Long sum­mer of NBA bas­ket­ball not new

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By TIM REYNOLDS

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — For­mu­lat­ing a plan to get a team ready for the restart of the NBA sea­son wasn’t as dif­fi­cult as one might ex­pect for In­di­ana coach Nate McMil­lan.

Turns out, he’s been through some­thing sim­i­lar to this be­fore.

Spend­ing an ex­tended stretch away from home dur­ing the sum­mer, while un­prece­dented as part of an NBA sea­son, isn’t ex­actly a for­eign con­cept for those with USA Bas­ket­ball ex­pe­ri­ence like the Olympics and the World Cup. Plenty of play­ers and coaches at Walt Dis­ney World see par­al­lels be­tween those ex­pe­ri­ences and this chal­lenge.

“I had that op­por­tu­nity to work with the Olympic team and prepa­ra­tion was very sim­i­lar to what we’re go­ing through here,” said McMil­lan, who was an as­sis­tant un­der Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski on the USA Bas­ket­ball staff from 2006 through 2012. “Hav­ing a train­ing camp, ba­si­cally, at a ho­tel and get­ting ready for a 45- to 60-day sea­son . ... We’re go­ing to have three scrim­mage games, eight so-called reg­u­lar sea­son

games and then we’re in the play­offs so it’s very sim­i­lar to pre­par­ing to play for the gold medal.”

Play­ers who have been through the World Cup or Olympic grinds agree that there’s a level of fa­mil­iar­ity with this sort of sched­ule and sit­u­a­tion.

“It helps tremen­dously,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who was part of the U.S. gold-medal-win­ning team at the Olympics in 2016. “In Rio it was a lot more strict and tighter be­cause we were liv­ing on a boat. That ex­pe­ri­ence was pretty awe­some . ... But liv­ing on a boat, to be in a smaller room and not have as many ameni­ties it re­ally kind of pre­pared me for this.”

Even play­ers who have been part of USA Bas­ket­ball’s events for younger play­ers, like Un­der-18 or Un­der-19 tour­na­ments in­ter­na­tion­ally, know the drill when it comes to liv­ing in a ho­tel for a few weeks and not hav­ing a lot of lat­i­tude when it comes to be­ing free to roam. Play­ers at Dis­ney can­not leave the cam­pus be­cause of Coro­n­avirus pro­to­cols, though the league has made plenty of en­ter­tain­ment op­tions — fish­ing, golf, boat­ing, ta­ble tennis and more — avail­able to them.

Hous­ton coach Mike D’An­toni said he would fol­low much of the same poli­cies that the U.S. pro­gram used when he was an as­sis­tant on those na­tional-team staffs, such as a heavy re­liance on med­i­cal per­son­nel to de­ter­mine what days to have a hard prac­tice and what days to take it a bit eas­ier. Phoenix coach Monty Wil­liams said he also re­freshed his mem­ory on na­tional-team days when putting to­gether a plan for his team’s stay at Dis­ney.

“It has forced me to dig into the ar­chives of that time with USA Bas­ket­ball,” said Wil­liams, an­other for­mer na­tional team as­sis­tant un­der Krzyzewski. “I’ve heard a lot of the play­ers say that it re­minds them of AAU, but for me it re­minds me so much of my time in Spain at the World Cup. It’s a bit longer than the Olympics ... and you have a lot of free time.”

Pac­ers cen­ter Myles Turner was with the U.S. team that com­peted in China last sum­mer at the World Cup, a group that spent more than seven weeks to­gether be­tween train­ing camp, ex­hi­bi­tion games in the U.S. and Aus­tralia, and then the tour­na­ment it­self.

The Pac­ers have clinched a play­off spot, so they’re as­sured of spend­ing at least seven weeks at Dis­ney this sum­mer. It’s an­other long sum­mer for Turner, and he’s not com­plain­ing.

“There is a lot of sim­i­lar­ity in how it’s set up, but for me per­son­ally, I just think that it’s a great time for every­body to kind of stay fo­cused,” Turner said. “There’s no dis­trac­tions. Every­body’s locked in and fo­cused. So, there’s re­ally not a lot that can go wrong in a bas­ket­ball sense.”

One dif­fer­ence at Dis­ney is that no­body has fam­ily mem­bers with them un­til at least the sec­ond round of the play­offs. At an Olympics, it’s typ­i­cal for fam­ily and friends to make the trip — and at last year’s World Cup, a small num­ber of play­ers also made ar­range­ments for fam­ily to join them in China.

“This is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than that, but cer­tainly the tim­ing is sim­i­lar and the tim­ing for us as far as prepa­ra­tion is prob­a­bly more like a FIBA-type sched­ule than it is like a train­ing camp,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “You’re prac­tic­ing for a cou­ple weeks and then you’re play­ing a few games and then it re­ally, re­ally counts.”

NOTES: San An­to­nio as­sis­tant Tim Dun­can is not with the Spurs at Dis­ney; the team said he has re­mained home to help LaMar­cus Aldridge with his re­hab from sea­son-end­ing shoul­der surgery . ... Of the 22 teams in the restart, eight opted to take Tues­day off from prac­tice.

As­so­ci­ated Press

SUM­MER BALL In this Aug. 21, 2016, file photo, the United States’ Kyle Lowry (7) cel­e­brates in the men’s gold medal bas­ket­ball game at the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Sum­mer ball isn’t a for­eign con­cept to Lowry.

As­so­ci­ated Press

EX­PE­RI­ENCE In this Aug. 10 2008, file photo, United States as­sis­tant coaches Mike D’An­toni, left, and Nate McMil­lan watch dur­ing a men’s bas­ket­ball game at the Bei­jing 2008 Olympics in Bei­jing.

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