Denver center Wayne Cooper backs that theory. "I'm in the best condition of my career," he says. Part of the reason is Dr. Marvin Clein, who was hired last spring by the Nuggets as training and conditioning coordinator. Clein set up voluntary programs for the Nuggets, and Cooper participated because his rebounding and shot-blocking averages dropped last season, partly, he felt, because he wasn't in the best condition.
Denver's program is similar to the Nets' and includes weight training and agility and speed drills. The Nuggets also brought in a diet specialist to advise the players. "I feel stronger, I have so much more life and explosiveness in my legs," says the 6'10" Cooper, whose weight has dropped from 256 pounds to 222 since April.
Clein says he will test players during the season to see if their conditioning has slipped, even though he has had some success already: He says he has seen a 50% increase in strength in some of the Nuggets; all the veterans were in his program.
A lot of basketball coaches used to be squeamish about weightlifting, fearing it would hurt a player's shooting touch. But the results of some strength tests conducted about a decade ago have greatly eliminated these fears. The tests revealed that some NBA players lost as much as one third of their power during a season. "That old taboo [about weight training] is out the window," says Ramsay. "I think everybody understands now that stronger is better."
But, says Bullets general manager Bob Ferry, "when you develop more than you're supposed to, it puts pressure on the bones, and when you make yourself bigger than you were meant to be by nature, things can just explode."
Things already have.