TEAMMATES CALL Rip Hamilton the Energizer Bunny because he averages a team-high 38.5 minutes and wears out opponents. As Pistons guard Chauncey Billups told The Boston Globe, "[Hamilton's] got some kind of sickness.... He doesn't ever get tired." Hamilton, 27, who has turned in five-minute miles since his days as a high school track star in Coatesville, Pa., runs regularly with his two pit bulls. His other cardio workout starts at tip-off. "He runs all game," says Detroit conditioning coach Arnie Kander. "Around picks, around screens. He's always running around someone." The 6'7", 193-pound Hamilton, who came to Detroit from the Wizards three years ago, has thrived with Kander, who has adjusted Hamilton's body alignment and mechanics. Says Hamilton, "I always had energy and stamina. Arnie made me excel even further." Here are key exercises that help Hamilton keep going and going.
1. Ankle Drills For flexibility and strength. Using a seesawlike board, weighted with 50 pounds on one end (picture 1), he stands over the fulcrum and, controlling the board with his feet, slowly raises and lowers the weight. Eight to 12 reps. Next Hamilton leans a different board lengthwise against the round side of a three-inch-high half-ball. With a foot in the center of the board, he raises his other foot to hip height and rests it on a bar, then moves the board forward and back. This improves balance. Eight to 12 reps per foot. After spraining his left ankle last month, he saw the benefits: "Instead of being out four weeks, it took me five days to come back. Even sprained, my ankle was strong."
2. Core Leg Stretches To maintain stride length ("Rip is in the top two percent in the league," says Kander) and stride efficiency (how quickly he gets to maximum stride), Hamilton stretches daily. He does enhanced lunges (2) by putting one foot on a stable, two-foot-high box and leaning into the lunge. Eight to 12, then switch legs. Hamilton also swears by daily leg swings. Standing on one leg and holding on to a bar, he swings the other leg forward and back, rhythmically, to hip height, until he feels his hips are loose and "in alignment with my legs and groin." Then he switches legs. "He might be there 20 minutes, he might be there five," says Kander. "It's about perfecting the movement. It's almost Zen-like in that you do it until you're perfectly aligned." Says Hamilton, "You know you're doing it right when you feel burning in your hips and nothing in your groin. It gets my hips and my groin all on one page. I had groin trouble early in my career. I was using too much of my groin because my hips were tight."
3. Postural Exercises "The stretch cords perfect his posture and increase his back strength," says Kander. Sitting on a bench, Hamilton pulls two rubber cords, each with 75 pounds of resistance and mounted behind him (3a). He uses motions that mimic motions on the court: "defense" (forearm in front of chest, horizontal to ground); "shot blocks" (arms straight up); "jump shot" (arms up, bent at 90 degrees); and "pass" (arms extended straight out at chest level). Three sets of 10, each variation. Next, standing with his feet together and facing cords, attached to a pole and with 30 pounds of resistance, Hamilton does three sets of 10 "pump fakes" (arms raised near his head) and "jump shot" positions. Then, with his feet at shoulder width, he pulls the cords into his body, waist high, palms up (3b). Three sets of 10. "When I started these, I was hunched over," says Hamilton. "Arnie wanted me to keep my back straight so I could get more strength and explode [forward] more. Now, my posture is straight up."
Notes from Hamilton's personal chef, Shawn Loving, who feeds him when Rip's in Detroit:
•Hamilton's favorite crustacean: "Crab," says Loving. "Crab-stuffed shrimp, crab soup (right) or a nice crab cake."
•Hamilton's favorite breakfasts: strawberry French toast and chocolate-chip pancakes. As a healthy alternative Loving makes a sandwich of scrambled egg whites, turkey bacon and spinach.
•Lunchtime: a piece of broiled fish (mahi mahi, halibut, catfish) and a vegetable.
•Pregame dinner: two hours and 10 minutes before game time Hamilton has whole-wheat pasta smothered in a basic marinara, with grilled chicken breasts and vegetables.
•La Dolce Vita: Vanilla ice cream and cherry pie as, what Loving calls, "the occasional treat."