- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

GREENSBORO, N.C. Tyronn Lue's typical diet used to resemble that of a kid who had splurged at a candy store.

Skittles? One of his favorites. Starburst? You bet. Lue had a weak spot for Slim Jims, too, though eating all of them together doesn't seem recommended. Usually, he'd wash it all down with some fruit punch.

Quite simply, Tyronn Lue was a raging junk food addict. Sometimes, he'd eat one wholesome meal a day and just fill his stomach otherwise with candy and other snacks.

For a hyperactive child, it's an appropriate diet. For a point guard, forget it. But when he finally got his first chance to play regularly in the NBA last season with the Washington Wizards after three years of mostly riding the Los Angeles Lakers' bench Lue was slowed by little things like his eating and sleeping habits.

So Lue changed his ways. He dedicated himself to a summer of self-improvement, and coach Doug Collins said he has become the "biggest plus" of training camp and the preseason.

"He's been tremendous," Collins said earlier this week. "He worked so hard in the offseason, and he's in magnificent shape. He's playing with great confidence, and he's been a breath of fresh air every day in practice. He's always upbeat. He's really been great."

Lue went to Sarasota, Fla., in May and spent almost the entire summer working with a personal trainer and several other NBA players, including Detroit's Chauncey Billups and Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley and Al Harrington. A typical daily regimen began at about 10 a.m. with a weightlifting session, followed by about an hour of agility and conditioning work. After lunch, the players would do some individual basketball drills, then usually play pickup games.

There was little time for Lue to go back to his native Missouri, except on weekends. He stayed dedicated to his program, and the six-hour days combined with a diet largely bereft of sweets brought Lue into training camp in excellent shape and as good as any of his teammates.

"My whole thing was I had an OK season last year," Lue said. "But I felt sometimes my body broke down because my eating habits weren't right and I needed to lift weights. Now I'm not sluggish any more. I'm way ahead of where I was last year, and I'm playing with a lot of confidence."

Last year Lue had some injury problems early, then floundered on the bench before getting more minutes as the season progressed. He averaged 7.8 points and shot 44.7 percent from 3-point range seventh best in the NBA in serving as a more than capable backup to Chris Whitney, who started 81 games.

But with his improvement this offseason, Lue is in contention for a starting position. He remains a hounding defender, and his 3-point stroke has stayed sweet. In the first three preseason games, he averaged an impressive 12.3 points and 4.7 rebounds and made five of 11 3-point field goals. On Thursday night, he didn't start and played 18 minutes, contributing five points, three assists and three steals.

Lue first burst onto the national scene when he helped shut down Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson during Game3 of the 2001 NBA Finals. Lue renewed his rivalry with Iverson in two games this preseason. When the Wizards played in Philadelphia on Monday, 76ers fans showed they had not forgotten Lue by booing him mercilessly.

Lue, a four-year player at Nebraska, has not forgotten the things he learned in Los Angeles, either he said he picked up invaluable tips on playing in the NBA from Derek and Ron Harper and Brian Shaw. Lue has assumed the role of mentor now with Juan Dixon, who credited Lue for forcing him to improve his ballhandling because Lue pressed him relentlessly throughout training camp.

"Ty Lue helped me out so much from the first day of training camp, pushing up on me in fullcourt," Dixon said during training camp. "I can't thank him enough. He's made me so much better in the past week. It's amazing one player can do that."

On a team hardly short of scoring potency, Lue again will be asked to be a defensive catalyst for the Wizards, although he has shown multiple facets to his game.

"He's a guy that we count on to bring us constant energy," Collins said. "And so he's got to be up, a little motor all the time. But you can just see he feels much more a part of it this year."

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