Inside a NBA "Off Day"

DiFrancesco spends part of pregame stretching players

Last Thursday in Oklahoma City, the Lakers had an off day after a win the previous night in New Orleans, and took advantage by taking in a movie at a local theatre.

But that didn't mean the majority of players were actually "off" from basketball activities. While the team didn't have an organized practice, nine of the 13 players went through structured work outs or treatment sessions with the training staff at OKC's facilities.

To give us a sneak peek at how such a day can go in the NBA, Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco joined us to provide chronological details, starting at 9 a.m.:

The first order of the day is getting organized, so DiFrancesco is in communication with head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and equipment manager Carlos Maples, in order to determine where, when and how things are going to happen.

DiFrancesco: First of all, I have to figure out if any of the veterans are planning on going to the optional work out, and if they're not, do they want any work before or after the rest of the players go? Steve Nash wanted to do work later in the evening, in this case, so we set up a time. Meanwhile, I'll make a call to the opposing team, in this case the Thunder, and make sure we can get into their facilities.

After determining when things will happen, DiFrancesco lays out and modifies specific plans for each player he'll work with that day. Then he coordinates with Maples.

DiFrancesco spends part of pregame stretching players

Pregame stretch before
Lakers vs. Rockets

DiFrancesco: For the most part, guys have programs on paper, but it's always a fluid document. You never know when a certain injury or tweak comes into play and I have to specialize around that. It's all about feel. So I'll go through the players I have lined up for the day, prepare the order I want to work with them once treatment has been done, and then go through it. From there I have to double check with Carlos to see what gear he's bringing. Because if that doesn't get done, the players wonder where their shoes and work out gear and such is, and we're not getting things done. Now, if there's time before we leave for the arena, I'll head over to Whole Foods to get healthy snacks and food for the guys for game day, and keep it in the cooler at the hotel. I didn't have time in this case, so the groceries would come later.

DiFrancesco arrives 15 minutes early to the bus, which leaves for the arena at 1 p.m.

DiFrancesco: There's always a monkey wrench in the plan somewhere, and in this case, the main weight room at the arena wasn't available, so we had to use an alternate one that didn't have all the types of things I'd planned on. So you have to adjust on the spot. While I'm in the weight room, Gary Vitti, (head physical therapist) Judy Seto and the rest of the staff are there in the training room to treat guys, and (player development coach) Phil Handy and (assistant coach) Darvin Ham are on the court working with players.

DiFrancesco sets up a make shift shop in the alternate weight room, and takes players like Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol through specialized programs one by one.

DiFrancesco: I'm in the weight room for most of the time working with guys individually for the next two hours. Jordan, for example, is focusing on keeping his core and hips really strong in order to protect his low back*. We'll do variations of front and side planks and variations of bridges, and so on, to develop the core muscle endurance so that when he's fatigued or has been in the game for a little while, they can still be functioning at a high level. Then with Pau, we're trying to take advantage of time to bolster his strength in his hips and legs to take pressure off his knees, while also making sure to develop his upper body for overall explosiveness. I'll go to the extent of breaking down his running patterns as well, just working him through an appropriate progression of cardio intervals on the elliptical and so on. *Hill suffered a herniated disc in the preseason.

After completing the sessions at the arena, DiFrancesco returns to the team hotel, puts some equipment down and gets ready to go to the grocery story.

DiFrancesco: I'll generally just take a cab and head to the grocery store on days such as this, trying to make sure we have healthy options for the players on game day. This time, I grabbed prepared salads, yogurt, nut butter packets, almond butter packets and coconut based snacks since that's a healthy fat that helps with energy. I just pay attention to what kinds of sugars and fats that are eaten, because we want the players to have the ones that are going to benefit them as much as possible.

In his first down time during the day, DiFrancesco can eat dinner and do whatever else the time allows before getting back after it once the players return from an afternoon movie.

DiFrancesco spends part of pregame stretching players

Working out with Dwight Howard

Time to work with Steve Nash.

DiFrancesco: I met up with Steve at this point to work mostly on his upper body and his core. We had completed a heavy day of lower body work with him on Wednesday, so we wanted to give that area a bit of a rest. With Steve, if anything, I have to sometimes tell him that we need to slow things down. He'd work out all day, every day if it were up to him. Stretching, activation for his core, lifting, cardio work – you name it. He never wants to miss an opportunity to improve upon or maintain his body, and is in the weight room more than anybody. I have to kick him out at times, and that's just part of my job, to be aware of the volume of work where you're overtraining somebody. You love Steve's enthusiasm and work ethic, but you want to make sure he's not doing 12 or 15 reps when I only want him to do eight for a specific reason. I'm excited with the progress that he's feeling and I'm seeing at this point.

Speaking of players who work out constantly...

DiFrancesco: At any point, Kobe may call me and ask me to meet him for a work out, but he likes to keep his schedule to himself, so that's all you're getting on that.