Frank Vogel Making Sure His Players Are Well-Rested

By John Denton
Nov. 17, 2017

ORLANDO – In addition to drawing up Xs and Os, dictating substitutions and directing the Orlando Magic during games, Frank Vogel points out that head coaches routinely make ``about a hundred decisions a day’’ outside the lines of the basketball court.

Those decisions, Vogel insisted, are almost always shaped by the health and performance of his players.

With more and more research now available about how rest and recovery dictate a player’s ability to perform on the court, Vogel is making plenty of decisions these days to ensure that his Magic are well-rested going into games.

``You’ve got to be smart about (the decisions) because there’s no exact science about this and you’re just trying to make sure that the guys are getting back on their Eastern Time Zone sleeping patterns as quickly as possible and our plan is to try and help them do that,’’ Vogel said after Friday’s practice. ``I thought our energy was good, but we were sloppy though and we didn’t shoot the ball well, which is to be expected (after a lengthy road trip). That’s why we practiced today to get some of that out, get a sweat in and hopefully be rested for (Saturday).’’

With Orlando in its most arduous stretch of the season – eight of 10 games and 15 of 20 nights on the road – Vogel has been consulting with his team’s medical staff to try and find ways to prepare the Magic for the grind of the NBA schedule. For instance, the Magic will skip their usual shoot-around practice on Saturday morning prior to playing the Utah Jazz later that night (tipoff: 7 p.m.; TV: Fox Sports Florida). On Thursday, the Magic extended their four-game road trip to the West Coast by a day so that the team could sleep in beds on Wednesday night before flying back to Central Florida.

Then, there was this: The Magic pushed the start time for Friday’s practice back a couple of hours so that the squad could get more sleep as it adjusts to going Eastern Time after spending the past 4½ days on Pacific Time. All of those decisions, Vogel said, are made in an attempt to try and get the best out of players come game time.

``You can tell a difference and everyone seems more energized and back to life,’’ said Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who was in a full lather of sweat following Friday’s practice. ``It was a little bit of a struggle (on Thursday) seeing everybody (tired) on the plane, but today we’re getting exercise, we’re in good spirits and we’re excited for (Saturday’s game).’’

After having recently experienced the fatigue of the road themselves, the Magic (8-7) will be on the other side of it on Saturday when they play the Jazz. Not only will the Jazz be on the fifth night of a seven-night road trip, they will be arriving in Orlando in the early morning hours after having played Brooklyn on Friday. Magic center Nikola Vucevic said his team can’t approach Saturday’s game any differently just because his team will be rested and the Jazz will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

``You can’t think about that and you go into the game thinking they are going to be a fresh team out there and will play hard,’’ said Vucevic, whose Magic will be trying to snap out of their first three-game losing streak of the season. ``Sometimes, when it’s one of the last games you give it your own and finish off the trip to get that win. So, we can’t take it for granted that they’re going to be tired. We’re coming from the West Coast as well, so we’re going to have to make sure that we come out with a lot of energy and do our jobs.’’

The Magic’s jobs could be made a little bit easier with the potential return of point guard D.J. Augustin, who has missed the past two weeks because of a strained left hamstring. Augustin was the starter from Oct. 21 through Nov. 1 – in place of an injured Elfrid Payton – when the Magic played their best basketball of the season and raced to a 6-2 start. Orlando’s ball movement and 3-point shooting haven’t been the same since the veteran went out and after practicing fully on Friday he hopes to be back in the rotation on Saturday night.

``It felt good, but I’m still trying to get my legs under me because I haven’t practiced in two weeks,’’ Augustin said following Friday’s session. ``I’m trying to get my conditioning and my legs up, but the hamstring felt pretty good. I’ve been doing some conditioning of late and I’m trying to get my wind up. There will be a little rust, but by the time I play I’ll hopefully have my rhythm back.’’

Augustin and Vogel were two members of the Magic who needed help sleeping on Thursday night after the team arrived back in Central Florida following the 4½ hour flight from Portland to Orlando. Both the coach and point guard appreciated getting to sleep in a bed in Portland on Wednesday night following the game, but they struggled on Thursday adjusting to the dramatic time zone switch.

``Four o’clock in the morning – I got all the way through to four and I’ve been up since then,’’ Vogel said of making the switch in time zones. ``It’s a unique challenge and one that we’ve got to try and make the best of. It’s a situation where we’ve got to find a way (in Saturday’s game) no matter what the circumstances are.’’

Added Augustin, who had a family dynamic factoring into his adjustment to a different time zone: ``It’s hard when you are on the road and in different time zones and I didn’t really sleep (Thursday) night at all. I was up until 4 or 5 o’clock and then I had to get up at 7 to take my kids to school. It was tough, but you’ve got to fight through it and hopefully my body will adjust back soon.’’

Augustin said things such as travel, fatigue and lack of sleep often get overlooked by those on the outside of NBA teams. He appreciates the things that Vogel is trying to do to help players rest and recover – be it cancelling shoot-arounds, adjusting the start time of practices or giving the squad another night in a city for added rest.

``People see us play, but they don’t see the stuff that we have to do and the behind-the-scenes stuff with the traveling and sacrifices (missing family),’’ Augustin said. ``But it’s part of the job and it’s what we’ve signed up for.’’

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