Sports | September 23, 2020 12:48 pm

Lack of Travel Leading to Better Play in NBA Bubble?

Players have looked "locked in" since the league resumed its season in July

Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics fight for a loose ball.
Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

As John Starks noted to us earlier this month, players in the NBA’s bubble in Orlando have looked “locked in” since the league resumed its season in July.

That elevated play has continued into the playoffs, which has some general managers and team athletic training officials theorizing the reason the play looks so crisp and there are epic scoring performances nearly every night is that no travel is required between games, according to ESPN.

“Our guys feel better,” one Western Conference GM told ESPN. “We don’t know if it’s anecdotal, but we’ve got these games and we don’t have to jump on planes [afterward].”

Though nothing is imminent, there have been some discussions about NBA teams playing a rival club more than one time in the same market within a period of days, similar to the way MLB holds series.

Though the NBA would have to figure out a way for that not to impact the league’s bottom line, the desire for this higher level of play could compel some sort of change in the future.

During the 2018-19 season, NBA teams averaged 43,534 miles, nearly seven percent more than NHL teams (40,768 miles), 36 percent more than MLB teams (31,993) and 441 percent more than NFL teams (8,049), according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“I mean, it’s interesting, and I think that if we can learn anything from this, is there a better way to travel?” Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told ESPN. “A better way to construct a schedule where it’s less disadvantageous to the teams like Portland and Golden State and Miami — the coastal teams — that have to travel three and four times the number of miles that some of the other teams have to travel and the number of time zone changes … But, I mean, this is just kind of an unintended consequence of this environment is that we learned something about keeping player health and safety at the forefront in terms of best practices for travel, that it’s another benefit to having done this.”

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