N.B.A. Ironmen Cling to Routine During the Load Management Era

Little will be ordinary when the abbreviated 2019-20 N.B.A. season resumes as expected on July 30. Games will be played at the Walt Disney World Resort inside a so-called bubble, a plan that does away with playoff basketball’s normal hallmarks of rigorous travel, home-court advantage and the motivational fuel provided by screaming fans.

How it will look and feel to the participants once they get there is a mystery. But in an era of basketball defined by load management — the practice of deliberately holding stars out of some regular-season games to keep them healthy for playoff runs — there exists a faction of N.B.A. players who pride themselves on rarely, if ever, missing a game. They will now have to navigate their return without being moored to the grind of an 82-game season.

At the forefront of that group is Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles, 32, who has played in all of his team’s games since Dec. 16, 2015, the longest active streak in the league. When the season was suspended in March, Ingles quarantined for two weeks with his pregnant wife, Renae, and their infant twins. Everyday life was disrupted overnight, and Ingles, without any idea when, or if, basketball would come back, turned his focus to his family. Every morning, he made breakfast for his children and tucked them in at night, enjoying basic parenting pleasures that had been mostly impossible during the season.

His professional life has revolved around the same practice-game-practice-game routine since he first signed a pro contract at 17 years old. He has spent his off-seasons from the N.B.A. playing for the Australian national team. In the past few years, he became one of the N.B.A.’s ironmen, tightly regulating his daily regimen to maximize the amount of basketball he could play. Before the pandemic, he made a habit of getting to practices an hour early so he could get a massage, stretch and do corrective exercises. After practice, he’d stay an extra hour for treatment.

“If I knew 10 years ago what I know now, maybe I would still be dunking,” he said.

Today, with a full gym at home that includes a treadmill and exercise bike, Ingles has tried to recreate a recognizable groove for himself. Every night, he massages himself after workouts with a vibrating foam roller or a massage gun — he owns several — and then, usually while watching a movie in bed with his wife, slips into NormaTec compression pants, which aid muscle recovery.

“I had days where I was meant to lift and I didn’t because it’s hard to get that motivation when you’re doing it at your house,” he said. “I’m not going to a game tomorrow, I’m not going to a practice tomorrow. I’m just going to do the same thing tomorrow. Again.”

The N.B.A.’s Ironmen

Active N.B.A. players with the most seasons playing in 82 games.


Dwight Howard, 2005-10


Andre Iguodala, 2005-10

Corey Brewer, 2010-17


Tristan Thompson, 2013-16

Russell Westbrook, 2009-13

Pau Gasol, 2002-11


Taj Gibson, 2010-18

Joe Ingles, 2017-19

DeAndre Jordan, 2013-15

Kyle Korver, 2005-11

Damian Lillard, 2013-15

Brook Lopez, 2009-11

Robin Lopez, 2013-16

Wesley Matthews, 2010-14

Paul Millsap, 2007-10

Mason Plumlee, 2015-19

Karl-Anthony Towns, 2016-18

P.J. Tucker, 2016-19

Andrew Wiggins, 2015-18

Source: Basketball-Reference.com

By The New York Times

A sprinkling of other players who have similarly committed to playing full seasons are dealing with the N.B.A. shutdown and resumption plan in their own way.

Since the league expanded the schedule to 82 games, its current normal length, before the 1967-68 season, going the distance has become an increasingly rare achievement, partially owing to advances in sports science that have informed teams about myriad harmful consequences seven straight months of professional basketball can have on a human body.

In the 2018-19 season, less than 4 percent of the league (21 players) appeared in 82 games. Injuries, personal issues, coaches’ decisions and scheduled rest can take the choice of playing every day out of a player’s hands, but those who are healthy enough to have the option to play at every opportunity know they are a rarity.

“It’s very challenging. That’s why there’s only a few that do it,” said Houston Rockets forward P.J. Tucker, 35, who hasn’t missed a game since 2017. “You get a day off when the schedule permits.”

Their motivations vary: Some want to defy an injury-prone reputation, fulfill a sense of duty to fans and teammates, or avoid permanently losing their minutes to a replacement player. Many also cited their love of basketball and an obsessive attentiveness to their body as reasons they’ve embraced the monotony that invades the N.B.A. lifestyle.

Since he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through the 2018-19 season, forward Tobias Harris, 27, has routinely checked in with team staffers to look at his performance analytics, since any decrease would suggest a need to rest to prevent injury. But Harris said that taking time off when he feels well enough to compete tends to have an adverse effect.

“I feel if I don’t play, it’s kind of like hurting me a little bit,” Harris said in an interview before the shutdown. “I’m in a routine and a rhythm. That’s the type of guy I am.” Harris was inactive for the final game of the 2018-19 regular season, but still played in 82 total games after having logged 55 with his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers.

Phoenix Suns wing Mikal Bridges, 23, has not missed a game in his first two seasons as a pro. He is disposed to a strict daily routine, and once the season stopped, he immediately mapped out a plan that could best replicate its physical drudgery while he was home. Bridges did body weight exercises and used weights already in his home, and used a nearby field for conditioning drills.

“I knew I wasn’t going to take time off, but I didn’t know how hard I should go,” Bridges said. “Am I just going OD hard for nothing? It was awkward because if the season didn’t come back I think I was going to keep working out and then treat it like the season was still there.”

Credit…John Amis/Associated Press

Denver Nuggets guard Monté Morris, 24, sat zero games during four years at Iowa State and has not missed one since the start of the 2018-19 season. “It’s really, really, really important that I stay in my rhythm,” he said in an interview. “I’ve always been a guy who’s able to find a way. Even when the gyms weren’t open.”

The Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 24, 2020

    • What’s the best material for a mask?

      Scientists around the country have tried to identify everyday materials that do a good job of filtering microscopic particles. In recent tests, HEPA furnace filters scored high, as did vacuum cleaner bags, fabric similar to flannel pajamas and those of 600-count pillowcases. Other materials tested included layered coffee filters and scarves and bandannas. These scored lower, but still captured a small percentage of particles.

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

A couple months ago, Morris reached out to Ann Najjar, a boxing trainer, on Instagram and asked her to fly in from her home in San Diego to work out in his backyard.

When the N.B.A. in early June approved a proposal to send 22 teams to play in Florida, concerns about spreading the coronavirus were shared widely among players, including those who see playing every game as an obligation.

“Going into a hub, I think the hardest part for me is I know I’ll do the right thing and I’m assuming my teammates will, but we’re all relying on 22 teams, 17 players per team,” Ingles said before the league last week distributed an 113-page guidebook of health precautions needed to make the resumption work. He worries that a player contracting the virus is inevitable. “I want to be there to play the games with my team, but I’m definitely not 100 percent comfortable going.”

Players and team staff members are expected to remain on the premises nearly at all times and cannot enter other people’s hotel rooms, among other regulations while in Florida. Ingles prioritizes his family’s safety at such a precarious time, but acknowledges that he does not want to let his team or fans down by not playing.

“I know people aren’t paying money to come watch me play — they’re coming to watch Donovan play,” he said, referring to his teammate Donovan Mitchell. “But if I’m healthy and can get out there, then I should play.”

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