Travel Fatigue? Not for These Celtics

LONDON – The Boston Celtics refuse to comply with expectations.

Nearly every pundit expected Boston to crumble after Gordon Hayward went down on Opening Night. All the team has done since is battle against all odds to dominate the first 43 games of its season and become the first team in the league to reach 33 wins.

Now, ahead of their 44th game of the season, which will be played Thursday against the Philadelphia 76ers in London, pundits expected the team to operate with great fatigue after traveling Monday across the Atlantic Ocean.

Nope. Instead, the Celtics, who practiced Tuesday afternoon at CitySport in London, are energized.

“We wanted to practice early-afternoon,” Brad Stevens said of his overseas practice plan, “and guys had a good vibe about them. We ended up going pretty hard and cutting a little bit of the back-end of the practice off because I thought we got a lot accomplished.”

Stevens made this comment just moments after hundreds of media members watched the Celtics work through shooting competitions for a half hour. Throughout the competitions, players were jovial, energetic, full of life.

How, after a travel day like this?!

Well, the answer to that question may lie in the little-known details about sleep schedules in the NBA.

In short, there is nothing typical about those schedules at all.

Take, for instance, a standard Monday night game. Boston would tip off at 7:30 p.m. at TD Garden. The contest would end at 10 p.m. and viewers at home would then simply flip to another channel, or turn the television off all together, before falling asleep. The players’ schedule is quite different.

Following the game, they have to shower down, meet with the media, eat a post-game meal, drive home, then allow their bodies to settle down from an all-out athletic effort. It wouldn’t be out of bounds to say that some players fall asleep at the same time as some morning commuters are waking up to travel into Boston.

And game nights aren’t the only quirk that cause players to have irregular sleep schedules.

“Our sleep patterns are all over the place,” Marcus Smart said this afternoon in London, “going coast-to-coast, different time zones, late games, early games, back-to-back games, and things like that.”

For better or for worse, players’ bodies are programmed to sleep whenever they have the time to do so, rather than whenever the typical sleep zone that most 9-to-5ers fall into rolls around. Smart admits that fact is helping the Celtics adjust to London’s time zone, which is five hours ahead of Boston’s time zone.

“We were already prepared for this coming into this season before we even found out we were coming,” he said. “Being able to withstand that (irregular sleep schedule) back home, it helps us a lot here.”

Some players, like Aron Baynes, fell asleep at a relatively normal hour Monday night, after the team arrived at its hotel at about 11:15 p.m. local time. Others, like Terry Rozier, didn’t fall asleep until 4 a.m. or later, thanks in large part to the College Football Playoff championship game, which didn’t end until about 5:30 a.m. in London.

Still, nearly all of the players got a quality amount of sleep. Rozier, for instance, slept until nearly 11 a.m., which gave him about six to seven hours of rest, which is close to his norm.

And after today’s practice, and likely some touring of the city, the players will get even more rest tonight.

“That’s usually the way it is,” said Baynes. “First night not so much, but the second night you get that good rest and that’s what it’s about.”

Even without a perfect night of sleep, the Celtics appeared to have endless amounts of energy Tuesday afternoon. They’re genuinely excited to be here, and they’re going to enjoy every minute this trip has to offer.

And they’ll do so while continuing to rebuff outside expectations.