For eight months, from the start of training camp to the end of the regular season, NBA players travel from city to city playing basketball. They fly on private jets and have the money to eat at the best restaurants in a particular city. But they’re human, and bodies break down. Whether it happens on the floor or just from the constant travel, practicing and playing 82 games, people get tired.
One of the men in charge of keeping the Houston Rockets healthy -- or as healthy as they can be -- is Javair Gillett, who came to the Rockets in 2014 after spending 10 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Gillett, now Houston's Director of Athletic Performance, uses different exercises, devices and eating programs to keep the Rockets in shape.
We spent some time talking with him about keeping the Rockets upright during the playoff push.
ESPN: Can all the technology be overwhelming?
Gillett: I think you have to know what you’re looking for. The key to our program, and what we’re trying to accomplish, is to individualize their conditioning program, making sure they’re getting the proper amount of training. You get some guys who are undertraining, you get some guys who might be overtraining and we have to identify that first and adjust their conditioning portals over the course of time -- season preseason, in-season, depending on the goals. I don’t think it’s overwhelming; it’s about knowing what you’re looking for. You have these questions you want to answer and you’re using this information to answer those questions.
ESPN: The devices attached to the players' practice gear, what do those do?
Gillett: It’s an Accelerometer, so it's basically tracking movement as they move around the court. It's logging information on the movements over time. When you’re factoring in their body weight and how fast the modular is moving and all those things, you can assign a load to what they’re doing, to the activity they’re doing. There’s a certain impact that there’s a force that’s going on and how fast they do it. All those factors come into play and you can come up with how much work they’re doing on the court. That’s the key, you quantifying the work they’re doing on the court and from there we can adjust the strength and condition programs so we’re getting the desired training affect.
ESPN: Does every player get a specialized plan?
Gillett: We have an idea of what is going to be required of them over time. We know what the demands of the game are, so these tools are allowing us over the course of the season to strategically progress them as far as the work that they’re doing, to get them in the best possible shape, approach heading into the season. Depending on the player, and the position they’re playing, we have to determine the appropriate loads for that particular individual and from there monitor them in practice so when they’re doing things in the weight room and doing additional conditioning it fits their needs. Especially a guard vs. a big, the mileage that they’re covering, all that stuff is tracked during a game now. So we have that great information we can use to personalize their conditioning program. We’re designing it position-specific, weight-specific so we don’t require one guy... you get a guard and a big, if I’m asking them to run down the court and back the times are going to be different for those specific individuals based on their body type and everything.
ESPN: Is it easy to get the players to buy into everything?
Gillett: I think they understand my purpose behind it and that we're gathering the information to help them progress in their training program and help them to improve their athletic skills and all those things. The biggest thing is there’s a purpose behind it, so it’s a lot easier to buy in when you understand the purpose behind it and you see how it was transferring into their daily practice -- that is it being implemented. We gather the information, and some guys like seeing a lot of the data. Some guys just want to know what they need to do. From behind the scenes we’re doing a lot of that work. These guys are smart, so when they want to know why it is they’re doing what they’re doing, there’s a reason behind it and that’s the key.
ESPN: Is it easier for vets to buy in?
Gillett: These are the things they’re grabbing onto now and they have a full understanding of their experience and everything... of how valuable it really is. Back 10-15 years ago they didn’t have access to this, and they see the value of it and they promote it to the young players because they understand how important this stuff is. It’s kind of a luxury over time -- science is being implemented more and more, access to equipment and experts we didn’t have back then... and we’re like: If I had access to that information 10-15 years ago it would have improved my performance back then.