Suns News

Hill Gives His Secret to Thriving in Back-to-Backs

Hill will face Kobe Bryant one night and Carmelo Anthony the next.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Stefan Swiat,
Posted: Nov. 15, 2010

One of the toughest mental and physical hurdles to overcome in the NBA is performing well on the second night of back-to-back games.

Picture this. You’re playing the Lakers in Los Angeles and after chasing Kobe Bryant around for 48 minutes, you board a plane that gets back into Phoenix at 2 a.m.

After talking to your wife about the sale of your Orlando home, you attempt to go to sleep at around 3:30 a.m., but your 3 year old won’t let you because she’s 3 years old. At 4:30 a.m. you finally start drifting off, but now you can’t sleep because you have visions of Carmelo Anthony, the very player you’ll be defending in approximately 15 hours.

That was the exact scenario that Suns forward Grant Hill faced the yesterday. And while that predicament would be difficult for any player, it’s even more daunting for a 38 year old.

Considering his age, his position and those circumstances, conventional wisdom would predict that Hill would most likely be fairly atrocious on the second night of those back-to-back games. Think again.

Coming into last night’s contest against Denver, the 16-year veteran was averaging 20 ppg and 7.5 rpg on 67 percent shooting from the floor on the second half of back-to-backs this season. It’s a positive trend that first began with Hill at the tail end of last season.

So what has been the secret to Hill’s success? He eats more meals, doesn’t sleep in and remains active on game days.

After the first game of the back-to-back set, Hill and his teammates usually don’t arrive at their hotel or their homes to sleep until about 3 in the morning. With the team’s breakfast meeting scheduled for 11 a.m., Hill would normally sleep in until the team meeting in the past.

However, because Hill would sleep in and eat his first meal at around 11 a.m., he would only be able to fit in two meals before game time.

“I didn’t feel like that was enough food, especially after coming off a game the night before,” Hill said. “So what I do now is I get up early (around 7:30 or 8:00 a.m.), whether it be at home or on the road, and I eat breakfast. So now I’m eating three meals because I felt like I needed to up my caloric intake.”

In addition, the Duke graduate doesn’t allow the late nights to give him an excuse to stay in bed all day. Instead of spending the day watching TV or messing around on the computer, Hill gets out and moves around.

Whether it’s taking a walk or going for a light swim, Hill uses the morning to get his blood going before taking a two-hour nap in the afternoon.

“I’m trying to make it as normal of a routine as it is on a regular day,” he said.

Also, when Hill knows there’s a back-to-back set of games facing him, he’s more conscious of what kind of fuel he puts in his body. Although he’s already nutritionally savvy, he’s extra mindful about putting clean, healthy foods into his body before and during days of back-to-back games.

“It’s all trial and error,” he said. “Last year I didn’t feel good at all, energy-wise, on those back-to-backs.”

Besides altering his routine via his sleep and diet, Hill is also using technology to keep the spring in his step. Before games, after games and after practices, the Suns tri-captain puts on a pair of NormaTec MVP (Most Valuable Pump) “space boots,” which provide a pulsating dynamic compression on the legs in order to help an athlete recover faster from fatigue.

“They’re like these moon boots that you put on your legs and they shoot air in,” Hill said. “I do it for an hour. I learned from a lot of triathletes.” Ironically, Hill said that his legs felt better against the Nuggets than they did the night before against the Lakers.

“I have a plan,” Hill said. “I have it sort of figured out what I want to do. It’s only three games, but it appears to be working better than last year.”

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