At a time when load management and selective rest have raised questions about the lengths NBA players are willing to go to make it to the court there remain those seemingly up for any challenge.
Miami Heat two-way player Jamal Cain offered one of those examples this week, playing arguably the most compact back-to-back set of games in recent memory, if not in franchise history.
One that included two leagues, three time zones, barely any sleep and, basically, just the clothes on his back.
“It’s just my way of letting them know that I’m always ready,” the undrafted rookie forward out of Oakland University said, with his availability the exact ability the Heat were looking for when they were three starters short for Tuesday night’s home game against the Chicago Bulls.
The whirlwind began late Monday night in Las Vegas, or, more relevant, at 12:34 a.m. Eastern Tuesday, when Cain and the Heat’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, took the court at the annual G League Showcase.
It would be a game Cain would go for a career-high 32 points and eight rebounds in a team-high 37:47, with the Skyforce extending their winning streak to seven.
The game ended at 2:29 a.m. Eastern.
And then . . . off to work.
But first back to his hotel to collect what meager belongings he had packed, and then a discussion with his agent about what would come next.
“I actually chopped it up with my agent for about an hour and a half,” Cain said, as he reflected on the whirlwind. “And then I showered, because I didn’t shower after the game. So I had about three hours to sleep.”
Based on the late ending of the Skyforce game, the talk with his agent, the shower, that made it about 2 a.m. Vegas time (5 a.m. Eastern).
All as the clock ticked toward the Heat’s 7:30 p.m. Eastern tip against the visiting Bulls.
At about 5:30 a.m. Vegas time (8:30 a.m. Eastern) his ride to the airport arrived.
“The Heat sent a driver.” Cain said. “Miami takes care of their players.”
From there, it was American Flight 2768, departing 7:11 a.m. Vegas time (10:11 a.m. Eastern).
From Pacific time, through Mountain time, then Central time, Cain flew, arriving in Miami at 2:42 p.m. Eastern.
Yes, first class, a perk of a two-way contract being treated by NBA standards.
“I went to the hotel just for a few hours, got some food, got off my feet for a few hours, and then came to the arena around five,” he said.
That, too, is another twist of life under a two-way contract. In Sioux Falls, an apartment is provided. In Miami, it’s hotel life.
Shortly after arrival, it was to the court for pregame warmups, less than 12 hours after leaving Las Vegas.
Having previously appeared in eight games with the Heat, there already was familiarity with the playbook and Erik Spoelstra’s approach.
With 2:55 to play in the first period, at about 8 p.m., less than 20 hours after walking off the court in Las Vegas in a different league for a different team, Cain entered in place of Bam Adebayo.
Eventually, there would be 7:51 of action, three points and two rebounds, the game ending at 9:46 p.m., basically when he was taking the court 24 hours earlier for the Skyforce on the makeshift courts at Mandalay Bay.
“The legs felt good,” Cain said shortly after it was over, amid the disappointment of the loss to the Bulls. “My trainer that’s been training me, Mychal Covington, he’s done a great job of keeping me ready, since I was young, keeping that mentality of always being ready. I felt great, I felt fresh. I felt ready to play.”
And then it dawned on Cain . . . he didn’t have enough clothes with him.
“I also have a place in Sioux Falls,” he said. “That’s where I keep most of my stuff. So I just traveled with the stuff that I needed.”
Then a smile from the 23 year old.
“Might just have to go shopping. I haven’t been shopping in a while. So it’s about time I go out and splurge on myself a little.”
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