Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego cut way back on practice for veteran players this week. Get used to that: It’s an approach he will use more and more the second half of the season.
The Hornets didn’t practice Sunday or Monday (the team had its holiday party in that span). The Hornets held a practice Thursday, but the full-court scrimmaging that day was limited to non-starters. Friday, the veterans weren’t required to be at a morning shootaround before the home game against the Detroit Pistons.
Striking more of a balance between rest and practice has become a trend in the NBA the past couple of seasons. Borrego spent most of his time as an NBA assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, where coach Gregg Popovich was ahead of the curve in prioritizing rest for veteran players as seasons wore on.
“At this point in the season you can see legs start to go,” Borrego said pre-game Friday. “Thirty games is a good sample. The guys have been running a lot and playing a lot of games. I like this little breakup for them; not bringing them in every single morning, giving them time to rest and recoup.
“We’ve done that for a number of years in San Antonio, and it’s worked out for our vet guys and our high-minute guys. Ultimately, I just want our guys fresh every single game.”
Borrego, in his first season as Hornets coach, said before training camp that he planned to sit point guard Kemba Walker and center Cody Zeller out of some practices this season. Walker is by far the Hornets’ best player. Zeller has an injury history that limited him to 33 and 29 games the past two seasons.
In addition, the Hornets have two longtime veterans, power forward Marvin Williams (14th seasons) and backup point guard Tony Parker (18th season) both with major roles in this rotation.
“It’s a new NBA,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said of the increased consciousness of rest in the face of 82-game NBA schedules. “Two or three years ago people would have been questioning your coaching (by skipping practices for rest). Whether you’re not coaching them hard enough.”
Casey, NBA coach of the year last season with the Toronto Raptors, said coaches are adapting in part by correcting more with film sessions, less with full-speed drills. Casey said even with this being his first season with the Pistons, he intends to cut back on practice time and some gameday shootarounds as the season progresses for the same reasons Borrego mentioned.