During the NBA finals, the Golden State Warriors will find themselves in a familiar place—on an airplane.
The defending champions of basketball had the most grueling schedule in the league this season. Their 2015-16 schedule had them traveling 53,575 miles in less than six months—more than any other NBA team, according to analytics hub NBAsavant.com. And the Warriors’ opponent (again) in the finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had the least traveling scheduled during the regular season.
Eastern Conference teams also generally travel smaller distances (a mere 97 miles from New York to Philadelphia, for example) than the Western Conference teams do when they play each other (think the 630-mile trip from Oakland to Portland).
“Usually the more travel you do, the lower the physical output in the game in practically every sport,” said Michael Young, director of sports performance at Athletic Lab, a research and training facility and consulting firm for athletes. Does this mean the Warriors are disadvantaged in the finals? Not quite.
The Warriors may have traveled more miles but when they get to the Eastern Time zone, it’s not as rough on the body. (The Warriors are based in California, Cleveland is based on the other side of the country in the Midwest.) Traveling West to East has a positive effect on the body. “West Coast is always going to play when the body is going to play at its prime performance,” Young said.
For the Cavaliers, it doesn’t work quite so well. A 6pm tipoff on the West Coast will still feel like 9pm to players based with an Eastern Time-based body clock, when “the body should be slowing down for the day,” Young added.
So don’t feel bad for Golden State. In any case, they seem immune to their itinerary. The frequent flyers broke the Chicago Bulls’ 1995-96 regular season-record by one win with a 73-9 performance. Also, long distances certainly seem to suit Stephen Curry.
And also, they fly private.