- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Paul Pierce moved postgame like he does on the floor. He wrapped up the evening last Wednesday at his own pace, moving slow enough to appear fatigued just five games into the season.

His game shoes were jammed into large plastic container that had slots marked by player number. They would go on to Toronto with the rest of the team the next night to start the Wizards’ third set of back-to-back games in the first two weeks of the season.

Among the discussions around the league the last season-plus is length of season. The 37-year-old Pierce, not surprisingly, is ready for some changes. He’s had enough of back-to-back games.

“I’d rather play every other day,” Pierce said. “I mean, it’s tough, man, especially when you play so many, 82 games. You fly. … People don’t understand the grind. You come home, you land at 2 o’clock, people say, OK, you’re getting eight hours rest. A lot of us eat when we land or we’re up for a couple hours, so you don’t go to bed until 4, then you wake up and go to practice and got to play the next night.

“So, it’s tough. Everybody has to do it but it’s tough on your body, especially the older you get. None of this is easy. Coach is always saying winning is not easy and that’s part of it. Maybe that’s the reason for the injuries. So many injuries every year, lack of rest, lack of nutrition. There’s a lot of things that can factor into that. Maybe it’s something the NBA ought to look at in the long run. Who knows if it will change? But, uh, it’s definitely a factor.”

Two weeks ago, the Wizards opened on the road in Miami and Orlando. Last week, they played at New York before coming home to face Indiana.

They wrapped five of the first seven games on the road in Indiana last Saturday after being walloped in Toronto, 103-84, by a young, overlooked Raptors team the night before.

“It was a good old-fashioned butt-whooping,” coach Randy Wittman said.

The Wizards must feel like they are on vacation since Saturday. They were off Sunday before practicing Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, the burly Detroit Pistons come to town. That’s the start of four consecutive home games spread over the next two weeks. The Orlando Magic are in town this Saturday before another significant gap has the Wizards off again until Nov. 19, when the Dallas Mavericks line up as the opponent. The two-week run at home ends when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers visit D.C. on Nov. 21.

“You play 41 at home, 41 on the road,” Wittman said. “Somewhere along the line you might think you’re going through a bad stretch and somebody’s going through an easy stretch … it always reciprocates.

“So, you just focus on what we have at hand. I think we’ve done a good job of that. Winning three out of four in the four games in five nights. We’ve done a nice job starting again on the road and playing with confidence on the road. I don’t ever look at the schedule and say, aw, jeez, this is a tough start. It evens out and that’s what I want our guys to look at. Everybody goes through a tough spell.”

Washington has two more back-to-backs this month, giving it five in the opening four weeks of the season. In December, it has just two. In January the Wizards will play four back-to-backs. In February, two sets of consecutive games conspicuously grouped together at the end of the month. March only once and twice in April.

In order to eliminate them, there are two logical options: shorten the preseason or the number of regular-season games, the latter a common suggestion that has not gained much traction with the league.

“We can shorten up preseason,” Pierce said. “Four preseason games. Start the [regular season the] second week of October. Maybe that would help the schedule rid a lot of the back-to-backs. There certainly should be a limit on that.”

In the preseason, the league experimented with a 44-minute game, shaving four minutes off the typical game time. Commissioner Adam Silver said on ESPN radio it’s “highly unlikely” there will be a change in length of game “any time soon.” Though, he did say the league would look at the schedule.

“Format is something we’re we’ll continue to look at, and maybe a change in the spacing of the games throughout the season,” Silver said. “Obviously a lot of focus on back-to-backs and three-games-in-four-nights, and several people suggested that we look at potentially reducing the number of preseason games, starting the regular season a little bit earlier, push it a little bit later and so creating a little bit more spacing.”

Pierce likes the sound of that.

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