The San Antonio Spurs have a new superhero. No, I'm not talking Manu Ginobili, AKA The Batman. I'm talking about Head Coach Greg Popovich, AKA The Sleepmaster. You see, he's giving his team some time off and it may be raising an eyebrow or two to purist throughout the NBA. But maybe, just maybe, Pop is on to something and he's moving away from some of the archaic rituals instilled by some of the greatest basketball coaching minds in the world.
Long ago did Popovich do away with game-day morning shootarounds, which allowed the players to rest up before a game. Now Pop is looking to help his players get some more Z's and is using a recent Stanford University sleep study as his guide.
"You need sleep. Sleep means recovery, mental and physical," Popovich said recently. Now, beginning after the last preseason game, practices don't begin until 4 in the afternoon.
Pop turned to a study which followed the sleep habits of six members of the Stanford University men's basketball team. The studies author, Cheri Mah, revealed some interesting observations. All six players who took part in the study were asked to change their sleep habits and get full nights of rest.
The results were startling as all six players showed significant improvements in observed athletic performance. As an example, all the players saw their free throw percentage rise. "This study ... showed that obtaining extra sleep was associated with improvements in indicators of athletic performance and mood among members of the (Stanford) men’s basketball team,” the report read
The Spurs seem to have taken to the extra winks, well most of them. For new forward Antonio McDyess, the change is something he'll have to work at. “That’s my rest time, my body seems to shut down about 4 in the afternoon.” For the European players, this is a change back to the normal. “In Europe, that’s what we do — practice in the afternoons. So for me, that’s not a change,” Parker said. “In the morning, it’s nice to sleep. Sometimes you come in after a game, and you’re stiff and sore, so you sleep in the next morning, and your body gets warm.”
For the Batman, it was a welcome relief. “For me, it’s good, because I’m not a great sleeper," Ginobili said. "Sometimes, I go to bed late, especially after our games, so it’s good to have a couple more hours.”
The move seems to be the envy of some NBA head coaches. “When I’ve got four (NBA Championship) banners hanging from the ceiling in our arena, I’ll stop having shootarounds, too,” Hornets coach Byron Scott quipped after learning of the Spurs practices.
There have been mixed results from fans. One blogger recently said "This would only work with a mature, older team. Most young NBA players would just stay out all night doing the posse thing."
I say this in response: The study was on college students and, how many of those in the "posse" have four Championship Banners hanging from their practice facility much less their arena?