With the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA was forced into an experiment in which every participating team stayed in the same location without any travel between games. The conventional wisdom on player health has been that minutes logged, especially on back-to-back nights, contributes to fatigue and a higher risk of injury. But now general managers and team staffers are seeing the benefits of not traveling.
“Our guys feel better,” one Western Conference GM told ESPN. “We don’t know if it’s anecdotal, but we’ve got these games and we don’t have to jump on planes [afterward].”
“This is the advantage that we have not had,” said one Western Conference athletic training staffer in the bubble. “We’re always tired … Our guys have been rested. They’ve been fresh. We’ve been able to get them recovered again and again.”
During an August call with general managers, Adam Silver mentioned that the quality of play had been impressive.
Later, a GM said that it had been his observation — and that he was receiving feedback from management, staff and players — that additional rest and lack of travel were playing a role in the quality of the performances, sources said.
NBA Discussing Ways Of Permanently Reducing Total Travel For Teams
A second GM echoed the same sentiment.
A League official then brought up the concept of teams heading into cities to play a potential series of games, akin to a baseball homestand.
Multiple GMs say that on the call with Silver in which the concept of no travel was discussed, it was also mentioned how potentially reducing travel and improving player health would benefit the NBA.
“If you have any franchise player, and if we can find new, more efficient ways to travel that are less punitive to our players, if you’re going to [give that player] another year with a franchise — what is that worth to you?” a Western Conference GM later asked, paraphrasing what was said on the call. “What’s that worth to the league as a whole, a star-driven league?”