Blake Murphy – Raptors905.com
There are many NBA players who swear by naps. With rest for the body at a premium during a long season and the game-day schedule often providing a few hours between shootaround and tip-off, players can often sneak a few hours in to recharge their bodies. Steve Nash was a game-day napper. LeBron James swears by that part of his routine. Norman Powell learned as a rookie that naps can be “clutch.”
Alfonzo McKinnie and Lorenzo Brown don’t do naps. (Me and the money are way too attached to go and do that.)
They might have to rethink things the next time there’s a double-header at the Air Canada Centre. That was the case on Tuesday, with Raptors 905 hosting the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for an 11 a.m. tip-off and the Toronto Raptors hosting the Phoenix Suns in the nightcap.
McKinnie and Brown appeared in both games, joining Bruno Caboclo, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl as players to do the 905-Raptors back-to-back in the same day. Raptors now make up six of the 18 times in G League history that a player has done a doubleheader, and employ six of the 14 players to have done so.
Late in the third quarter, it looked as if McKinnie and Brown could be in for significant fourth-quarter run. The Suns staged a comeback that the Raptors’ rotation players needed a few extra minutes to fight off, and so the 905 duo only wound up playing 29 seconds. McKinnie had even begun unbuttoning his pants at one point, ready for adrenaline to help raise his energy level for a second game of the day. Even with just a brief cameo, the effects of the doubleheader were being felt after the game.
“I ain’t gonna lie, I’m tired. I’m tired,” McKinnie said. “You played this morning, then once you get sitting down and I’m at a standstill for so long, my body gets tight.”
The first leg of the twin-bill was easy. Raptors 905 broke their own G League record with a sold-out crowd of 18,900. More than 300 buses from more than 100 schools brought in loads of children for the franchise’s second of three school-day games this season, allowing the 905 to one-up the 18,090 they packed in for a March 13 day game against the Austin Spurs last season. Fuelled by an incredibly loud atmosphere, Brown notched a 36-point triple-double and McKinnie scored 23 points with 16 rebounds.
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“Oh, it’s very cool. I think you come here, have a good crowd, they give a lot of energy for us,” said Caboclo, who also suited up for the 905.
The 905 came up short, losing 117-109 to the streaking Vipers, but it was one of their best offensive performances of the young season. Head coach Jerry Stackhouse is pleased with the progress the team is making, and he’s already circled the next Air Canada Centre game (Feb. 25, 5 p.m. vs. Wisconsin Herd) on his mental calendar.
“The fans are great here all the time,” he said. “Whenever we’re in this building, it’s a real home-court advantage for us. As you saw in the second half, they really got into the game, and I thought some of that energy helped our guys, helped our guys kinda push once we got it close. We gotta find a way to send ’em home happy. We’ll get better. We have another game down here in the season where we can make amends for not getting this one today.”
Before they could look ahead to the next 905 game at the ACC, McKinnie and Brown had to worry about their next game at the ACC that same day.
There were teammates warning McKinnie ahead of time what a challenge two games in one day would be. It’s something most players haven’t done since AAU ball, if they can recall when they last did it at all, and it’s difficult to prepare for, even if minutes might be scarce. Players in a position where they’re seeing time in the G League have to be ready to pounce on every NBA opportunity, so there’s an urgency to fight off any fatigue or lethargy.
“It’s tough man. It’s a grind,” said VanVleet. “It’s a lot on your body. It’s more mental than anything, just having two games. I was pretty sore and tired and sleepy, but you’ve gotta make it through the day and just stay ready just in case you get in that night.”
— Raptors 905 (@Raptors905) December 5, 2017
“It was tough, I’m not gonna lie,” agreed Poeltl, who played more minutes in the NBA half of his doubleheader than all but two other players have. “Two games in a day is never easy. You have that first game in your legs and all of a sudden you come out for a second one, that’s definitely tough.”
Brown had the slight benefit of having been through this before. In 2013-14, Brown played 30 minutes with the Delaware 87ers during the day before getting the call up with the Philadelphia 76ers, appearing at the very end of that game, too. He’s now one of just three players (Jordan Farmar and Chris McCullough are the others) to have played in multiple doubleheaders.
“I’m the reason why the NBA does this, these up and down things,” Brown joked. “It’s been a long grind, man. A long journey. But I’m steady fighting. It’s been a long day, but I’ve had worse.”
Neither McKinnie nor Brown are planning to grab a nap between games if there’s a next time around. Brown is fervently anti-nap, and McKinnie’s between-game routine Tuesday (buying new Js at Eaton Centre) suited him just fine. Still, the day had them looking forward to a good meal and what promised to be a good night’s sleep.
“Oh yeah,” Brown said emphatically. “For sure.”