with the road is that it takes you out of your daily routine," Atlanta Hawk
guard Glenn (Doc) Rivers says. "When you're at home, everything is in your
control. When you're on the road, nothing's in your control. You're eating room
service instead of in your kitchen. You can be waiting three hours for room
service. And it still won't come.
happened to us before the seventh game of the playoffs in Boston last year.
I'll bet nobody on our team ate breakfast. The game was at 1:00, and I knew
that our hotel had trouble with room service. I got up at 7:30 and ordered.
Special. We had to leave at 10:30. My meal still hadn't come. I bought a
Snickers bar on the way through the lobby. That's how I played Game 7. On a
No other major
league sport makes its players travel the way pro basketball does. Baseball
teams arrive in a town and settle there for three or four days. Football teams
travel on 10 weekends a year, the exhibition season included. Hockey? Sure, NHL
teams have a lot of one-night stands, but at least they often charter and fly
when they want to fly.
In the NBA, the
player is part of a small traveling party: 11 teammates, a couple of coaches, a
trainer, a couple of broadcasters and couple of sportswriters. They're
high-tech Bedouins, looking for the next oasis with two hoops, a hardwood floor
and a three-point half moon. Except for the Detroit Pistons, who own a plane,
teams usually travel on commercial flights.
Your days last
Even longer in
If you ate every
time someone asked you to eat, you would weigh 500 pounds. If you went for
coffee every time someone asked, you would never sleep. You have to find other
ways to kill time. You shop. You shop some more. You have cities where you can
buy suits at a bargain, cities where you can buy tapes and records, cities
where friends will take you to special places to shop. You're a shopping
New York is easy
to handle because you can walk from the hotel to Fifth Avenue or to a museum or
simply stand and stare at the perpetual parade of people. Chicago is the same.
Philadelphia. Boston. In Los Angeles, alas, you stay in a hotel near the
airport. Where do you go? To another hotel near the airport? Cleveland is a
hotel near the airport. Detroit. Detroit is a hotel near nowhere.
"You go to
this hotel that's 50 minutes from the airport and still 20 minutes from the
arena," Doc Rivers says. "You're on a bus, you're off a bus. That type
of stuff. It's cold, and the plane is late, and you're trapped in nowhere land.
You're saying, 'I'm freezing here in this stupid place,' and you're in trouble
before you even go to the game."
tired. Why is that? You're staying in good hotels. You're flying first class.
That's required by the players' basic agreement with the owners. Every day
you've got $50 meal money to spend, easy as that, even though half the time
people will buy you a meal or two during the day. You have youth. You have your
friends, your teammates, your admirers. You're still tired.