Every year my favorite cliche of pre-season is "the best shape of his life/career". It encapsulates so much of the optimism fans can feel coming into the year. Anything is possible when a player trains hard in the offseason.
For example, there’s no way the Jared Sullinger from last year could run down LeBron for an unexpected block from behind. Now imagine if Sullinger is in the "best shape of his career". The four-time MVP might not be feeling too comfortable then. With that in mind, here are my guesses for who will be coming into camp hungry for basketball in lieu of food.
Evan Turner doesn't have a noticeable weight problem per se. He has, however, been knocked numerous times for being out of shape. After his much maligned stint with the Pacers last season, I’m hoping to see a positive story about his work ethic to emerge soon. Turner needs a good start to his redemption campaign with the Celtics. He has played for most of his young career in Philly, so he could use their local hero for inspiration. A rousing scene of Turner outrunning local children through the streets and climbing some steps like Stallone would do wonders for his image.
It’s been too long since the Celtics played a weight challenged power forward with a growing love for the three ball. I don’t expect Sullinger to start shooting to the extent of Employee #8, but if he starts to wiggle after his makes then look out. Unfortunately Sullinger’s conditioning level was a recurring theme last year. He admitted as much himself after the season. There has already been some focus on his conditioning this offseason, even our own Kevin O’Connor has touched on it. This is promising, but these stories need to go a bit further to qualify Sullinger for the "best shape of his life" distinction. Other than the titular phrase of course, I’m hoping to see specific comparative references to Ohio State or even his days playing AAU. The hype about Sullinger’s conditioning should only grow as training camp approaches, hopefully not correlating with Sullinger's waistline.
At the very least his albatross of a contract will be 25% lighter this season. The "veteran with something to prove" storyline is the one to bet on here, with good reason. Take a look at his shooting going into last season.
It’s never a good sign when your shot-chart looks like evidence of the Cold War domino theory. Wallace was actually shooting decently (by his standards) last season until he tore his meniscus. Considering his offseason full of rehab work, I’m hoping to read a story about how it will turn him into an effective NBA player again. With his propensity to talk to the media he might even bring it up himself. Optimism and Gerald Wallace aren't generally associated with each other, so relish the opportunity to feel hopeful again if this happens.
So who do you think will come into camp "in the best shape of his life?"