As the first round of playoffs in the National Basketball Association advanced to the fourth and fifth games in 2017, fans often turn their attention to the preparation strategies that professional teams follow to ensure that they stay competitive in the long postseason. With 82 games in the regular season alone, it is amazing to think about the rigors that players in this league are subject to.

Teams that make it to the NBA finals will have easily played 100 games since their regular seasons started. Considering that players must travel across the country and continue to carry out additional activities such as public relations, media communications, promotions, and practice, this is a very demanding schedule that is not going away anytime soon. Calls for reducing the amount of games in the regular NBA season are not receiving too much support, particularly at a time when the league is very profitable and is thinking about expanding with additional franchises.

Once NBA teams make it to the playoffs, their schedules are far from relaxed. The postseason is extremely challenging; teams that choose to relax on the first two games of each playoff round are forced to hustle for the remainder of this flash tournament. To this effect, preparation between games is crucial for NBA teams that wish to clinch the conference title and advance to the vaunted finals. Here’s a glance at how some NBA teams and start players prepare from one playoff game to the next.

 

Relying on Star Power

Less than a handful of NBA teams these days can persevere without the prowess of their franchise stars. The two highly rated teams are laden with amazing talent such as Lebron James and Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending NBA champions. Even more talent can be found within the Golden State Warriors squad, which is spearheaded by Stephen Curry, a point guard who is turning into a shooting phenom such as the legendary Oscar Schmidt from Brazil.

The Cavaliers and the Warriors know that their stars make the difference, and thus they try to have them on the court at all times. When stars are not available due to injury or other factors, this reliance becomes problematic. Case in point: the Chicago Bulls, a team that started off winning two games against the mighty Boston Celtics, but then lost star point guard and veteran Rajon Rondo to a thumb injury. What looked like a possible sweep for the Bulls has turned into a scramble to prolong the playoffs, and Rondo was preparing to return despite being less than 100 percent.

Teams such as the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat know how to push ahead without star power. Although the Heat narrowly missed the playoffs, coach Erik Spoelstra developed his bench with strong backup such as James Johnson and Tyler Johnson, who can play as two brothers racking up points and assists while their teammates rest. In the case of the Spurs, coach Greg Popovich can easily bench his five starters all at once and still maintain the rhythm of the game.

 

Fitness and Mental Conditioning

The workouts practiced by NBA players during the playoffs tend to feature lots of court drills and resistance training, but there is also plenty of rest periods, film analysis and mental focus exercises. Staying away from certain habits and vices is crucial; for many players, this means avoiding the nightlife and refraining from sneaking a cigarette.

Even though the days of Vlade Divac, Arvydas Sabonis, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, and other known heavy smokers are long gone, some NBA veterans light up every now and them, but certainly not during the playoffs. At the most, they may reach for a vape box mod once or twice and set it to burn a little lower so that they get a slight taste of the fluid.

In terms of relaxation and focus, some players may practice yoga while others choose to read inspirational books such as They Call Me Coach by John Wooden, The Last Shot by Darcy Frey, and The Last Season by Phil Jackson. A lot of what it takes to advance in the playoffs is drive, and many teams hold focus sessions on this factor alone.

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