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Hard work rules now in NBA offseason

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Aug. 25
Did you ever wonder what NBA players do during the offseason? Some people think they're prima donnas. Think again.

If you want to see guys busting their gut, working hard, just go down to IMG's Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Florida (OK, I can hear the yelling and screaming already, that they get paid so much money they should be working hard).

Years ago, players used training camp as the way to get into shape. Not any more.
But go to IMG at 8 a.m. and see what happens, with guys working in the weight room, pumping and building up to get into great condition. Then there are drills, afternoon scrimmages and games at Manatee Community College. More than 40 NBA players are there this summer. NBA referee Bob Delaney is officiating some of the workouts.

Years ago, players used training camp as the way to get into shape. Not anymore. Now they come to camp ready to perform physically, mentally and emotionally.

I saw so many stars in Bradenton recently: former Syracuse player Etan Thomas, former Georgetown standout Jahidi White, Brendan Haywood, Tyronn Lue, Drew Gooden (who looked great passing the ball), Stephen Hunter, Al Harrington, Jared Jeffries, Dahntay Jones, and on and on, competing and improving their skills.

Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince of the Detroit Pistons were there, two key members of coach Larry Brown's new team. Reece Gaines, the former Louisville star and first-round pick of the Orlando Magic, was also impressive. Gaines and Billups went head-to-head.

Another standout was new Minnesota Golden Gopher Kris Humphries, the McDonald's All-American who originally had committed to Duke. The 6-8, 240-pound Humphries displayed good offensive moves and showed he can be physical as he worked out with pro players.

All day long, these guys are busting their guts in a training program, working on all the fundamentals of the game. Joe Abunassar is a coach, trainer, mentor and friend to a wide assortment of college and professional players. Abunassar used to work with Bob Knight at Indiana, and now he's the director of the IMG Academy (which also has programs in tennis, baseball and soccer).

The idea is to develop skills, speed and strength. There's a Big Man Camp which is led by a couple of big names -- Hall of Famer Robert Parish and Clifford Ray. There's a camp for guards to work on shooting jump shots, attacking the basket and making good passes.

The facilities are beautiful and the weight-training areas are first-class.

Stanley Roberts was there as well, working on his weight and pushing for another shot at the NBA. Erick Dampier was there, and he was happy to hear former Baylor standout Lawrence Roberts was transferring to his alma mater, Mississippi State.

Administrator Mike Moreau and director Jeff Frye also do a solid job working at the camp.

Players compete there in the offseason, working at getting better and better. Improvement is important for any athlete seeking that winner's edge in competition.

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