Don’t Sleep on the Warriors, They’ve Got it Down to a Science

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Steve Kerr has no problem putting aside his cellphone late at night and grabbing a book before bed.

The Golden State coach, fighting a bit of a March cold, does find himself reminding wife Margot not to wake up and send text messages in the middle of the night and interfere with her shuteye. They’ve been married almost 25 years, so he can get away with it.

Kerr is making sure his Warriors get plenty of sleep, too, thanks to a recent session with a sleep expert from Stanford who visited practice.

“I know how important recovery is,” All-Star guard Klay Thompson said. “We play such a long season. And I love to sleep, so it was good hearing that if you want to be at optimal peak performance you’ve got to get your eight hours, or at least try to. You can’t be hanging out long hours at night.”

Cheri Mah of Stanford met with the team at practice last week. The Warriors appreciate any tips they can get during the grind of the season’s final month. She is a researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory.

For Western Conference-leading Golden State (51-12), this is an especially grueling week of flights and changes in climate. The Warriors played at home Sunday afternoon, in Phoenix on Monday night, were back home Wednesday against Detroit, then off to Denver on Thursday. Kerr’s plan was to practice in the Mile High City upon arrival to shake off any sluggishness, then play the Nuggets on Friday.

After that, it’s back to the Bay Area to host the Knicks on Saturday to kick off a six-game homestand.

Golden State director of athletic performance Keke Lyles keeps on players to stay hydrated and get their sleep. He approached Kerr at the beginning of the season to recommend contacting a sleep expert after some players had issues last year.

“We try to stay on top of all that. It’s almost impossible to stay 100 percent the whole NBA season with all the travel and stuff going around,” Kerr said, then shared what he has learned: “Put your phone in a different place than beside your bed, charge it in a different room so you’re not tempted to wake up in the middle of the night and look at it. And don’t spend the last 20 minutes before bed looking at your phone or watching TV. Pick up a book, read a book, calm your mind a little bit.”

Kerr planned to rest players as he could this week. With the travel and quick turnarounds, he has realized off days need to be just that.

A few tips from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll perhaps?

“Pete doesn’t deserve credit for everything we do,” cracked Kerr, who attended a Seattle training camp practice last summer to learn from the Super Bowl-winning coach.

Mah, who has worked with other NBA teams along with NFL and NHL franchises, notes sleep is often forgotten as an essential tool for elite athletes to perform at their peak.

“It’s one of the first things we sacrifice but one of the most important,” Mah said Thursday. “Changing time zones frequently, that can affect circadian rhythms. Really, it was addressing improving and optimizing sleep and recovery.”

The Warriors aren’t the only Bay Area team getting a little sleep guidance.

The World Series champion San Francisco Giants do so, and careful planning might have helped the franchise capture its third championship in five years last fall. Athletic trainer Dave Groeschner consults regularly with Dr. Chris Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mah has studied the effects of sleep to reaction time, mood, and daytime sleepiness, showing that performance improves in college basketball players when they are well-rested.

For Warriors center Andrew Bogut, timing his nap is paramount. He plans to visit further with Mah to gather more ideas. She said many NBA players nap 2 to 3 hours on a game day, which might leave them groggy afterward rather than more alert.

“I’m open to suggestions, anything that can help generate recovery,” Bogut said. “She said 30-minute naps are better.”

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