For some teams, prep­ping for back-to-backs im­por­tant

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tim Reynolds

Play­ers have an open dis­dain for back-to­back games in the reg­u­lar sea­son, even while un­der­stand­ing there’s no way around them when try­ing to wedge 82 games into 170 days.

So some teams are spend­ing part of this pre­sea­son try­ing to get ready.

NBA teams get to largely dic­tate their own pre­sea­son sched­ule, and nine clubs opted to have at least one set of back-to-back games on their ex­hi­bi­tion slate. Most are go­ing on this week­end, with five teams — Toronto, Cleve­land, Mi­ami, Golden State and Chicago — play­ing ei­ther the first or sec­ond night of a back-to­back on Friday.

“It’s good prac­tice for us,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We want to ap­proach it the way we’re go­ing to ap­proach it a few weeks from now, be­cause they’re com­ing. And so the way we men­tally ap­proach back-to­backs ... we’ve got to get ex­cited about it. Even though deep down we know it’s ex­hi­bi­tion, we’ve got to get into a mind­set of how do we pre­pare men­tally, how do we pre­pare phys­i­cally.”

Most teams around the league avoided them en­tirely. And Toronto’s isn’t a true back-to-back, per se — the Rap­tors were play­ing Cleve­land on Thurs­day, then step­ping out of the NBA realm to play the Ar­gen­tinian club San Lorenzo on Friday.

The Heat and the Los An­ge­les Clip­pers are sub­ject­ing them­selves to pre­sea­son back-to-backs twice. And it could be ar­gued the Heat are play­ing three of the dreaded sets, when fac­tor­ing in their open scrim­mage on Mon­day night that was the pre­quel to Tues­day’s pre­sea­son game against Brook­lyn.

“I want our guys to feel a lot of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions,” Heat coach Erik Spoel­stra said.

Clip­pers coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t mind them since they al­low for more prac­tice time, and he struc­tured his sched­ule ac­cord­ingly. Out­side of his back-to-backs on Oct. 4 and 5 and Oct. 17 and 18, his team plays only twice dur­ing the 11-day span in be­tween.

“I just think eight games is too many for guys,” Rivers said. “I think this is nice. You play guys min­utes, al­most all of them. You give some guys a rest in some of them. I think it’s good.”

The Heat, who open their first back-to-back in San An­to­nio on Friday, have two in the span of a week. That closely mir­rors some­thing that hap­pens dur­ing the course of the reg­u­lar sea­son. The NBA has made strides in re­cent years to re­duce how many times each

JALIN MAR­SHALL

VI­TALS: 21, 5-10, 200, rookie.

CA­REER STATS: 3 games, 5 catches for 64 yards, 0 TDs.

Mar­shall has missed the last two games with a torn labrum, but could re­turn against the Car­di­nals. He pro­vided some flashes in train­ing camp and in the pre­sea­son, but also dealt with lapses in con­cen­tra­tion with a few drops. Mar­shall was also serv­ing as the Jets’ pri­mary re­turner be­fore he was in­jured, but could share those du­ties with the re­cently signed Nick Mar­shall if New York opts to have him fo­cus more on of­fense. He was signed as an un­drafted free agent out of Ohio State af­ter play­ing just two years.

CHARONE PEAKE

VI­TALS: 23, 6-2, 209, rookie.

CA­REER STATS: 5 games, 4 catches for 36 yards, 0 TDs.

Peake was a sev­en­thround pick out of Clem­son and faced long odds club has to en­dure games on con­sec­u­tive nights — or the even-more-dreaded fourgames-in-five-days, some­thing that’s now a rar­ity.

“Last year I hated it in the pre­sea­son,” said Heat for­ward Jus­tise Winslow, en­ter­ing his sec­ond sea­son. “But now I re­al­ize the pur­pose of it, just so guys can feel it, feel what it feels like men­tally and phys­i­cally.”

Min­nesota plays its pre­sea­son back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday. The other two teams with them on their ex­hi­bi­tion sched­ule are Charlotte and New York, clubs that de­cided put them to­ward the end of their pre­sea­son slate.

Knicks coach Jeff Hor­nacek said it pro­vides him with a chance to eval­u­ate some play­ers whose roles might still be un­clear — and that, as one might ex­pect, stars like Carmelo An­thony won’t log big min­utes like they would in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

to make the Jets’ ros­ter be­fore con­sis­tently mak­ing plays through­out the sum­mer. He scored his first NFL touch­down not on a catch, but a fum­ble re­cov­ery against Seat­tle in Week 4. Two surg­eries on his left knee early in his col­lege ca­reer likely scared off some teams, ac­count­ing for his rel­a­tively low draft spot.

DEVIN SMITH

VI­TALS: 24, 6-1, 199, sec­ond NFL sea­son.

CA­REER STATS: 10 games, 9 catches for 115 yards, 1 TD.

Smith was a sec­on­dround se­lec­tion out of Ohio State last year, but has been plagued by in­juries and in­con­sis­tency. He’s cur­rently on re­serve/ phys­i­cally un­able to per­form af­ter hav­ing surgery on a torn an­te­rior cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his right knee last De­cem­ber, but is el­i­gi­ble to be­gin prac­tic­ing next week. Smith’s sta­tus is un­cer­tain, but he could add some much-needed speed, ter­rific ath­leti­cism and big­play abil­ity when he’s fully healthy.

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