Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad had no problem taking their shirts off at Wolves Media Day on Monday afternoon. They were both more than willing to show off their new-and-improved bodies.
Bennett and Muhammad are changed men compared to last season. That much was clear based on their work ethic throughout the first couple days of training camp in Mankato, and was maybe even more evident when just looking at them.
Bennett, viewed as a chubby rookie last season, and Muhammad, seen as a heavier forward that could afford to lose a few pounds, both dropped some weight this offseason, and it already looks to be paying dividends. They’re leaner in frame, quicker on the floor, and endurance is no longer an issue for either player.
“It’s definitely been a lot easier for me to run up and down,” Bennett said. “I played 20 minutes straight [at Dunks After Dark] and I didn’t really have a problem with it.”
“I remember compared to last year just running up and down the floor feels great,” Muhammad added. “I’ve got my wind and that’s definitely something I really needed to improve.”
Bennett and Muhammad dropped that weight after significant work this offseason with San Francisco based athletic trainer Frank Matrisciano. Matrisciano, who has trained likes of professional athletes to Navy SEALs, put them through intense training workouts using outside elements of in California as physical obstacles. Muhammad and veteran Ronny Turiaf trained there for about six weeks, and Bennett for about four weeks after he joined the Wolves in August.
It was unlike anything the trio had ever experienced before.
“I can't even pick one specific thing because everything that we did was super intense,” Bennett said when asked about the toughest part of his workouts with Matrisciano. “I can't really explain it. If I was explaining it people would thing I was crazy, but everything was hard.”
Bennett said one of the toughest things was climbing the Santa Monica steps while carrying a 20-pound weight. Muhammad, on the other hand, said the most taxing part of the training regimen was the work with medicine balls.
“That was tough and now the basketball is so light,” Muhammad said. “It feels like I’m shooting from halfcourt because all I’ve been doing for the last month and a half is messing with the 50-pound medicine ball in the sand.”
Muhammad said there was a brief adjustment period he had to deal with after he returned from California, but said he feels great now.
“It didn’t feel right because it was so light,” he said. “Now that I’m shooting and getting used to it, I feel like I’m making the improvements I need to make.”
Bennett and Muhammad both left last season with room for improvement. They had forgettable rookie seasons to say the least. Bennett, plagued by injuries on the court and lofty expectations off the court, averaged just 4.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and was labeled a “bust” by many analysts. As for Muhammad, he withered away on the bench as former coach Rick Adelman refused to use his for most of the season. He was vastly underused and averaged a measly 3.9 points per game in just 37 contests.
Those struggles on the floor seemed to take a toll on both players, and by the end of the season, neither player looked like the wanted to be on the floor. That confidence was restored with the help of Matrisciano this offseason.
“I learned a lot about myself,” Bennett said. “I learned that I can push myself through extreme measures. That stuff that he had us doing I had never done in my life and just to see myself be able to do that stuff ... it proves that I can do anything I put my mind to.”
There’s a very good chance that Bennett and Muhammad could help shoulder the load for the second unit this season. Bennett will more than likely play, and learn, behind Thad Young, and Muhammad should work in behind Corey Brewer and Andrew Wiggins. Bennett has shown flashes, and Muhammad has looked impressive, and aggressive, throughout the first two days of training camp.
Flip Saunders sees potential in both players. He drafted Muhammad last year, and made sure he got Bennett as a part of the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins deal last month.
“He is like a canvas that hasn’t been painted yet,” Saunders said of Bennett. “He’s got a lot of paint brushes [and] what we’ve got to do is just get him to do the things that he does.”
Muhammad also has “a lot of paint brushes” and seems excited to be in position to actualize that potential this season.
“I feel great,” he said. “I know [Bennett] is feeling great, too. This is probably the best I’ve felt in my NBA career. I’m ready to get rolling.”