INDEPENDENCE: In one summer, Samardo Samuels transformed himself from incredible bulk to the Incredible Hulk.
He has lost at least 20 pounds since last season and cut his body fat from 15 percent down to somewhere between 6 and 7 percent. He said during summer league games his body fat was around 9 percent, but says now it's even less.
It was a needed transformation. When he held his exit interviews at the end of last season, coach Byron Scott made it clear Samuels was about out of chances and he needed to get serious about his conditioning if he wanted to stick in this league.
Samuels returned home to Jamaica and dedicated himself to working out, passing up his mother's cooking for long runs on the beach. New Cavs guard Jeremy Pargo, quickly becoming the team's top comedian, saw the new and improved Samuels and immediately gave him a new nickname.
"When the season starts and we start playing games, one thing I'm going to tell him is, "Hulk ... smash,'" Pargo said. "You've seen the movie Avengers? When they told Hulk to smash, you see what he did."
Samuels' averages dipped to 5.4 points and 3.3 rebounds last season. He showed up out of weight, irritating Scott, and struggled most of the season while bouncing between forward and center.
The addition of Tyler Zeller should simplify Samuels' role. While he'll still get some minutes at center, the bulk of his time should come at his more natural position of power forward. He has always enjoyed brute strength, but now his conditioning is allowing him to aggressively chase loose balls and rebounds.
"He moves so much better," Scott said. "The one thing he tried to rely on last year was brute strength. He’s still strong as an ox, but now he’s quick, too. He’s able to go after every rebound. That’s something he wasn’t able to show on a consistent basis last year. A lot of that has to do with his weight loss. I like where he is right now."