Jason Biles finds himself in the trenches of NBA competition as head athletic trainer/director of performance rehabilitation for the Houston Rockets. He was honored with the 2013-14 National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association Assistant Athletic Trainer of the Year Award. Biles spent three seasons as head strength and condition coach and assistant athletic trainer for the Memphis Grizzlies before joining Houston in 2010. Biles has spent the season preparing James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Rockets for the postseason grind.
ThePostGame: How have you seen James' health and game adjust since he arrived to Houston?
JASON BILES: James is an amazing player. Basically, our job we feel is to support him any way. That's any way from the proper nutrition, the proper corrective exercise strategies we do, the proper lifting techniques, basketball coaching, whatever he needs. I think kinesiology tape, specifically KT tape, is another product that allows him to confident, comfortable when he's on the court.
TPG: What makes James unique in the way he treats injuries?
BILES: Well, with James, I think his work ethic is unmatched. He's very committed to being the best he can be. He has goals both individually and helping the team achieve the goals we have. I think James' No. 1 trait is his work ethic and No. 2, he's very creative. He's an outside-the-box type thinker.
TPG: What makes James different than other players?
BILES:As I mentioned, his work ethic. He loves basketball. There's some people who look at it as a job. For him, that's his passion. He continues to commit to being better. He's not satisfied with where he's at. He's really young. The things that he's accomplished in a short period of time, going from being a sixth man and a backup to having his own team and trying to get us deeper into the playoffs while trying to enhance his individual game, it shows that he's not satisfied. That's one of the best attributes you can have in any profession, especially sports.
TPG: Does he put a little extra emphasis on those Thunder games?
BILES: [Laughs] No, he always downplays that. For him, I think early on, when we were playing the Thunder, when we played them the first year, it was a lot of emotions and excitement. I think that's natural. He's been in Houston longer and is now committed to the Rockets. He basically sees every moment the same and wants to win.
TPG: What are your thoughts on the current prevalence of injuries in the NBA and possibly shortening the 82-game schedule?
BILES: Every year, there seems to be more and more injuries unfortunately. It happens not just to the star players, but everyone, role players, on every team. Injuries are one of the most unfortunate parts of the game. We have to be focused on creating a strategy to keep everyone as fresh and healthy as possible, so they can have productive careers and also long careers. I think that's the most important.
TPG: Who are some players who have stood out because of their training routines?
BILES: I had Marc Gasol in Memphis, and he's known for being one of the best guys in the league as a true professional. He's another guy who's passionate about his work and dedicated to his craft. He would do some outside-the box-training things when I visited him in Barcelona. I'm talking running in the mountains and things like that. He even played a little tennis. He had different cross-training ways to change it up. I think guys, if they just play basketball all the time, they don't get a break. Also, then their bodies get used to those stresses and if they encounter anything outside the norm, their bodies don't know how to handle it. I like to encourage different modes of training both mentally and physically.
TPG: There is a sign outside FedEx Forum right now with Gasol that says "Authentic Memphis." What does he mean to that city?
BILES: He went to Lausanne [Collegiate School in Memphis]. He was there when his brother was there. My first year in Memphis was Pau's last year before we traded him to the Lakers. They're just a great family. They're good guys. He is Memphis. He is authentically Memphis. He's got the work ethic. He's a blue collar-type guy who's had to work for everything he's achieved.
TPG: Marc and Pau will be in the playoffs. So will James. At the start of the postseason, what is your mindset at? How do you prepare the players for the extra set of games?
BILES: Physically, we're just trying to get everyone as healthy as we can heading into the playoffs. Every night, it's a battle because we've got to win games to preserve home court and the competition is fierce. We're just trying to support the guys as best we can whether that's through proper nutrition, proper stretching and exercise techniques, appropriate conditioning, whether it's manual therapy or massage, different taping strategies to prevent injuries. We do so much during the regular season, it becomes kind of routine, but you do what you can to lock in for the postseason run and go to work.
TPG: You may have some bias here, but who are you taking for the MVP?
BILES: Not that my opinion matters, but obviously what James has done this year is unreal considering it seems like every night we've had a different lineup with guys stepping up to support James. On any given night, we haven't known who will be available. James has missed no games this season due to injury (Harden missed one game for a suspension). He's been there and fought through the minor stuff. He's been through things that some guys may say I need some time off. Then his performance as well, getting his teammates involved and committing to the defensive end. I think if you look at the entire body of work he's done and how consistently he's done it, he's obviously the leading candidate for the MVP.
TPG: What is kinesiology tape?
BILES: It's a tape that promotes sort of natural movement in the body by not really restricting motion but encouraging proper motion. It has benefits of helping an athlete or a general person recognize what position their alignment is in. It makes them feel comfortable, confident and aware of how they should move. It sort of supports the natural healing processes if there is any inflammation or acute injury type thing. We do use it sometimes to encourage positioning. For example, if the joint alignment is off, we can sort of use the technique to help the joint move more efficiently.
TPG: When did it become popular in the NBA?
BILES: That's a good question. This is now my eighth season in the NBA. I've been using it since I came into the league, maybe a year in. I think it became popular with guys who realized it was helping them accelerate their recovery. Early on, we had the league basically support us in using it. We had to have their approval before a player could use it. When players realized it was beneficial and obviously athletic trainers and physical therapists thought so as well, it gained enough support that the NBA said, you know what, that's right. Go ahead and use it not just for someone with an injury, but for injury prevention.
TPG: Do you recommend kinesiology tape for every player or just specific players?
BILES: We treat each player individually. Every condition is totally different. I would say we use it most of the time to support the therapy that we're doing and the results that it gives us. James is an outside-the-box thinker I think that's what makes him a greater person to use KT tape. A lot of people don't want to change routines or are open to change. He's always open to ideas and ready to adapt.
TPG: Is kinesiology tape something Harden used before arriving in Houston?
BILES: Not to my knowledge. I do not believe he used it before he came to us.
TPG: Is there a difference between KT Tape and other tapes players use?
BILES: I think so. We've used several in the past, but I think the way the KT Tape is built with the precuts, the sizing is good for these specific players and they're constantly improving the sizes they offer based on the feedback from athletes and trainers. Some tapes are more rigid than others and some are like a cloth material.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.