We know what we’re facing. Obviously we’re coming off a seven-game series and having one day of rest, while they were resting probably about a week or so. But it can go either way. —Jazz forward Joe Johnson
SAN FRANCISCO — Some people worry whether war is at the doorstep. Others stew over a stock market slump. But out here in Fantasyland, i.e. professional basketball, the Utah Jazz have to worry about how to keep the Golden State Warriors from scoring 200 points. And how to score their own points against a strong defensive team.
But a peripheral concern is one that happens every year for someone’s playoff team: How to get enough rest. You might think having a charter plane, five-star accommodations and massage therapy on demand would do the trick. But no.
This is the NBA.
Nothing but the best.
The Jazz were scheduled to practice Monday at one exclusive downtown health club but switched to another due to police and protesters blocking streets.
Some people wait years to be admitted to clubs.
The Jazz do it in 10 minutes.
But none of that necessarily means they’ll win. They are coming off a grinding seven-game series with the Clippers and diving right back in with Tuesday’s game at Oracle Arena. They’ve had one day’s rest. Already Derrick Favors is being listed as questionable due to a sore lower back.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Warriors, who have had nothing to do for seven days except talk. And talk they did, some ripping Salt Lake’s modest (non-existent?) nightlife. The worry for the Warriors, though, is whether taking a week off is really a good thing.
“I don’t know, I think a day or two is cool,” said forward Joe Johnson, who knows a lot about cool. “We know what we’re facing. Obviously we’re coming off a seven-game series and having one day of rest, while they were resting probably about a week or so. But it can go either way.”
Check back on Tuesday night.
“For our group,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said, “rest is good, because of what we’ve been dealing with from a health standpoint. But obviously there are challenges to having time off, challenges to playing with a day of rest and coming off a Game 7. Like any situation, it can cut both ways.”
For most people, a week off recharges the batteries. For finely tuned athletes, the batteries can go dead. Former Jazz assistant coach Gordon Chiesa has said the highest level of NBA play occurs when teams meet after two days rest. Three days and their timing suffers.
The Jazzs longest playoff wait came in 1998, when they polished off the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-game sweep, then watched Chicagos never-ending series with Indiana. It turned into a 10-day watch. The Jazz had nothing but time on their hands. Glaciers melted. Rings grew on the trees outside the Delta Center. Boy bands got popular and disappeared.
The Jazz did their best to stay in shape.
"Time will tell,” John Stockton said, regarding whether the layoff was a good thing. “We've worked hard this week in practice. Coach has certainly run us enough to stay in shape, but there is something different between the game and any practice."
It brought mixed returns for the Jazz. They came off the break by winning Game 1 of the Finals, but lost the next three. What the layoff had to do with anything other than Michael Jordan is debatable.
Any coach speaking candidly will allow that seven to 10 days off is too many, and that one day is too few.
Two days off is about right.
“Yeah, probably,” Snyder said. “Your preparation process, fatigue, health — all those things come into play. So to me it doesn’t matter what would be perfect, it just matters that the game is (Tuesday) night, at the time of day they announce.”
So far this year the Warriors look invincible, having swept Portland in the first round. Will this mess up their timing? Will the Jazz be ground to a cinder?
If the NBA had its act together, it would ignore the TV schedulers and tell the teams, “Why don’t you guys work it out and meet somewhere in the middle?”