“That’s when I’m most productive,” Porzingis said this week while typing on his cell phone. “I go through my notes, I delete this, I do everything. I organize my life.
Porzingis will have plenty of time to get organized when the Wizards fly to Japan this week for preseason games against the Golden State Warriors on Friday and Sunday. The team’s charter flight is scheduled to depart Dulles International Airport at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday and land in Japan after 5 p.m. Wednesday, meaning Porzingis, his teammates and the rest of the organization’s traveling party of about 100 will spend more money. 14 hours in flight.
Keeping it that long and breathing recycled air is painful for anyone. For Wizards players, how well they handle dehydration, the sleep problems that come with air travel and jet lag could make a difference on the court — both in Japan and crucially when they get home and play two more preseason games before the season begins. How well you travel is a matter of competitive advantage.
That’s why Sue Sanders Bouvier, head chef for the Wizards, Mystics and Nationals, and Mark Simpson, Monumental Sports’ vice president of player performance, have been working for months to plan Washington’s trip to the T.
“We’ve given specific advice on when to wear the eye mask during the flight,” Simpson said.
Saunders Bouvier and Simpson’s overall message to the players was to not settle. The Wizards are only on the ground in Japan for four full days, so attempts to arrive on Japan time will do more harm than good on the side of the trip.
To help Washington players trick their bodies into thinking they’re on D.C. time, Simpson gave everyone a detailed account of how they got up, stretched, and ate during the 14-hour flight. Opening the shade and trying to rest on the window seat. The team consulted with sleep expert Chris Winter to determine how much sleep you need. Before Simpson and Winter decide on a comfortable bedtime for the players, the team serves food to aid sleep and cool down the temperature on the plane.
“There are certain sets of variables — we call them zeitgeists — that our brain uses to determine where we are in time,” he said. “Light, meal times, social interaction, exercise… it’s about thinking about these kinds of sensory inputs and using them so that the mind doesn’t feel like it’s gone to Tokyo.
A meal plan from Saunders Bouvier can help with this.
A successful journey, nutritionally speaking, starts with the players on board. The players have since been surrounded by food to ensure their bodies will survive the long flight and long bus ride once they land in Tokyo. The Saitama Super Arena, where the games will be held, is approximately 25 miles away in Tokyo traffic.
“The theme of this trip is ‘Airplane Snacks,'” said their plan to start five months ago with the question ‘Is there Gatorade in Japan?’ (No, but there are options.)
Saunders Bouvier is trying to keep everything except sports drinks.
“It’s very common. It’s not just when you eat the food, it’s the makeup of the food — it’s a little Pavlovian,” she said. “Eating breakfast at dinner time can work in Japan because it’s dinner in Washington, D.C. Being on a completely reversed clock for seven days.
Think steak and eggs for breakfast, not just scrambled eggs and crepes instead of rice as a dinnertime starch. But speaking of carbs – watch out for those. Eating a large dinner on a flight overstimulates the body and can disrupt sleep. Saunders Bouvier is encouraging players to eat a protein-rich meal before landing, and offers enough options — lobster, shrimp, steak, chicken and vegan options — that anyone will want to skip the rolls altogether.
But even with the careful planning of all the support staff, not everything is under their control. Players and coaches spend their time on the plane, Porzingis checking his mailbox or veteran Taj Gibson to pass the time.
Gibson, 37, doesn’t sleep well on planes. But he has a plan for that.
“You might as well crack open a beer and start telling stories,” Gibson said with a smile. “That’s the whole process of being on the plane. Take it easy because we’ll be with each other a lot.”