affects the day-to-day routine for players.
New Orleans Pelicans shooting guard J.J. Redick was on his podcast discussing this issue with teammate Steven Adams of how, on the road especially, players have to wake up early to go get testing done and are throwing off their sleep cycles as a result. Adams described how many players have adrenaline pumping the night after a game, so going to sleep around 2-3 a.m. isn’t all that uncommon.
Redick went on to say the only day the team truly has away from that issue is an off-day at home, with players using the team facility later in the night during a different testing window. The veteran two-guard said on the road they’re either stuck at the hotel and/or traveling, so that’s quite the monotony of always having something and nothing to do.
Prior to Thursday’s action, there were nine teams in the NBA above .500 on the road. There were 11 last season and nine the year before. While that’s not indicating much of a change, it’s provided an edge still for being at home that’s making up for the lack of fans that usually create a true “homecourt advantage.”
The Suns are 7-5 away from home this year and play five of their last eight games on the road to close the first half of the season.
Taking all those factors in, it’s challenging figuring out how to squeeze in a practice. The Suns got one in on Thursday before taking on the Pelicans the next night.
Head coach Monty Williams described what it’s been like this season finding that time.
“It does put a monkey wrench in your normal perspective,” he said. “When I’m thinking about the season or I’m looking at a schedule, you can look at those non-game days and kind of pick out the days where you’re gonna be able to practice. This year, not only has it been hard to practice, it’s been hard to schedule a time when you can practice based on the testing times on the road.
“At home, it’s a lot easier, but when you’re on the road it’s a bit different. It does force you to be a bit more innovative and use your imagination as it relates to how you’re going to get stuff implemented. We’ve had to use a lot more film sessions and walkthroughs just because of the inconsistencies of our days, but it’s just where we are.”
It is, after all, just another day in the NBA, as Devin Booker will often say. So too, is getting over bad losses like Tuesday’s to the Brooklyn Nets, a loss in which the Suns blew a 22-point lead in the third quarter.
“When you lose like that, it’s so easy to go doom and gloom, but those kinds of games happen to almost every team in the league once or twice a year,” Williams said.
He added that the team and staff did a good job of taking the loss in and learning from it while moving on.
Tuesday’s defeat stood out more because of the Nets switching a lot more in the second half, which gave the Suns problems.
Williams said watching it back he saw instances where the team could have done a better job both in finding the big man inside and also the center themselves being more available for the ball.
The Suns have had a few losses this year where a tweak from the opposition has been a deciding factor, and it’s given the Suns an opportunity to notice and improve some parts of the team that still need to be ironed out prior to the bigger games later in the season.
“It’s part of the growth of your team,” Williams said.
“You’re going to see that over the course of the year,” he added. “We’ve done it to other teams. That’s how we’ve won games — by making an adjustment at halftime, or out of a timeout.”
The players are in on that process.
“Every game is a learning lesson, win or loss … I think losses like that are good. They’re humbling for you and they get you locked back in,” Booker said.
“It’s obviously a frustrating loss for us, but we’re in New Orleans now and we’re moving forward and we have two tough ones the next two days so that’s where our main priority is.”