Timberwolves Talk About Life On The Road
Greg Stiemsma had an eye-opening conversation with former Celtics teammate Keyon Dooling early on in the 2011-12 season. Traveling to New York for their regular season opener against the Knicks, Dooling leaned over to Stiemsma—who spent the past four years playing in the D-League and overseas—and said, “This is a little better than where you were last year at this time.”
As the Wolves wrapped up their six-day, four-game road trip this weekend, Stiemsma was reminded of that comment.
“I’ve always kept that comment in my head,” Stiemsma said. “Where when it comes down to it, we’re really blessed to be in this position.”
Stiemsma signed a free agent deal with the Timberwolves this offseason, ensuring for the second straight year he’s living the NBA lifestyle. He’s playing in packed arenas around the country, taking the charter flights and staying in world-class hotels while living life on the road. It’s an entire production, a collection of individuals that travel with the team to ensure the players are in the best situation to succeed when they step onto the court each night.
And it’s ever-evolving. The way that NBA players travel today differs from the way they traveled 20 years ago. When current television color analyst Jim Petersen played in the 1980s, he was traveling on commercial flights with his teammates on the morning of games to compete. These days, it’s all charter flights leaving late after games the previous night.
NBA training and coaching staffs have grown over the past two decades, ensuring players have the necessary resources through icing, massage and therapy to help the body recover on a day to day basis while away from home.
The long season and potential to play four games in five or six nights means players need to adjust to the lifestyle and adapt to the day-to-day schedule.
Wolves rookie Alexey Shved said he’s gone through a change in that department since coming over to the NBA from Europe. With his European squads, there was always the possibility of practicing throughout the week—sometimes twice a day. In the NBA, there are more days to rest the body without practices, although there are far more games on the NBA schedule.
In Europe, a team might be done with the season after playing the amount of games Minnesota has played to date in 2012-13. In the NBA, there is a whole other half of the regular season to go before the postseason begins.
“Here, it’s a lot of games for sure, but I’d rather play games than have practice,” Shved said. “I like to play here and I like the style, because we play games, we have rest.”
On this past road trip, the Wolves had an off day in San Antonio and bused over to Trinity University, where they had a brief walk through practice and did their shooting drills before calling it a day. On this particular afternoon, Stiemsma got a blast from the past that again made him appreciate where he’s at in his career.
At Trinity, the Wolves were shooting around in a gym with an old-school feel, the type of building that sends you back to watching hoops during your high school days.
That’s the key in this equation. The Wolves get to see all areas of the country, test food and see the sights, and gain unique experiences along the way. Stiemsma, for instance, has been in New York over Christmas during each of the past two years and has enjoyed seeing the tree at Rockefeller Center.
But at the core, the guys are getting a chance to play the game they love. That’s the common denominator in this equation, something that makes the other aspects of life on the road added bonuses.
“We’re playing a game—the same game that a lot of us have been playing since we were little kids,” Stiemsma said. “We’re all fortunate to be playing at the highest level, and then to make a good living doing it. This is just a little reminder.”
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