HURLBURT FIELD, September 29 -- As the Miami HEAT opened their season with Media Day this week, coach Erik Spoelstra stressed that he wanted his players in world-class shape so that training camp could be all about basketball.
That message was received loud and clear, as every single player passed the optional conditioning test the week before, many with time to spare. And then some.
Weight can get mentioned at NBA training camps as much as it does before a boxing match. So and so might have gained 15 pounds of muscle. Another may have lost the same amount. Statements like that can usually be used to estimate how hard a player worked during the offseason. But when Eddie House tells you he lost 15 pounds this summer, believe the man.
As players made their rounds Monday, one question heard multiple times was, Is that Eddie House? Without the high socks, headband and wrist bands were used to seeing from the sharpshooter, House certainly warranted a double take, but with a legitimate 15 pounds shed from an offseason workout regime and altered dietary habits, he was nigh unrecognizable.
And ironically, he achieved the opposite of what he attended. He stuck out.
I had surgery on my shoulder this offseason, and for awhile I wasnt really doing anything, House said. When you dont do anything, youre just sitting around, maybe going to rehab three times a week, and youre not eating the right way, you put on some weight.
I looked in the mirror and I said, Man, I got to start doing something about myself. Its just not a good look to show up in camp not in shape. If I was not in shape, I would stick out like a sore thumb. I didnt want to be that guy.
Surgery was but a small part of what had gone wrong for House over the last months of the season. After a blazing start, the Boston Celtics with whom House won a title in 2008 were in the middle of a nasty 8-10 streak when they traded House to the New York Knicks in exchange for Nate Robinson. The Knicks then lost 21 of its final 31, injuries limited House to playing in just 18 more contests, and his former comrades wound up a quarter away from winning the NBA Championship.
Honestly, the [Knicks] organization was great, the staff was great, the fans were great, but it was a horrible time, House said. You want winning, and I was hurt a lot of the time, so for me, basketball-wise, it was terrible.
Bad enough that, five days after being traded, House had to play the Celtics, in Boston imagine going in for a meeting at your former office and trying to beat your -- former co-workers five days after unwillingly leaving -- and lose. In the locker room before and after that game, he was visibly upset at the situation.
I wasnt mad at the fact that [the Celtics] did the trade, I was upset at the fact that I wasnt able to finish what I started with those guys, House said. Those guys are my friends. Not only my teammates, they were my friends. To start something with guys that you genuinely care about and then all of the sudden the world gets pulled up from under your feet and you dont have a chance to finish that mission that all summer you thought about, about how we lost to Orlando [in the 2008 playoffs].
You think about that all summer, then we started finally turning it around a little bit, and then boom. That stung. Thats what stung the most. Its not the business side of it. It was more so the human side of it.
For House, that period in his life was what he describes as a self check moment, and so thats what he did. He checked himself, getting into the world-class shape his new coach wanted him to be in. But though he may look different, this is the same House that was a huge part of a title-winning team three years ago. The same House that, even after the trade, talked to his former teammates often, sending them motivational text messages before playoff games as if he were still among them.
The same House thats ready to do whatever it takes, and hit as many threes as he can along the way.