Meet Chris Brickley, the man behind the summer’s most stacked NBA run

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Monday night in Santa Monica, the NBA handed out its annual awards — MVP, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, and on down the line.

Next year’s award winners are being made right now — it’s off-season work that separates the good from the great, that introduces new skills, that lets talent shine in the NBA.

Right now, a lot of that is happening in Chris Brickley’s gym in New York — he is the go-to trainer around the NBA. His NBA summer “Black Ops” runs (which start next week) are legendary. Brickley’s ability to connect with players and form a relationship — then from that place of trust push them physically and to develop new skills — has players flocking to his gym.

He sat down with NBC Sports to tell his story — one of hard work and perseverance — and you can see that in the video above.

Brickley’s workouts right now are stacked with a who’s who of the NBA — if you don’t believe me just check out his Instagram feed.

“(Players work) extremely hard, they dedicate every day, four or five days a week to it, they schedule their day around the workouts,” Brickley told NBC Sports. “We schedule, we plan, we text back-and-forth every night about what we’re going to work on. To them, it’s their full-time job.”

This is Brickley’s busy season. While fans obsess over free agency and where LeBron James will go or where Kawhi Leonard will get traded (and players care about that, too), the best players are in the gym at least five days a week now getting ready for next season.

“They all take about three or four weeks off (after the season), so the first week he’s in you can’t push a guy too hard because that’s how you get them injured,” Brickley said. “Then, as they get back into the shape they want to get in, you just push harder and harder and by the time August and September comes you’re doing full-blown workouts and they’re in unbelievable shape and ready for training camp.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BkjgddxBOSI/?hl=en&taken-by=cbrickley603

Conditioning is part of what he does, but what separates the top players is the skills they add, and improving their weaknesses during the off-season. Brickley watches a lot of film, talks to players and their teams, about what they need to develop to fill a new role or take their game to the next level.

“It’s always skill work first and foremost, and some guys you focus a little more on conditioning,” Brickley said. “Some guys come in shape and you focus less on conditioning and more on skill work.”

But what the guys like best is the run — high-level scrimmages that can’t be found many places. The best NBA players want to be pushed, which means playing against each other in the off-season as well.

“They’re all competitive, they got to the NBA because they’re competitive athletes. It’s the off-season, so you might as well, if you can, play against some elite talent, they do it…” Brickley said. “It’s personal. Certain guys have certain rivalries against other guys, whether they are superstars or not superstars, so when it’s time and that other player is guarding them, they’re not going to want to be embarrassed in front of their peers. There’s 10-15 other NBA players in there…

“I think some days it is personal, and they play as hard as if it’s a playoff game.”

Brickley was a college walk-on player whose eye as a trainer and developing talent ultimately landed him a job with the Knicks. It was there that he became a favorite workout trainer/partner of Carmelo Anthony.

“I was with the Knicks for five years, that first year we clicked,” Brickley said. “That second year… we became really close friends. As we traveled around the country he let me network with other players — Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden and everything — and through ‘Melo I got those relationships and that really helped me out.”

Now those relationships are paying off now and made him the hottest trainer in the NBA, a summer go-to for a lot of players. He gets to know these players as people, they know he cares about them and relates to them, and it’s from that place that he can push them in the gym. The connection matters.

It’s that connection, and his story, that has his gym full all summer long.

 

Watch Eric Gordon’s 50-point night spark Houston win over Jazz on night Harden, Westbrook sit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Eric Gordon scored a career-high 50 points to lead the short-handed Houston Rockets to a 126-117 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night despite playing without James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

Danuel House Jr. added 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Austin Rivers also had 21 points as Houston handed the Jazz their first home loss since Dec. 9.

Gordon became the first Rockets player besides Harden to score 50 points in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 51 in January 1996, according to STATS. Harden has done it 23 times since then.

Donovan Mitchell scored 36 points and Bojan Bogdanovic added 30, but Utah lost for just the third time in 22 games despite shooting 51% from the field.

Gordon had his first game with more than 30 points this season. His previous career best of 41 came against Oklahoma City on Jan. 23, 2009. The veteran guard stepped up and filled the scoring void with Harden, Westbrook and Clint Capela sitting out.

Harden missed his second straight game with a bruised left thigh. Capela (bruised right heel) and Westbrook (rest) sat out after playing Sunday against Denver.

Their absence had minimal impact on Houston’s offense early.

