I know that us fans are champing at the bit to get the western conference finals started. The Suns represent the organization that bounced the Lakers from the playoffs in back to back years nearly a half decade ago and litterally laid the foundation for this franchise’s trip into offseason hell that I’d rather not even get into at this point. So, it goes without saying that revenge is on the mind of us fans, and surely on the minds of some of the players that were on those mid-aughts Lakers teams.
However, revenge will have to wait as the Lakers won’t get the chance to face the Suns until next Monday. After sweeping the Jazz and Spurs respectively, the Lakers and Suns are now on a mini-vacation for another week. That’s a lot of time off for two teams that have really been playing strong ball. Which leads me to the question – is there such a thing as too much rest?
I mean, when teams have it going like the Lakers and Suns do, you would think they’d want to get out there and play every couple of days to keep that good feeling going. Isn’t it possible that the long layoff can hurt one (if not both) of these teams? Manny P touches on this concept from many angles in the comments:
The biggest problem I see here in the short term is Game 1. Our Laker teams have traditionally been very sluggish after a long rest and this 6 day vacation will make them even more slow. The Suns, on the other hand, have proven to be quick out of the gate. On top of that, our bench has been less than perfect while theirs has been on fire. While I think our starters have what it takes to take us over the hump, I would not be surprised if no team weans consecutive games and the series goes to 7.
Read that again. There are about 3 different examples of how the rest can both positively and negatively affect each team. Let’s break down Manny’s comment into parts and explore the concept of rest vs. rust a bit more deeply:
1). The biggest problem I see here in the short term is Game 1. Our Laker teams have traditionally been very sluggish after a long rest and this 6 day vacation will make them even more slow. The Suns, on the other hand, have proven to be quick out of the gate.
This obviously points to how the rest can be a problem for the Lakers. I tend to agree with Manny in that the Lakers haven’t always looked sharp after a long layoff. Being somewhat of an aged team that runs a precision based system, they don’t always seem to be fully on top of their games when they’ve been out of action for too long. And while I can’t speak to Phoenix’s success in these types of situations, their fast breaking/P&R style seems geared to rev itself back up at a moments notice. Could this be an issue for the Lakers? Can the Suns really turn their game on after over a week of rest? What do you think?
2) On top of that, our bench has been less than perfect while theirs has been on fire.
Here is how the rest can actually hurt the Suns and benefit the Lakers. The Suns players (especially their bench of Dudley, Dragic, and Frye) are playing the best they have all season (or at least close to it). Will the lay off cool them down? Will the rest disrupt their rhythm? As I mentioned above, when a team is playing as well as Phoenix is, do you really want to stop playing for over a week? As for the Lakers, our bench has been a work in progress (to put it nicely), but they’ve played some of their better ball when they’ve had some time to get their practice reps. When the Lakers coaches are able to stress the game plan and work on the intricacies of a focussed attack, I think it helps our guys. So, will this rest help our bench guys fine tune their roles and get a better feel for what’s expected of them in this match up? Can a greater attention to detail in both the film room and on the practice court help our role players step up their games or is this just wishful thinking?
3). While I think our starters have what it takes to take us over the hump, I would not be surprised if no team weans consecutive games and the series goes to 7.
And what about our starters? Fisher is 35. Kobe has 40,000 minutes on his legs and is still recovering from his various ailments. Bynum is still nursing his partially torn meniscus. Ron’s been playing with a banged up shoulder and has more tape on his hands (bad thumb, perpetually sprained fingers) than at any point this season. These guys could use some extra rest, no? When asked about the potential to get some extra rest after the game, Kobe seemed downright giddy at the notion that he’d get all this time off. And while these guys aren’t starters, I think we should also mention that the Lakers are still waiting on Sasha to return from his badly sprained ankle and that it looks like Odom (shoulder, knee?) could also use a few extra days off to heal up. And what about the Suns? Nash just got his eye busted up by a Duncan elbow. Couldn’t he use some time off to stop looking like he went a few rounds with Pacquiao? And then there’s Robin Lopez and his bad back. Before he went down with his injury he was the Suns’ starting Center and was provding a solid interior presence on defense and on the glass. Won’t this extra week give him a chance to fully recover and be ready for game 1?
At this point, the rest seems like it will do more good than harm, but you never know. Athletes thrive on the set schedule that is put in front of them. Most guys love to get out on the court every other day (or every few days) to play and keep that good rhythm going that only comes from game action. Will either team suffer because of the rest? Will the extra time to heal and rest weary legs trump that potential loss of sharpness? What do you guys think? Is there such a thing as too much rest?