Licht chats with Mashburn's personal trainer

In the Lane with Licht

Bob Licht
Bob Licht bio
Bob Licht, the radio voice of the Charlotte Hornets, will again offer his insights on the Charlotte Hornets and the NBA in a regular column throughout the 2000-01 campaign. Licht continues providing play-by-play on the Hornets Radio Network for his fifth season, also co-hosting Hornets update shows on WAXN-TV Action 64 Steve Martin. Not one to stay idle, he has spent the past three summers as the radio voice of the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. In 1996 and 1997, he was the voice of the Triple-A Charlotte Knights of the International League and from 1990-95, he was the Director of Broadcasting of the Double-A Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League. Licht, 41, is a native of Detroit, Michigan but grew up in Greensboro, N.C. He graduated from Syracuse University in 1981 with a degree in broadcast journalism; as a student, he was involved in the radio broadcasts of Big East football and basketball games. As a junior, he worked as a reporter at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, and did play-by-play for the International League's Syracuse Chiefs. He called football, basketball and baseball games for Marietta (Ohio) College following his graduation. From there, he moved back to North Carolina to work as a network engineer and color commentator for Wake Forest University football and basketball broadcasters. Licht and his wife, Monica, reside in Charlotte with their three daughters, Rachel (10), Sara (5) and Alexandra (3).
Ed Downs is not a Hornets player or coach. He has never played one second of basketball in the NBA. Yet, his impact is being felt every day the Hornets play. Downs is Jamal Mashburn's personal trainer. In a sense, he was part of the nine-player trade between the Hornets and Heat last August since the two first connected in Miami. Pat Riley was looking for someone who could work with various players on their flexibility, and I got a call from his office. They were looking for someone with personal training background who specialized in flexibility. Downs fit the bill because of his martial arts background; he's been training for 25 years. The 28-year-old Mashburn says Pat Riley believes in karate, yoga and a variety of alternative training methods for many reasons, one of which was the help it gave Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in extending his career. "Pat Riley told me that's the only kind of training Kareem did, and he played over 20 years in the league," says the Hornets' leading scorer. "So I thought I1d check it out. I called Ed because the other number they gave me was for a yoga guy, and the Heat thought that might be a little extreme. Ed and I hit it off right away, although there was pain in the beginning." Pain? Well, you know what they say, "no pain no gain." But self-inflicted? "We used to stretch for about an hour and a half in the beginning. I was in full sweat. I was in pain, really hurting. But it's gotten to the point where my body has responded and feels comfortable out there. When I was younger I could just step out on the court and play. I can't do that now that I'm in my eighth season. I have to start listening to my body." The Heat were concerned because Mashburn is so muscular at 6-8, 240 pounds that he tends to get tight and suffer from tendonitis. One thing Ed Downs swears by is that flexibility helps get rid of tendonitis. "Flexibility helps a person not just feel good but play more efficiently as far as movement is concerned," says Downs, who runs F I S I X (Flexibility Increases In Exercise) out of Miami. "He doesn't feel as tight. When he's out there he feels really loose and in turn has that much more stamina. He's a lot more relaxed out there, which is important, because a lot of it can be mental too." Mashburn agrees. "In the past I1ve had injuries, and I think every professional athlete has gone through an injury period. For my peace of mind, I'm loose, I'm limber, I'm ready to go, and it takes that added pressure off of me. I can go full speed ahead and play basketball without worrying about pulling a muscle because I know my body is right, and I've done what I need to do to prepare it." So what exactly is this routine that has helped Mashburn put up career-best numbers in several categories from rebounding (nearly eight per game) to assists (almost five per game) and put together his best scoring season (20 points per game) since the 1994-95 campaign in Dallas? "We always begin with Chip Sigmon (the Hornets strength and conditioning coach for the past seven seasons) warming him up with the other players under the watch of the coaches before a game," said Downs. "I like to have his legs warm, not cold, before stretching. Then he'll get in his pregame shooting, and we1ll get in a good 45 minutes of stretching. After we stretch, he'll participate in the pregame lay-up drills and then do five more minutes of stretching to put the finishing touches on his pregame routine." So Mashburn's day is much longer than the other players on a typical game day? "Oh, yes. He's coming in a good hour before the other players. For a 7:30 game at the Hive we're in around 5:00 to begin our preparation." That's a lot of extra hours during an 82-game NBA season. "Sure it is, but you have to make that sacrifice if you want your career to be that much longer. He feels like it1s allowing him to play that much longer and even the time he1s playing now is making him feel like he's performing better." Mashburn, a New York native who attended the University of Kentucky, says he's willing to make that sacrifice just like any other individual on the go. "I had to try a different route. Some people take 300-400 shots before a game. I like to stretch. It gets me mentally prepared and focused on what I have to do. When you play an 82-game schedule, with all the travel you have to overcome a lot of things. Business people who do a lot of travel know their bodies can break down by catching colds in different climates and you have to do everything you can to stay healthy. The longer I can stay on the court the more successful I will be." Mashburn is certainly not the first professional athlete to retain the services of a personal trainer to help improve his performance and prolong a career. "I know a lot of NFL players have really been into personal trainers -- B from Marcus Allen to Roger Craig. They believed martial arts really helped them extend their careers by avoiding injuries. When I heard about that I said wed needed to take that over into basketball where you have so much tendonitis trouble." Downs says Mashburn should be looked at as a football player in training terms. "We don1t just do flexibility training. In the summer, we do track work and weight training. I've found working with Jamal that he's equivalent to a defensive end. He1s very strong. His quads (quadriceps muscles) are strong. He's squatting what a defensive end would squat in the weight room. I have worked with NFL players (Louis Oliver, Tony Martin, Terry Kirby), and I haven't seen a basketball player with that kind of strength and flexibility." Downs hopes personal trainers will become commonplace in the NBA because he feels it will help players enormously in the prevention of injuries. "Right now, you have of the physical therapists out there and strength coaches who help prevent injuries, but if personal trainers are added to that list to help the athletes become more flexible, to gain more range of motion and thus lessen the chance for injury." Is his work with Mashburn a success in part because he's been allowed to work within the systems of two "old school" coaches in Pat Riley and Paul Silas? "I think it's a success, and I'm fortunate to have worked with those caliber of coaches. Hopefully other coaches will take on to it as well." WEST COAST WOES
The Hornets struggle on their first west coast trip this season shouldn't be a total surprise if one looks back to last season. A year ago, Charlotte headed to the left coast as one of the elite teams in the East only to lose all five games on their trip. After their recently completed six-game swing through the west, the Hornets have lost 10 of their 13 games out west the past two seasons.
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