- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

RICHMOND — Every day for the last week it seems the Washington Wizards have revealed something new about their commitment to team conditioning.

In fact, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has said this is the most finely conditioned team he has had in his four seasons. Gilbert Arenas spent the summer running stairs with a weighted jacket. Antawn Jamison gave yoga a whirl.

But if the Wizards were to give an award to the player in the best shape, it sounds as if it would be handed to Antonio Daniels.

And like Arenas and Jamison, Daniels owes his conditioning to an atypical approach.

“I boxed and I sparred,” Daniels said. “I used to go five, six rounds sometimes, sometimes three or four, and I’ve never felt that tired before in my life.”

Daniels looks the part.

Of the players here in training camp, only free agent guard Willie Deane has a lower body fat reading than Daniels. The team’s training camp guide has the 32-year-old, 10-year veteran listed at 205 pounds.

However, Daniels hopes to have that adjusted in the team’s media guide before the regular season begins.

“I’m down to 192,” he said. “I’m the lightest I’ve been since college.”

Make no mistake, though: This was not some experiment with Billy Blanks of Tae Bo fame. Daniels stepped through the ropes three or four times a week to face off with former professional boxer Jesse James Leija.

Leija retired in 2005 after losing to Arturo Gatti in the then vacant WBC light welterweight championship.

Leija also fought Oscar de la Hoya in 1995 for the WBO lightweight title, and he finished with a career mark of 47-7-2 with 19 knockouts.

“Man, it was tough. I found out what it was like to really get hit,” Daniels said. “I took some shots. But I gave some, too.”

When he wasn’t boxing Daniels went on runs — some of them as long as six miles. Daniels had never incorporated longer distances in his workouts. In the past he mostly ran sprints and suicides.

“It’s a different kind of training when you add the longer distances,” Daniels said. “I did that about five times a week.”

Daniels proved his worth when the Wizards reached the playoffs last spring without starting point guard Gilbert Arenas, who injured his knee with two weeks left in the regular season.

The Wizards were swept by Cleveland, but Daniels stepped up his play for the injury-depleted team.

After averaging 7.1 points and 3.6 assists a game in the regular season, Daniels averaged 13.3 points and 11.8 assists in the playoffs.

Daniels that his minutes will be reduced when the regular season arrives. However, Jordan, always an admirer of Daniels’ professionalism, might reward him with something else.

“He could be one of our captains this year,” Jordan said. “We haven’t talked about it, but he could be one.”

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