To prepare for their first home game of the preseason, the Knicks are sleeping in. Call it an unscientific experiment to find a link between circadian rhythms and shooting rhythm.
Coach Mike D’Antoni, ever the nonconformist, is eliminating the morning shootaround for all home games this season, starting with Tuesday’s exhibition against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Knicks instead will gather for an afternoon meeting and walk-through at Madison Square Garden. The change saves everyone from having to commute twice in a day, first to the team’s Westchester training center (for the shootaround), then to Midtown (for the game).
It also gives players a little more time to shake off the cobwebs. So rather than roust themselves for a groggy gathering at 10 a.m., the Knicks will have the morning to themselves. They must report to the Garden by 3:30 p.m.
“Just trying to get them with more energy,” said D’Antoni, whose frantic offensive style depends on lively legs. “We’ll see how it works out.”
The morning shootaround is a time-honored N.B.A. tradition. It serves a dual function: to prepare for the game and to give party-minded players an incentive to get to bed early. Whether it works is a matter of some debate.
The routine can actually be draining. Many N.B.A. players take afternoon naps to recover from the shootaround.
The Knicks’ new game-day routine could have ancillary benefits. They will now have a pregame meal together — which will undoubtedly improve some of their diets. And rather than report to the arena at 6 p.m. for a 7:30 tip-off, players will be forced to come early, with ample time to stretch, shoot, work out and get treatment.
Although a few Knicks were regularly on the court between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. last season, the majority came later. Now they will be together for a four-hour block leading into the game.
“I think we’ll probably be a little bit more prepared, because everything will be nice and fresh in our minds,” said forward Al Harrington, an 11-year veteran who has been with three other teams.
For Harrington, who joined the Knicks last November, the greatest benefit is the reduced travel time. His commute between Edgewater, N.J., and the team’s training center takes 35 to 40 minutes each way. His drive to the Garden takes as little as 20 minutes.
Only two players live in Manhattan. Most of the team’s players, coaches and staff live closer to the training center. The change translates into less time on the road for everyone.
“I think it should be good for us,” Harrington said. “You get better rest, you get a chance to wake up when you wake up, have breakfast, hang out a little bit and then come to the arena.”
The advent of the morning shootaround is widely credited to Bill Sharman, the Hall of Fame guard, who started the practice while coaching the Los Angeles Lakers in 1971. Sharman has said it was intended to get players in a game-day mind-set, and to force them “to get out of bed and break a sweat, which avoided that loggy feeling that they often started a game with.”
Now the morning shootaround is a staple of every team’s game-day routine.
The Knicks will continue to hold morning shootarounds for away games, the belief being that players are more likely to stay out late on the road than they are at home.
“At home, the fans will keep you in the house,” Harrington said with a smile. “Like, What are you doing out? You play tomorrow.”
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