Considered a tweener when the Warriors drafted him out of Notre Dame in 2001, 6'11" Troy Murphy thrived at power forward last year. Here are his not-so-easy steps for emulating Karl Malone:
1. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR WEAKNESS
After averaging 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds as a 228-pound rookie, Murphy realized he needed to get bigger and stronger. So in the summer of 2002 Golden State strength and conditioning coach Mark Grabow put him on a weekday program of weight-lifting each morning, basketball skills in the afternoon and two nights of interval sprinting. "It was so intense the first week that after lifting I couldn't raise my arms to put shampoo on my head," Murphy says. Yet he returned every day. "He would throw up," says Grabow, "and five seconds later he'd be back on the court as if nothing had happened."
2. LISTEN TO TALK RADIO
"I'd turn it on in June and hear people say that we're terrible, or that I wasn't going to play in my second year after I hardly played as a rookie," says Murphy. "I loved it. It got me fired up."
3. ASSERT YOURSELF
Having packed on 17 pounds of muscle before the start of his second season, Murphy barged into the paint seeking revenge on all the hulks who'd pushed him around. "The first month he got banged up pretty good," Grabow says. "He played one night with a slight concussion." But Murphy proved to have remarkable staying power, starting 79 games and joining Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal and Brian Grant as the only players to average a double double (11.7 points and 10.2 rebounds) last season.
4. MAINTAIN YOUR INTENSITY
Murphy was also the only player to improve both his scoring and rebounding averages by at least 5.0 per game from the previous year. That's because he learned to stay focused on his conditioning and performance. Every day he ate five or six meals that are high in protein and carbohydrates, abstaining from fast food and ice cream. He also watched film with the assistant coaches to study tendencies, rested on game days and was the first Warrior at the arena.
5. ACCEPT NEW CHALLENGES
In his 15 years with Golden State, Grabow ranks Murphy and the maniacal Chris Mullin (now a special assistant in the front office) as his two hardest workers. Realizing that Murphy has a chance to become a special player, coach Eric Musselman asked him last summer to work on extending his shooting range beyond 17 feet. Murphy began shooting 200 to 300 treys daily, and before training camp he was knocking down 43 of 50 in drills. "I think he can show as much improvement this year as he showed last year," says Musselman, who envisions Murphy—a No. 14 pick who was expected to be little more than a solid backup—as a dominating player.
6. NEVER BE SATISFIED
Though he has exceeded expectations in all areas, Murphy believes he is only starting to realize his potential. "I'm faster, I'm bigger and my skills are better," says Murphy, who weighs 248 this year. "But I'm sure I'll realize things that I need to improve on. Then next summer I'll get to work on them."