Triple Trouble

Other than Big Ben, only college tournaments prepare Pistons for 3 in 3

The Pistons will have to use any experience they have--collegiate or pro--to handle their three-game stretch.
Jesse D. Garrabrant /NBAE/Getty Images
MILWAUKEE – Only Ben Wallace among current Pistons was around in 1999, the last time the NBA scheduled games on three consecutive days. A member of the Washington Wizards at the time, Wallace was 24 and in his third NBA season when the Wizards played four sets of back-to-back-to-back games.

So three in three is rare for the NBA, but it happens in college every November and March at preseason and conference tournaments. Brandon Knight played three consecutive games in last March’s SEC tournament won by Kentucky. Greg Monroe did him one better two years ago when Georgetown won three straight games before losing to West Virginia in the Big East final. Jason Maxiell and Tayshaun Prince both played three in three games in their college tournaments.

But …

“That’s something right there that was completely different,” Maxiell said. “I was 19, 20 years old – a lot different on my body. It’s almost the same, knowing you have three games, but this is a whole different level, a lot more intense, a lot more aggressive. Everybody’s going to play hard every night.”

The biggest difference, really, is that in all of those college settings – the preseason tournaments and the conference tournaments – games are played at the same site and teams sleep in the same beds for the duration of their runs. In that sense, at least, the Pistons get a slight break on the first of their two 3-for-3 sets of the season.

“We had to fly here,” Monroe said after Monday’s shootaround at the Bradley Center, where the Pistons start their back-to-back-to-back before flying to New York for Tuesday and Wednesday games against the Knicks and Nets. “Maybe in New York and New Jersey it will feel a little like the same because we’re going to stay in the same hotel. In the Big East, it was pretty tough but I think I handled it all right. It’s definitely similar to that.”

“That up and down in the air really takes a toll on your body,” Maxiell said. “Changing time zones is different, also. Luckily, we play in New York and New Jersey so we’ll stay in the same hotel. It shouldn’t take as harsh a toll on our bodies that night.”

Knight rarely came out of the game as a Kentucky freshman until the outcome was decided, but he still thinks three straight NBA games will be a different type of challenge.

“I played a lot of minutes in all the games, so there might be a slight parallel,” he said. “But these games are a little bit longer, the competition is a little bit tougher and there’s more travel. You wouldn’t play and travel each time (in college). You stay in one place.”

“I don’t know how I’ll react,” Monroe said. “I just have to prepare myself, prepare my body. It’s a game – we have to go in with the same focus, the same mentality. You don’t know how your body will basically react, so I just have to prepare the best way I can.”

Lawrence Frank hasn’t even addressed the team about the prospect of three games in three nights in three different arenas.

“I talked to some of the other guys who’ve gone through the three for three,” he said. “You’ve just got to play. If you try to make more of it that it is, then it’s a mental obstacle. It’s already a hurdle. To me, just worry about the game. That’s it. Period. They know the schedule. I don’t think they’re going to be shocked than we play again and then again.”