Practice time will be in short supply in NBA this season

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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra watches during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

The Miami Heat just wrapped up two consecutive days of practice, which is significant for this reason: It might not happen again for a while.

How long? March isn’t out of the question.

Practice time is something that will be in short supply around the NBA this season; teams are basically playing every other day, and that — along with travel and mandated days off — realistically leaves time for no more than two practices per week. Given that teams also had fewer preseason games than usual along with shorter training camps, there just hasn’t been as much time to teach and ease into a year as most coaches would like.

And the hectic pace is pretty much going to last all season.

“I think you need to adjust and at least we’re all on an even playing field, so it’s all relative,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “If you have a day in between, you still have an opportunity to improve. And it might not be a training-camp practice, but you can get some things accomplished even when you have games. Just have to balance everything.”

The Heat just finished their longest break of the first half — three full days off, sandwiched between a Christmas game against New Orleans and the start of a home back-to-back against Milwaukee that begins Tuesday. For comparison’s sake, Miami has a four-game trip in early January during which it will practice no more than once.

They’re not alone. Every team in the NBA will have similar practice quandaries, which comes with the territory of having plenty of four-game weeks. It could be argued that without a lot of practice time, getting off to good starts — like Cleveland and Orlando, both of whom are 3-0 — might be of even more importance this season.

“It’s good for a couple of reasons,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “Obviously, you want to take the wins as you can. But what it does is, in a time of growth, it gives you belief. And when they find success and the ultimate success for us is wins, that gives guys faith in what we’re doing.”