Kevin Durant received a text message from Thunder head athletic trainer Joe Sharpe over the weekend. It had explicit instructions for how Durant should handle a rare two days off.
“‘Stay in bed for 10 hours,'” Durant said the text read.
For once, Durant listened.
“That's what I tried to do to get my body back and programmed to being in Oklahoma City,” Durant said.
The Thunder returned early Saturday morning from a season-long, five-game road trip. It spanned eight days, starting in San Antonio before culminating in Salt Lake City. Another grueling stretch is on tap, as the Thunder will now play seven games over the next 10 days, which explains at Sharpe's suggestion.
But six of the next seven will be played inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, and the Thunder has the unusual luxury of kicking off this stretch Tuesday night against Utah on the heels of a three-day break between games. Because of the lockout-shortened and compacted season, it's the only time this season, excluding the All-Star break and the season opener, that the Thunder will have three days between games.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
“I did feel it for once after we played Golden State in that back-to-back,” Durant said of the season taking a toll. “But just having these three days is really going to help me get back to my body being on the right stage and ready to play.”
Anyone who has followed Durant closely throughout his four-plus NBA seasons knows he never admits to being fatigued. Still just 23, Durant has consistently reasoned that he's young and could and would play 48 minutes every night if he could.
But this season's grind is different.
“Before the games, I was sleepy,” Durant confessed about the recent road trip. “It took me a couple of minutes to really get revved up and going. But now, to be at home and have three days off, hopefully I can feel good from the beginning.”
With three or more days of rest last season, Durant averaged 28 points and 7.1 rebounds, numbers that narrowly trailed only his 30.9-point, 7.3-rebound average on two days of rest.
Russell Westbrook was at his best last season when getting three-plus days of rest. In his five games that came on three or more days of rest, Westbrook averaged 23.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists and 0.8 blocks in those games, while adding 1.8 steals.