Friday, August 22, 2008

PE: Working Out to Play the Game

Class is back in session. Earlier in the week we had Civics, Science and Math if you want to read up on the other classes. And you don't want to start the school year falling behind in class do you???

So we finish up our back to school week blogs with the most people's favorite class Physical Education (unless you are one of those Bill Gates types who abhor sweat and prefer to make jokes about computer codes). No homework and you usually were allowed to scream, run and create mayhem without getting into trouble. Try doing that in English class! Along this theme I wanted to find out what NBA players in general, and Grizzlies players in particular, do to stay in shape during the off-season. What I found out was quite different than I expected.

There is no 'typical day' per se for NBA players. Some players use the off-season to work on particular weaknesses in their game. Other players continue to work on the strengths of their games. Some work harder on conditioning while others opt to rest their bodies to prepare for the upcoming 82 game marathon season. And of course some players choose to use their summer free time representing their country in the Olympics or other national competitions. Memphis has Marc Gasol (Spain), Darko Milicic (Serbia) and O J Mayo (USA Select team) who all contributed at least part of their summers helping out on the home front.

While working out against the Redemption Team isn't going to put a player at too much additional risk of injury, sometimes the International team workouts can be very detrimental to a players NBA career. Stories about 7 ft players running along rocky trails in mountains are not uncommon. It is not a big surprise that Darko hurt his Achilles tendon while training with Serbia, a country and a team not reputed to be among the leaders in modern training techniques or medicine.

I did talk to Mike Procopio at Attack Athletics about his group's program. Some of you may remember Mike from Chris Wallace's press conference after the O.J. Mayo trade. Mike was the person who pestered Chris into acquiring O.J., saying he was going to be a big star in the league. Hopefully Mike knows what he is talking about.

Attack Athletics program is based on working out 5 days a week for about 6 hours a day. A typical day begins around 9:00 am with an hour and half skills workout including shooting (200-250 shots during that time). Next is another hour and a half of strength and conditioning work. After a short break for a snack the players start scrimmaging. Not just some backyard, pick-up game scrimmaging either. The scrimmages are limited to their NBA players (20 right now, including O.J. Mayo and Antoine Walker) and are officiated by actual NBA and college referees.

Down at Suwanee Sports Academy in Atlanta things are done a little differently. SSA is the home of the Mark Price Basketball Academy for NBA Players. None other than Rudy Gay is quoted saying:

To learn from one of the most fundamental players of all-time has made a major difference for me on the court. Mark Price knows the game so well and has helped me become a more well-rounded player.
Mark's program focuses on footwork not shooting actually which Mark believes is 'the lost art of the game.' Javaris Crittenton has been working with Bruce Kreutzer and Mark Price this summer and Bruce said that he has made big strides this summer. Judging from the fact that JCritt's team won the competitive Atlanta Summer Pro League I would say that is an understatement.

A typical day at Mark Price's camp is not a full day affair however. Their schedule is 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. Occasionally they will do two a day workouts but that is not the normal routine. They offer individualized instruction from Mark Price, instruction in the state-of-the-art Mark Price Shooting Lab, pre and post video Analysis of shot mechanics and footwork, follow-up and communication with player’s and player’s coaching staffs with weights and fitness equipment available.

While these are only two examples of the type of summer workouts available to players there are many other camps around doing similar types of routines. I am sure everyone remembers the video of Mike Conley working on his dribbling skills last summer. That is just another example of a summer league workout routine.

One thing is for certain. Players need to come to training camp in shape. The days of playing yourself into shape during camp are a thing of the past. Kind of like my days in PE class.

BallHype: hype it up!

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