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Love works to lift his NBA stock

UCLA star, joined by Mbah a Moute and Budinger, gets blunt feedback and sheds weight to improve his game before the draft.

May 27, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Basketball already is a job for Kevin Love. His schedule before this week proves it.

He's awake and eating breakfast by 6:30 a.m. He has made the trip from his Westwood apartment to the Home Depot Center in Carson by 8:15 a.m. There he joins UCLA teammate Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Arizona's Chase Budinger in a weight room where the three players spend 90 minutes doing workouts tailored for their particular needs by Joe Abunassar, founder and owner of Impact Basketball.

The day doesn't end until 3 or 4 p.m.

Mbah a Moute hopes he can show off an improved jump shot along with his already-approved defense when the NBA pre-draft camp pickup games begin here today. Love is rated highly enough that he gets to bypass the games and be one of 20 NBA hopefuls to go through extensive physical measurements and tests Friday.

Since signing on with Impact Basketball last month, Love's days have been 9 to 5 except that the alarm clock goes off more like at 6.

After the weight session, Love has a midmorning snack, delivered by a healthy-eating company called Sunfare that he pays to keep him eating right. Then there's a movement session and a couple of hours of one-on-one basketball. Lunch (delivered), then an hour or so on a treadmill in a room where the altitude is simulated at up to 9,000 feet. A bike ride. A shower. A trip back to Westwood. Dinner and a snack. Delivered. Bed. Alarm clock.

"How do I look?" Love asked last week. He looked about 15 pounds lighter and his jump shot was consistent, even at the NBA three-point line. He made 10 in a row at one point.

To be pushed and prodded into a sweaty, nauseous mess, to have nutritious meals and snacks individually prepared and delivered, to have his game criticized with brutal honesty -- lose weight, refine post game, show a mid-range game, prove you can defend taller, quicker players -- Love will spend somewhere around $6,000 before the June 26 draft.

Since he hired Los Angeles-based agent Jeff Schwartz and will most certainly be an NBA lottery draft pick June 26, the money will come back to Love.

Mbah a Moute hasn't signed with an agent and doesn't know yet whether he'll be a first-round pick with guaranteed money, a second-round pick with no guarantees or a UCLA senior who will take what he has learned -- improve his jump shot, get a more secure dribble -- back to school. Either way, he will have spent between $4,000 and $6,000 too, depending on how long he keeps his name in the draft and works with Impact Basketball.

"You have to do it if you want to do your best in the draft," Mbah a Moute said. "Whatever happens, I'll have learned something."

Abunassar's is not the only training center that caters to basketball players. Another UCLA player, Russell Westbrook, is training in Santa Monica with Rob McClanahan, who is associated with agent Arn Tellem. Former Chicago Bulls trainer Tim Grover, who has famously worked out Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, has a similar business in Chicago where USC guard O.J. Mayo has been training. It is a brand new facility called A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics Center and features plasma televisions and four NBA-sized courts.

Impact Basketball is headquartered in Las Vegas, but Abunassar often works out players on basketball courts placed inside the Home Depot Center's velodrome.

Last week Love, Mbah a Moute and Budinger were shooting while cyclists clattered around the wooden track above the courts. Love said the first question UCLA fans have when they see his slimmer, more muscled body is, "Why now and not last April?"

"It's an easy answer," Love said. "Now I'm working on basketball eight hours a day."

Abunassar said the first thing he does with a new client is get NBA feedback.

"No one questions Kevin's basketball knowledge or his passing and shooting skills," Abunassar said. "With Kevin, it is about playing angles, holding defenders off, defending guys bigger and quicker, and can he get in shape. NBA guys are asking, is he quick enough to guard this guy, that guy? Is his endurance good enough for an 82-game season?

"In Luc's case, his body is phenomenal, no one questions his body, his long arms and that he can defend. Luc needs to go to Orlando and knock down open shots. It's dribbling; shooting; shooting it consistently from the three-point line, show a little bit of range. That's what Luc has to do."

After Love finished his workout day last week, he flexed his arms and broke into a jogging position.

"I could keep on going," Love said. "At first I hated eating the chicken and asparagus and broccoli, the salads," he said. "But I can't lie. I feel way better now. This is the first time in my life I've been pushed into my second wind."

His aim Friday is simple.

"I'm going to blow the socks off scouts with some of my numbers," Love said. "I think people will be surprised at my vertical [jump], my agility numbers. No predictions. Just watch."

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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