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  • As the 7-seeded Nets vie for their first postseason berth since 2015, Brooklyn has utilized pregame fruit smoothies for an extra advantage.
By Jake Fischer
March 21, 2019

D’Angelo Russell knifed through the Kings’ defense at will. He shimmied around the perimeter, yoyo-ing the ball through his legs until he found the rhythm to slink into a step-back three-pointer. The All-Star point guard—by himself—outscored Sacramento 27-18 during the fourth quarter of Brooklyn’s incredible 28-point comeback victory on Tuesday. Prancing amidst the wreckage on the postgame floor, he chest bumped Nets assistant coach Travon Bryant and crowed “I’m built for this s---!”

During previous crunchtime explosions, Russell has famously pointed to his forearm, claiming he has ice water flowing in his veins. And while there is no scientific proof that below-freezing liquid in fact occupies Russell’s bloodstream, the Nets and their burgeoning star point guard are pushing to return to the postseason for the first time since 2015, fueled by… pregame fruit smoothies. “We wouldn’t drink it if it don’t help,” says rookie forward Dzanan Musa.

Brooklyn’s locker room is infrequently very populated during the 90 minutes prior to tip off. When they aren’t drilling on-court warm ups, a large segment of the Nets’ roster is stationed in the team’s adjacent, expansive weight room, squeezing in a lower or upper body lift. A boisterous buffet of salmon, chicken, vegetables and some form of grain is offered in the players’ lounge. In the majority of each wood-panelled locker waits a clear, plastic, 12-ounce cup containing a pinkish fruit concoction. “This team, when it comes to health, when it comes to the training staff, is probably top two or three in the league,” says veteran forward Jared Dudley. “We have the most training staff. Our nutritionist travels with us all the time. When you eat healthy, and you try to stay hydrated with the right vitamins, you gotta have that.”

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Cynthia Sass consults the Nets and New York Yankees in sports nutrition, holding master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Sass’s smoothies are customizable for each player, catering to their tastes and different supplemental values. “They try to help us be… flavorly, but to feel good,” says swingman Treveon Graham. The vast majority of players prefer a strawberry and banana base, but the remaining contents can vary drastically, from optional pre workout, protein powder, yogurt and other nutrients. “It gets everybody going before the game, gets everybody loose,” Graham says.

Musa, the 19-year-old Bosnian, had never paid much attention to his precursory beverages while playing overseas. “I drank Coca-Colas before games,” he says, sheepishly. “When I came it all changed.” While the rookie has played sparingly throughout his inaugural season, he has felt a difference in his performance during G-League appearances following his preferred peanut butter, protein, strawberry-banana smoothie, most notably in power and stamina. “The shake is to get you the right stuff that you need but yet still feel like you can go out there and play at your game speed,” Dudley says. The 11-year pro only opts for a smoothie when he is particularly hungry. Brooklyn typically holds its teamwide pregame meals a bit earlier on the road, leaving Dudley in search of his strawberry-banana mix more often when the Nets play away from Barclays Center. Raspberry is the next most-common fruit included in the smoothies, according to several players.

Yet not every Net partakes in Brooklyn’s fruity pregame ritual. Reserve guard Shabazz Napier chooses to handle the majority of his preparatory eating on his own. “I make stuff at home,” he explains. Napier will usually consume snacks loaded with peanut butter and carbs. He’ll blend his own shakes, but consisting of vegetables as opposed to fruit. “Got to get my green intake,” Napier says. He does keep a bag of Protein Balls the Nets provide to their players in his locker, along with his own sports drink mixology station. Ever since he caught food poisoning in high school, Napier has followed a doctor’s suggestion of watering down Gatorade to his perfect balance. “I’m not a sweet guy, fam,” he says.

Spencer Dinwiddie unquestionably holds the title of Brooklyn’s true smoothie king. A rumor had once circulated around the team’s facilities that Russell’s backcourt mate was even a fruitarian. “Man, they be gassing stuff,” Dinwiddie says. “I just eat a lot of it.” He devours fruits for breakfast and will concoct his own smoothie when he gets home from morning shootarounds or practices. And while most Brooklyn players merely consume one shake before contests, Dinwiddie regularly downs two. “Just healthy choices,” he smiles. “I got my own little thing going, but it works for me.”

True to his stylistic position, the combo guard does not hold a consistent order, and has specifically requested Sass and Brooklyn’s nutrition team to surprise him with different mixtures. When he joined the Nets after uneven tenures with the Pistons and Bulls, Dinwiddie did however offer a few guidelines for his shakes. “I don’t want any animal products in it. So, coconut milk, raw, plant-based protein,” he says. “Other than that, with the fruit, switch it up. Hopefully something high in antioxidants, so I’m really dancing. Nutrients and things like that, don’t just give me the normal stuff.”

When pressed for further detail on what ingredients qualify as “abnormal stuff,” Dinwiddie emphatically shakes his head. “Sometime the secret is that little bit of difference between me and the next guy.” In a cramped postseason battle where just five games separate the 6-seeded Pistons and 10th place Hornets, the No. 7 Nets will take any marginal advantage they can.

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