A few days ago, Dave King brought you our first look at the first half of the Suns’ 2020-21 schedule. One thing that seemed to jump out at me was the number of back-to-backs the Suns had. Nine in total and that’s just in the first half of the schedule!
How in the world are the Suns going to deal with making sure they don’t run up too much mileage on a 35 year Chris Paul without sitting him for 9 of their first 37 games? You don’t want him getting run down - or much worse getting injured - but can the Suns afford to rest him for almost 25% of their scheduled games?
Even if you want to do that, the NBA has new guidelines about resting players that you would have to deal with.
Yahoo Sources: NBA implementing new resting policy for 2020-21 season with teams prohibited from resting healthy players for any high-profile, nationally-televised game and violation could result in a fine of at least $100,000.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 7, 2020
Yahoo Sources: On new Player Resting Policy, absent unusual circumstances, team should not rest multiple healthy players for same game and teams should not rest healthy players on road. And in situations when teams decide to rest healthy player, player should be visible to fans.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) December 7, 2020
So if the Suns want to rest someone like CP3 on the second night of a B2B on the road, well the NBA obviously frowns on that. I’m sure teams will find a way around that if they find a need to rest players though (ummm... ‘back spasms’ maybe?).
Or perhaps taking entire games off for rest might not always be needed.
While at first glance the schedule looks bad for the Suns, taking a closer look at the schedule overall makes it seem a little less gloomy.
First of all, five of those nine B2Bs are at home (only Cleveland has more at home) and one of the four on the road is against the same team on back-to-back evenings. B2Bs are never easy for a team but that adds up to 6 of 9 B2Bs where there is no travel between games. This will give the players a much more restful night following those 1st games as they’ll just head back to their hotel rooms to relax instead of loading up on the plane to fly off to another city to check into another hotel before trying to get some rest before playing again on the following day.
Four of the B2Bs are also what are called “soft” B2Bs. Those are back-to-backs that are preceded by at least two days of rest. That leaves five with only one day of rest beforehand. 15 teams have more “hard” B2Bs than the Suns with three teams having 8 and only 9 teams have fewer.
Let’s be thankful for small favors.
This is all outlined in the following chart from NBAstuffer.
- 3IN4-B2B (hard B2B) - 3rd game in 4 days playing on last 2 consecutive days. Pattern = X+O+X+X
- Soft-B2B - 2nd game in 2 consecutive days with 2 days off beforehand. Pattern = O+O+X+X
- 3IN4 - 3rd game in 4 days and had 1 day rest. Pattern = X+X+O+X
When looking over the numbers in the chart for the other teams, you can see that the Lakers and Heat get some of the biggest breaks in the first half of their schedules with only 5 B2Bs each. That makes some sense for the league to do this though as they were still playing in the Finals just two months ago. None of the non-playoff teams seem to have gotten many breaks and the scheduling for the other playoff teams seems to fall somewhere in between in terms of difficult stretches of play.
Some of these differences should level themselves out during the second half of the season schedule but there’s no guarantee that they will. Regardless of that, it’s going to be a tough season for everyone and a tough schedule could wind up being the least of teams’ problems as they try to play this season outside of a bubble during a pandemic.
The bottom line though is that the Suns’ schedule isn’t quite as daunting as one might assume at first glance.
Complete list of the Suns scheduled B2Bs:
B2B 1 - Soft/Road/2 days rest PTP (prior to playing)
- Dec. 26 at Sacramento Kings – 8 p.m.
- Dec. 27 at Sacramento Kings – 7 p.m.
B2B 2 - Hard/Road/1 day rest PTP/Travel between games
B2B 3 - Hard/Road/1 day rest PTP/Travel between games
B2B 4 - Hard/Home/1 day rest PTP
- Jan. 15 vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 p.m. *
- Jan. 16 vs. Indiana Pacers – 7 p.m.
B2B 5 - Hard/Home/1 day rest PTP
- Jan. 22 vs. Denver Nuggets – 8 p.m.
- Jan. 23 vs. Denver Nuggets – 7 p.m.
B2B 6 - Soft/Home/3 days rest PTP
- Jan. 27 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – 7 p.m.
- Jan. 28 vs. Golden State Warriors – 7 p.m. *
B2B 7 - Hard/Home/1 day rest PTP
B2B 8 - Soft/Home/2 days rest PTP
B2B 9 - Soft/Road/2 days rest PTP/Travel between games
* Theses teams will be on the 2nd night of their own B2Bs for these games.