NBA time zone: body clocks get a reset inside the bubble

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Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers argues a call during the team's NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The NBA body clock is finely tuned.

Game days are marked by a morning shootaround, afternoon nap and then the actual contest in early evening. Practice days typically feature a late-morning or midday workout. Teams tend not to deviate much.

In normal times, anyway. In the bubble, all bets are off.

Whether it’s the Los Angeles Clippers starting a practice at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time, or the Toronto Raptors leaving an arena after midnight following one game and then showing up in the same place before noon for their next game, there have been some unusual situations when it comes to the schedule for the NBA restart. With 22 teams at Walt Disney World sharing facilities, things are on a precise schedule — and that means it’s far from business as usual.

Case in point: The Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers played Saturday, a game that started at 1 p.m. in Lake Buena Vista — and 10 a.m. in their local markets. It’s not uncommon for a Western Conference team to play maybe one or two of those early games on an Eastern Conference trip each year, but a West vs. West matchup at that time is generally unprecedented.

“It’s just all the different times are a little different because we usually set our own times for practice,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “Because there’s a lot of teams, obviously that would be impossible to do, and so they’re doing the best that they can. It’s just something different for us, and everybody has to get used to it and deal with it.”

Before games inside the NBA bubble started July 30, there was a three-week stretch where most teams were practicing pretty much daily. Teams were given three-hour windows to practice at one of seven facilities at Disney, with at least an hour before another team could enter the same facility because of cleaning and disinfecting requirements.

To make it all work, some teams started practice as early as 8:30 a.m. Others didn’t end until 10 p.m. And on Sunday’s game schedule, play could be continuous for more than 11 hours — Washington and Oklahoma City tip off at 12:30 p.m., the Clippers and Brooklyn will likely finish around midnight.

Some of the Blazers and Clippers were in the building for their game before 11 a.m. Saturday.

“We didn’t have a meeting this morning, which is a little different,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Just a little too early.”

Toronto coach Nick Nurse said the odd routines have now started to feel, well, routine. The Raptors started their Disney experience by having a block of days where they would practice later, then rotated to earlier start times for workouts, all of it set up by the league.

So, on game days, whether tip-off is early or late, the Raptors -- like every team in the bubble -- have at least some experience playing at that time and can set their body clocks accordingly.

“It may happen once in the while in the playoffs too, every other day at night and then you play an afternoon game,” Nurse said. “Got to get them in, so we’ll see what happens.”

Besides, it’s not like teams can go anywhere. While there are some rest and relaxation options in the bubble such as golf and fishing, teams wouldn’t have much of a reason to complain — or the ability to cite a scheduling conflict — regardless of when their practice or game time is on a given day.

“I give this credit to our players: No matter what time the practices have been, I’ve not heard one complaint about a practice time from our players,” Rivers said. “They show up and they do it.”

The big story on Saturday morning wasn’t how early it was for the Blazers and Clippers, or how coffee isn’t readily available in the arenas at Disney, but that Kawhi Leonard wasn’t playing for the Clippers on the front end of a back to back ito get some rest.

“Kawhi’s out tonight,” Stotts said.

Old habits die hard. Stotts’ reference to “tonight” came in a pregame interview, at 11:19 a.m.


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