Gordon bookended an 11-0 run with a dunk and a 3-pointer to give the Rockets an 11-4 lead early in the first quarter. Houston stayed in front throughout the period.

The Jazz went ahead with a 13-2 run to open the second. Mitchell scored three baskets to fuel the spurt, and Mike Conley drove for a layup to cap it off.

Gordon provided a spark to help Houston regain the lead. He totaled 15 points in the second quarter and helped the Rockets close the first half on a 17-6 run to take a 59-46 lead into the break. Thabo Sefolosha started and finished the run by driving for a layup.

Utah trimmed the deficit to 72-66 midway through the third on consecutive 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, but got no closer. Rivers and House answered with back-to-back baskets to stop the rally. That sparked a 15-6 spurt that gave Houston an 87-72 lead near the end of the quarter.

Watch Buddy Hield score career-high 42, rally Kings from 27 down past Timberwolves

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MINNEAPOLIS — Buddy Hield scored a career-high 42 points to help the Sacramento Kings rally from a 27-point deficit for a 133-129 overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.

De'Aaron Fox scored 22 for the Kings, putting back the rebound of his intentionally missed free throw as part of a 33-11 run over the final 5:42 of regulation.

Andrew Wiggins had 36 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Timberwolves, who lost their 10th consecutive game.

With the Kings down three with 4.7 seconds left in regulation, Fox made his first free throw. He intentionally fired the second off the front of the rim, grabbed his own rebound and laid it in to tie the game with 3.6 seconds left.

Hield scored 18 points in the final 4:36 of regulation on a night that featured tributes to his childhood hero, Kobe Bryant. Fox scored 17 points in the second half and overtime. Nemanja Bjelica finished with 20 points.

The Timberwolves built their lead thanks to a franchise-record 23 3-pointers. Wiggins was 7 for 11 beyond the arc.

Robert Covington had 24 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 23 for Minnesota. It was the first time three Timberwolves have scored 20 or more points in a game since Dec. 13.

To open the game, both teams honored Bryant, who died Sunday in a helicopter crash. Minnesota took an 8-second backcourt violation and Sacramento took a 24-second shot-clock violation on the ensuing possession. While taking the 8-second violation, Wiggins placed the ball on the free throw line where Bryant scored to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the career scoring list on Dec. 14, 2014, at Target Center.

Minnesota hit 10 of its first 15 3-point attempts and shot 14 for 23 from 3 in the first half. That set a franchise record for 3s in a half and helped the Timberwolves to a 68-50 halftime lead.

The Timberwolves honored Bryant prior to tipoff with words from Towns, a video tribute and a moment of silence. Towns wore No. 24 and Covington wore No. 8 while being introduced as part of the starting lineup to honor Bryant. They donned their regular Nos. 32 and 33 before the opening tip.

LeBron James on Kobe Bryant: ‘I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!’

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Often on social issues (or just because it’s Taco Tuesday), LeBron James can be quick to post on social media.

With the death of Kobe Bryant — along with his daughter Gianna and seven others — in a tragic helicopter accident, it took LeBron some time. LeBron and Kobe were close, they won Gold Medals together and competed against each other at the highest levels of the game. There became close, even more so in the past couple of years when LeBron came West and joined the Lakers. LeBron got to know Kobe’s family — when Gianna was at a recent Lakers game, LeBron was asking her about her fadeaway (which looked a lot like her dad’s).

Understandably, it took a grieving LeBron some time to comment on what happened, but Monday night he issued his first public statement on the passing of Kobe through an Instagram post.

View this post on Instagram

I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

There’s nothing else to say.

James Harden, Russell Westbrook both sit for Rockets game vs. Utah

Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
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When going up against a Utah team that has won 14-of-15, and outscored teams by 14.6 points per 100 possessions in that stretch, an opponent needs to be at full strength.

The Houston Rockets will be without James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the game. The Rockets have lost 5-of-7 heading into this game.

Harden will miss his second consecutive game with a thigh bruise. The rest ultimately may be good for him, Harden has struggled of late and looked a little worn down — in his last five games he’s averaging 23 points a game (13.1 below his season average), shooting 33.3 percent overall and 13.6 percent from three.

Harden is not expected to miss extended time, the Rockets play again on Wednesday vs. the Trail Blazers.

For Westbrook, this is a planned rest game. The Rockets are on a back-to-back and Westbrook took on a heavy load in Denver Sunday with 32 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and also 10 turnovers in the Houston loss.