Friday, May 30, 2008

To practice or not to practice

After DET won Game 4 (at home), I read where Flip Saunders decided to give his guys a day off from practice so they'd be fresh before Game 5 (at Boston). The Pistons lost Game 5 as Garnett and Allen combined for 62 points.

At the time of his decision, Flip said his team was sluggish in Game 3 (a loss). In his words:

"Sometimes you don't realize, but for 8:30 (p.m. EDT) games, you get done so late. We got in at 3:30 (a.m.), guys get to their place around 4 in the morning. The first thing with fatigue, it starts wearing on you emotionally. First thing you start seeing is a change in how teams play a little bit. I thought we looked fatigued in Game 3 at times for some reason, and last night their shot selection was a little more frivolous than what it was in the other games. That happens with fatigue and it happens with pressure."

The decision whether or not to give your team a break from practice is a tough one for coaches, especially as teams that are still playing are closing in on Game #100 for the season. That's a lot of games and it starts to take a toll on players on both teams.

But it's not only a physical toll. As Flip points out, you can see it in shot selection. The grind of a now 100-game season wears on your mind. Maintaining focus and intensity gets harder. In any profession that requires a high level of focus over a consecutive days, there's a concern for mental and physical fatigue. It's something that you've got to monitor closely in any sport [including baseball, as Joe Morgan points out here.]

Growing up in San Diego, I remember one time when my dad had former NFL coach Paul Brown over to our house to discuss coaching philosophies. Like my dad, Coach Brown was an Ohio native.

I think I was in elementary school. I sat there listening to them talk and, for some reason, one thing that Coach Brown said stuck with me all these years later. He said he believed in have frequent non-contact practices to keep his players fresh and eager for Sunday games.