MUSCLEWATCH 2016: The Final Countdown

Lang Whitaker

Training camp is winding down, and with the start of NBA regular season just days away, it’s time to sort through the numbers and select a MUSCLEWATCH 2016 champion!

The heaviest MUSCLEWATCH activity historically occurs the first few weeks of the preseason, when players arrive to camp fresh off summer vacation and have the chance to show off their newly acquired (or dismissed) MUSCLE. So, there aren’t that many changes since two weeks back, when we did our last MUSCLEWATCH update.

Still, there are numbers to crunch…

• Friend of the program Beau Estes noticed a social media post of myself and Hawks center Dwight Howard at an Atlanta-area Mrs. Winner’s restaurant and had a valid question…

The answer? Dwight was leaning against a railing. (So yes, he’s still, like, a foot taller than me.)

But because Dwight was wearing a sleeveless shirt, I can also attest that his MUSCLES are in midseason form…

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• This news somehow missed our attention, but apparently Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic dropped a significant amount of weight this summer. By July, in fact, he had already dropped 35 pounds…

Once he got to 35, Nurkic decided to maintain from there on out, and apparently kept the weight off. Nurkic is now looking to play an important role for the Nuggets this season. As Nurkic said at the start of training camp …

“I’m really excited with what I have to show this year,” he said.

And what is that?

“A lot,” he said. “The real Bosnian Beast with full minutes, and a really good competitor.”

Here comes the Bosnian Beast!

• According to my main man Knicks guard Brandon Jennings, he has also lost 35 pounds.

As he says in the article above, he weighed 210 pounds after rupturing his Achilles in January of 2015, but he’s now down to 175, his previous playing weight. Because this happened over the course of many months, it’s not like losing it in one summer, which is a MUSCLEWATCH disqualifier, I’m afraid. Still, congrats to Brandon.

• Speaking of Brandons, someone tweeted this photo of Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram with a MUSCLEWATCH hashtag, presumably wondering if this qualified for MUSCLEWATCH.

I’d say no. Not a lot of MUSCLE there to watch, at least not yet.

• I guess this doesn’t really count since it wasn’t in the NBA, but was excited to learn that between his freshman and sophomore years in college at UCLA, Russell Westbrook added 10 pounds of MUSCLE.

• We see you, Austin Rivers! The Clippers guard has added 5 pounds of MUSCLE, which isn’t all that much but should allow him to be more versatile on the defensive end.

• Cleveland’s Jordan McRae has added 10 pounds of MUSCLE.

• Up north, Toronto’s Terrence Ross says he’s lost about 15 pounds. In American weight that’s about 20 pounds. (Kidding!)

• Which brings us to this point:

Who is our MUSCLEWATCH champion?

Well, with Philly’s Ben Simmons disqualified thanks to his unfortunate training camp foot injury, heading into today the leader in the clubhouse was Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng, who arrived for media day having added 25 pounds from last season.

Now I am no math expert, but if my extensive calculations are correct, I believe 35 is greater than 25. Which I think leaves means our MUSCLEWATCH champ is Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic, with his whopping 35 pound weight loss.

Nurkic played last season at 280 pounds, which is a little light in the Nurkic family—his father weighs 400 pounds. Since dropping the weight, Nurkic is already being mentioned as a Comeback Player of the Year candidate. (And the season hasn’t even started!) Nurkic credits Denver’s excitable strength coach Steve Hess for masterminding the weight loss plan, and says he is “excited for everything coming up.”

I don’t know if Nurkic realized this type of esteemed recognition was coming up, but he did it! Congratulations to Jusuf Nurkic! You are the 2016 MUSCLEWATCH champion!