Rookie diary: Road trips, missed dunks and more
The Bobcats are set to embark on a four-game Western road swing on Wednesday after already playing 10 of their last 16 games away from Charlotte. With so much time away from home, Cody Zeller dishes on what NBA life is like on the road, as well as his recent ill-fated run-in with Blake Griffin.
I got a lot of texts and tweets from friends about my missed dunk on Blake Griffin. Honestly, it wasn't as bad as it looked. I had a running start and he bumped me just enough that I didn't get to the rim, so I ended up just trying to get it there. Unfortunately, as you can see, I didn't. All my teammates are still talking about it, joking about how high I was. He's Blake Griffin and I'm a rookie so I'm not going to get the benefit of the doubt on that call. You win some, you lose some. You're going to get dunked on, you're going to dunk on someone. Maybe 10 years from now people will look at that picture and think I did throw it down.
NBA road trips might seem glamorous, but traveling so much can be pretty tough on your body. The toughest part are the time changes, especially coming back from a road trip. You just never adjust. You try and sleep on the plane, but of course you're wide awake because you just played a game. We got home at 6:30 in the morning from a trip to Sacramento, but I didn't feel like I could just go sleep and waste the entire day. That's one of the toughest parts about NBA travel. Of course, they treat us pretty well. The flights are pretty quick and there's plenty of leg room -- which is huge -- and the hotels are pretty nice, but it's still rough on the sleep schedule.
It's fun to travel and see new cities, but what's been most fun for me is getting to go around the country and see friends I don't normally get to see. We were in Los Angeles for New Year's Eve and I got to meet up with a friend of mine from Indiana. The regular-season schedule is so crazy we probably wouldn't see each other otherwise, so it's nice to be able to see different faces at different stops.
Each player has their own thing they do on the plane. We have a group of 4-5 guys that usually play cards, a handful of people watch movies. I usually try and sleep, but that doesn't always work out. It's nice that we're based out of Charlotte because most of our road games are pretty quick trips. But if you're in Orlando like my buddy and former teammate Victor Oladipo, you've got to add 2 1/2 hours to every trip.
My favorite road stop this season was probably Indiana because I got to see all my friends. Some guys on the team get excited about Miami and Atlanta because they have the best clubs, but that's not really me. Orlando was great because I got to catch up with Vic. We're always texting and comparing situations with each other. I definitely have the better one there.
When I'm not sleeping I'm usually watching movies. If there's a new movie out that's good, there's a good chance one of the guys will have it. Anchorman 2 had some pretty funny lines, The Wolf on Wall Street was pretty entertaining. Lot of f-bombs. I thought Lone Survivor was pretty good, but as you can tell from the movie title everyone was pretty much bawling their eyes out after that one. I watched all of Breaking Bad, which was great. With so much time on the road, I zoomed through it pretty quick. It was pretty addicting.
One of the toughest things about being on the road is there isn't a lot of time to work on your game. One thing I'm trying to do is get stronger, so I work with our strength and conditioning coach and will lift even on the road in our hotel weight room. The problem is, you play so many games you don't want to break down your body too much and you want to be fresh. So a lot of what I do is just maintenance to try and keep your strength throughout the season. In the summer I'll try and put on more muscle, but I've always been undersized so it's more of playing stronger and learning the right techniques on how to play in the post and trying to use my advantage and quickness to make it tougher on people.
We're now halfway through the season and it's gone by quick. I can feel a huge difference in my game between now and training camp. Having two brothers, Luke and Tyler, go through the same thing has helped me be prepared for some of the challenges. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and building off the progress I've already made.
And if I get a chance to throw down a big dunk on Blake Griffin again, I'l try the same thing. We'll see what happens.
As told to SI.com's Matt Dollinger.