OAKLAND — When the Golden State Warriors’ plane finally approached the airport in the early hours on Wednesday morning, the team couldn’t contain its excitement.
“Our players actually applauded when the pilot announced that we were coming in for a landing,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “It was like 3 o’clock in the morning and there was an applause. It felt like we had flown to Australia.”
That flight brought to an end a stretch of five games in seven nights, but even with the Dubs back home, the team is still in the midst of playing six games in nine nights, seven in 11 and eight in 13.
It’s against that backdrop that Kerr can understand the rise of the healthy scratch — like when the Cleveland Cavaliers rested their entire Big Three on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“As a coach, your responsibility is to keep the players healthy and there are times when guys need a night off — just like anybody else,” Kerr said. “I know the popular thing to say is, ‘Well, they’re making millions of dollars and they should be able to play every night.’”
“But, what if you play them and they get hurt? What if they’re more susceptible to injury because they’re fatigued? We have a lot more information now than we had 20 years ago.”
Kerr hinted that the newly-agreed upon CBA is likely to make that type of schedule cluster a thing of the past.
“I believe the NBA is sympathetic to both sides. To our fans, as they should be. And to our players,” Kerr said. “I think, and I know I’m not allowed to comment on what’s happened in the current negotiations for the next CBA, but I know that the league is working to try to lighten up the schedule so hopefully we won’t need to do this.”
Such a change wouldn’t arrive soon enough to save the Warriors from a grueling spell, beginning Feb. 27. The Warriors play a five-game East Coast swing in nine nights, fly home for a day to host the Boston Celtics, get a day off and then face the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs in a road back-to-back.
“If you drew a map of our flights, you’d go, ‘What are they thinking?’” Kerr said.
Kerr offered a simple solution for how to deal with that unkind scheduling quirk, while taking a playful jab at Gregg Popovich, the godfather of the rest night.
“I think the obvious answer is rest everybody in San Antonio because that’s Pop’s trick anyways.”