For some NBA teams, prepping for back-to-backs is important
MIAMI (AP) Players have an open disdain for back-to-back games in the regular season, even while understanding there's no way around them when trying to wedge 82 games into 170 days.
So some teams are spending part of this preseason trying to get ready.
NBA teams get to largely dictate their own preseason schedule, and nine clubs opted to have at least one set of back-to-back games on their exhibition slate. Most are going on this weekend, with five teams - Toronto, Cleveland, Miami, Golden State and Chicago - playing either the first or second night of a back-to-back on Friday.
''It's good practice for us,'' Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. ''We want to approach it the way we're going to approach it a few weeks from now, because they're coming. And so the way we mentally approach back-to-backs ... we've got to get excited about it. Even though deep down we know it's exhibition, we've got to get into a mindset of how do we prepare mentally, how do we prepare physically.''
Most teams around the league avoided them entirely. And Toronto's isn't a true back-to-back, per se - the Raptors were playing Cleveland on Thursday, then stepping out of the NBA realm to play the Argentinian club San Lorenzo on Friday.
The Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers are subjecting themselves to preseason back-to-backs twice. And it could be argued the Heat are playing three of the dreaded sets, when factoring in their open scrimmage on Monday night that was the prequel to Tuesday's preseason game against Brooklyn.
''I want our guys to feel a lot of different situations,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he didn't mind them since they allow for more practice time, and he structured his schedule accordingly. Outside of his back-to-backs on Oct. 4 and 5 and Oct. 17 and 18, his team plays only twice during the 11-day span in between.
''I just think eight games is too many for guys,'' Rivers said. ''I think this is nice. You play guys minutes, almost all of them. You give some guys a rest in some of them. I think it's good.''
The Heat, who open their first back-to-back in San Antonio on Friday, have two in the span of a week. That closely mirrors something that happens during the course of the regular season. The NBA has made strides in recent years to reduce how many times each club has to endure games on consecutive nights - or the even-more-dreaded four-games-in-five-days, something that's now a rarity.
''Last year I hated it in the preseason,'' said Heat forward Justise Winslow, entering his second season. ''But now I realize the purpose of it, just so guys can feel it, feel what it feels like mentally and physically.''
Minnesota plays its preseason back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday. The other two teams with them on their exhibition schedule are Charlotte and New York, clubs that decided put them toward the end of their preseason slate.
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said it provides him with a chance to evaluate some players whose roles might still be unclear - and that, as one might expect, stars like Carmelo Anthony won't log big minutes like they would in the regular season.
''I don't really anticipate playing Carmelo 35 minutes one night and 35 minutes the next,'' Hornacek said. ''So it might give an opportunity to some of these other guys, especially there are some of these guys trying to make the roster. Give them a little more playing time in those back-to-back situations to see what would happen if they were on your team. So for evaluation purposes it's good but playing wise, you try not to kill these guys early.''
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.