Now things slow down. Considerably. Apart from the three-day break the Pistons had leading to and including Christmas day, there have been only two occasions when they had more than one day between games since the Oct. 31 opener, two-day breaks on Nov. 19-20 and Dec. 12-13.
Their third such two-day break starts today. The Pistons next play on Friday, when they host Atlanta and look to extend their winning streak to four. Next week features a four-day break and so does the week of Jan. 14, which coincides with their trip to London to “host” the New York Knicks.
Lawrence Frank, like most coaches, relishes practice time. But he also is mindful of the impact the game-heavy schedule has had on players, both physically and mentally.
“Sometimes as coaches you can screw it up a little bit,” Frank said before the New Year’s Day win over Sacramento, the fifth for the Pistons in the last six games. “You have all that time and you try to add too much stuff. You just have to assess where you’re at and (add) a little bit here and there.”
The Pistons are also in the midst of 15 consecutive nights spent in their own beds, far and away their longest stretch of the season to date. Their next road game doesn’t come until Jan. 11 at Milwaukee, their first since the Dec. 26 double-overtime loss at Atlanta. Only twice since leaving for Phoenix on Nov. 1 have the Pistons spent more than four straight nights at home, both six-night stays.
While the game-heavy schedule took its toll, it also established a rhythm to the season that now gets disrupted – and just when the Pistons had seemed to get in sync with that rhythm.
“Right now we’re in a good place,” Greg Monroe said. “I think the rest wouldn’t hurt us at all. Guys are focused. We understand what we have to do. I think it’s good for us. I don’t think it’ll mess up any rhythm we have right now.”
Players almost always prefer games to practices, unlike coaches, but Will Bynum acknowledges the value that having consecutive days off – which will not only enable practices, but practices that allow for meaningful competition – could have for weeding out bad habits that might have seeped in.
“Practice time is critical, as well,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot we need to clean up and get better at, offensively and defensively. We can use these practice days for the rest – a lot of guys are banged up – and developing more chemistry.”
No practice was scheduled for today, though players will rotate through the practice facility for individual work with assistant coaches and Arnie Kander’s training staff, while many will receive treatment for injuries. Frank looks days and weeks into the future to incorporate days off, then adjusts as needed.
He’ll use the added practice days coming to both correct mistakes and add new things to the playbook.
“The other thing is recovery time,” he said. “You have to look at the whole month and piece it together. Next week, I’ll have to look at that because you have four days in between games.”
Putting those days to the best possible use will go a long way toward determining how the season’s final 48 games play out.