MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Adelman learned his lesson after asking the NBA for a reprieve regarding Minnesota’s demanding travel schedule.
“They sent us the Mexico,” the Timberwolves coach cracked after practice this week. “That’s why we don’t ask again.”
Minnesota will log more miles to play than any other NBA team this season, a fact bolstered by its Dec. 4 clash with San Antonio in Mexico City. As usual, long road trips to California and Texas also grace the schedule.
It’s a product of geography combined with conference alignment. A rigorous travel slate is nothing new to the Timberwolves, and players say it’s not that big of a deal.
Adelman begs to differ.
“Yeah, it matters,” Adelman said. “It’s pretty obvious that we’re not real close to the Western teams, so it adds a lot. I think it really bothers you when you have to play here and then get on a plane and play the next night in an eastern city. You’re gonna get there late or you play some place on the road, have to come back and play here, because there’s not quick flights.”
All told, Adelman and his players will journey almost 50,000 miles this season. Their longest road swing comes in January, when they’ll face Utah, Golden State, Portland and Chicago in six-day span. During a four-day stretch starting Dec. 13, the Timberwolves play at San Antonio, at Memphis and at Boston.
They also head out to California three times and Texas and Florida once for a set of two games in each locale. All but one of those trips feature games on back-to-back nights.
Back-to-backs can be especially taxing, particularly on the West Coast after two time zone changes.
Not an issue, Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic said.
“You just accept it like a part of your job,” the big man from Montenegro said. “We are not even thinking, I think, about that we’ve got more miles.”
Pekovic, especially, appreciates the first-class flying conditions he and his teammates enjoy. Wait times can be a lot longer in foreign airports, and it’s not like NBA players are flying economy.
“It don’t have any effect,” said Pekovic, who seemed amused when asked about covering so much ground this year. “We’ve got great planes and everything. It’s not like you’re flying in Europe so you’ve got to wait in the airport and everything. It’s normal.”
The Timberwolves aren’t the only Western Conference team racking up frequent flyer miles, either. Both Memphis and New Orleans are located even further east than Minneapolis, giving the Grizzlies and Pelicans plenty of real estate to cover on their road trips.
But Adelman still has complained to the league about Minnesota’s plight. Unfortunately for the 23rd-year head man, there’s not a whole lot the league can do, short of realigning and swapping the Timberwolves with an Eastern Conference team.
That’s not happening any time soon.
“It matters, but it’s the way it is,” Adelman said. “It’s where Minnesota is, and you have to deal with it.”
Said Pekovic: “If you need to travel, you travel. That’s all.”