Offseason workouts no day at the beach for Afflalo

Nuggets shooting guard turns focus to 2010-11

The kid outta Compton is at the beach.

His shoes are off, but he’s not there for the sun and sound of the surf.

The sand under his feet is a training tool. He is there to work.

After taking a month off following a breakout season with the Nuggets, Arron Afflalo started his offseason conditioning program this week. Every day starts with a brisk run on the Santa Monica beach, well before the summer crowds begin arriving with their ice chests and umbrellas.

“I don’t use it to tan,” Afflalo said. “I use it to work.”

Those who were paying attention last season would expect nothing less from Afflalo, who was often the first to arrive and last to leave the practice floor in 2009-10. He stepped in as Denver’s starting shooting guard eight games into the season and never left, earning the respect and confidence of coach George Karl and his teammates through his professionalism and tireless work ethic.

The hard work paid off as Afflalo averaged 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds, while shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range, good for eighth in the NBA. He also was one of Denver’s best defensive players, but he wants to add more diversity to his game in 2010-11.

Hence, the early morning runs on the beach, followed by a session in the weight room, followed by a session on the hardwood.

“I have a good three or four hours a day that I go very intense,” Afflalo said. “The type of training I’m doing now is probably going to put me in the best physical condition I’ve been in.”

Though he was the only Denver player to play in all 88 regular-season and playoff games and put up career highs in nearly every major statistical category, Afflalo sees plenty of room for improvement.

He wants to be more of a playmaker, creating shots for teammates. He wants to do a better job of finishing around the rim. He wants to bring more physicality on defense.

All without sacrificing his status as a 3-point threat that opens the middle for big men such as Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin and Nene.

“Whatever I add to my game, I don’t plan on losing anything,” Afflalo said. “I’m all about improving and maintaining.”

If Afflalo needs any motivation as he grinds through his offseason workouts, the memory of Denver’s disappointing exit from the playoffs is still fresh in his mind. The Nuggets beat the Utah Jazz in their first-round series opener before losing four of the next five games.

“I’m not really over it,” Afflalo said. “This year was the first time I felt I could make a contribution towards winning. For us to come up short, I’ve taken that personal. It’s tough, definitely tough. My intention is to be that much better and get my energy to where I can affect the game even more.”

In addition to an intense workout regimen, Afflalo is adopting a better diet. Junk food, candy and red meat are all among the list of banned consumables.

“With the type of training I’m doing, I have to look at food more as fuel,” he said. “It ain’t about taste anymore and what you love. If I eat garbage food, all the training I put in would go to waste.”

As the summer goes along, Afflalo will periodically leave the beach in search of quality competition. He plans to visit Las Vegas when the Nuggets play in the NBA summer league in July, and he will probably make an appearance at the annual camp run by Denver assistant coach Tim Grgurich.

“Competing is a very important part of getting better,” Afflalo said. “I do a lot of drills, but you have to have some competitive spirit out there.”

His love of the game and dedication to improving were qualities shared by former UCLA coach John Wooden. Afflalo met Wooden a few times during his three years playing for the Bruins from 2004-07. The legendary coach died June 4 at age 99.

“I had a few encounters with him,” Afflalo said. “I wouldn’t say we had a phone-call relationship but he definitely impacted my life, along with many others. It was a pride thing, understanding his principles and his teaching of the game and life in general.”

Afflalo is doing his best to uphold that tradition. The sand under his feet is testament to that.