In a spinoff of sorts of The Biggest Loser TV show, five members of the Dallas Mavericks coaching/player developmental staff have been busy waging a friendly weight-loss contest.
At stake – besides bragging rights – is enough money to feed a family of four for awhile, paid for by a few of the Mavs players.
The rub: Each of the five participants has to lose at least 15 pounds, or else the deal is off. And whoever sheds the most pounds will receive an added bonus.
The contestants include Mavs assistant coaches Melvin Hunt and Darrell Armstrong, head video coordinator Mike Shedd, player development assistant God Shammgod, and director of player development Mike Procopio.
The money notwithstanding, this is an opportunity for the five participants to inspire each other to try and accomplish something that’s healthy to everyone involved.
"You know what I like: Everybody gets the same award if you win or lose," Armstrong said. "If we (each lose 15 pounds), we get that award.
"If we lose, we get the same award. We get nothing. We get a good handshake."
All of the participants are taking the challenge very serious. Armstrong, for instance, has cut out some of his favorite foods.
"It’s funny, since we started doing this now I really watch my calories,’’ Armstrong said. "When I first started to lose 10 quick pounds I was eating just spinach or collard greens, which are only like 30 calories in the whole can.
"I was eating Glory Greens that’s already seasoned -- it’s like 30-40 calories -- and cabbage is low in calories. I call it my soul food -- when you don’t have any meat on your plate."
Hunt said his Southern roots has made it difficult to get rid of 15 pounds. Yet he’s up to the challenge.
"I’m a typical down South dude, so I like a little something sweet, but I let 90 percent of my sugar go," Hunt said. "I had a cookie (recently) and (forward) Dwight Powell called me out on it and said, ‘I see you’re taking this challenge real seriously.’
"But he didn’t notice that I ate the cookie and left, and I didn’t eat anything else. I said I’m going to sacrifice, I’ll eat a cookie, but nothing else, but I did get called out (by Powell)."
This weight-loss challenge started a few days after the Feb.19 All-Star game and will end on Tuesday -- the day of the Mavs’ final regular season home game against Denver.
"Vegas odds has me as the weak link of the whole deal," Procopio said. "I mean, look at me.
"I don’t exactly spit out Brad Pitt, do I? Vegas has me as the one that’s going to mess everything up for everybody."
The challenge, Procopio admits, has made him conscious about taking care of his body.
"It actually makes you think about what you eat, and I’m actually getting enough exercise,’’ Procopio said. "But it’s really tough on the road to get that in every day.
"DA and Sham are probably the most dedicated of the group. When Sham’s up in the elliptical and sending me pictures of his elliptical and his treadmill screen, I’m like, ‘Ah man, I’ve got to do it.’ "
Shammgod has even received some tips from rookie forward Jarrod Uthoff.
"Jarrod gave me a new workout plan that I like a lot,’’ Shammgod said. "I do an hour a day on the treadmill, and I’m eating right.
"I’m eating a lot of salads, a lot of fish, I try not to eat past 7 p.m. and I drink protein shakes during the day. I think it’s been good because I wanted to get back in shape anyway for this summer when I work guys out."
Shedd acknowledged that the weight-loss challenge is akin to a bonding experience that has brought the five participants closer.
"I’ve cut sodas out, my (food) portions are smaller, I’m not eating late, I no longer eat on the late trips," Shedd said. "I’m trying to win and get the (lose the most weight).
"Everybody seems like they’re at least within fighting distance of making the (15-pound) goal, so it’s been good. The shirts fit better and the suits fit better."
Obviously, the pressure is on for all five contestants to at least lose 15 pounds. And Procopio apparently is feeling more pressure than anyone else.
"I don’t care about the money, but I don’t want to be that guy that loses it for everybody," Procopio said. "(Forward) Dirk (Nowitzki) already has enough ammunition against me -- I just don’t need him to have one more."
While the participants are comfortable that they’ll lose the 15 pounds, they admit there have been some rather interesting roadblocks trying to muddy the waters.
"They had cookies in the hallway at the hotel in Memphis (last week)," Armstrong said. "When you come off the elevator, the cookies were right there.
"I looked at them and I said, ‘Heck no.’ The players had the hotel people put those cookies right there."
Another roadblock is the official weigh-in won’t be until 5 p.m. Tuesday.
"As usual, as NBA players are, they don’t like to pay for anything," Procopio said. "They are going to have us weigh in at 5 o’clock on game day against Denver.
"So of course you’ve got to go all day without eating, because if you eat (more pounds are) going to go on you."
And even the weigh-in is extremely strict and high-tech. With everyone having to use the same scale.
"They’ve got pictures of whatever you had when you weighed in (when the contest started in February)," Armstrong said. "If you had shorts on, that’s what you’ve got to wear (Tuesday) during your weigh-in.
"Whatever you wore when you weighed in (back in February) when you took your picture, that’s what you wear (Tuesday)."
While some of the participants have been counting calories, others have been almost starving themselves in order to reach the 15-pound weight minimum. A guard in the NBA from 1995-2008, Armstrong had ballooned up to 192 pounds and would like to get back down to his playing weight of 167 pounds.
"I’m going to get my six-pack back because right now since I’ve gained that weight, all I have is a keg,’’ Armstrong said while laughing. "I don’t have any abbs -- I have a keg.
"But I’m starting to see some curves now and that’s motivating me even more to keep going. I’m starting to see those abbs again."
The Mavs have had a four- and five-game road trip since the weight-loss challenge started, and Hunt believes that’s worked in his favor.
"I can get more workouts in when I’m away from home,’’ Hunt said. "When I’m at home I’m doing something with my son and my wife.
"With me on the road I’ve got time."
With the other participants cheering each other on, that has been helpful, too.
"It’s teamwork,’’ Hunt said. "I’ll be honest with you, I wouldn’t be as committed to doing it if I didn’t have teammates."
So who’s the favorite to win the bonus – if everyone achieves the initial 15-pound weight loss?
"If I miss one meal I’ll probably lose 17 pounds," Procopio said. "But I would say Sham is going to be the guy who wins this, hands down."
Shammgod, though, isn’t claiming the big prize just yet.
"When I first got here (last summer) I wanted to lose 25 pounds, so this helps speeds up that process," Shammgod said. "I just think this shows how close of a group of guys that we are, that we all hold each other accountable for this, and we try not to let the other person down."
The Mavs have one more game to play – next Wednesday in Memphis – the day after the weight-loss challenge finally ends. And Armstrong already has some major (not-so-low-calorie) plans for that regular season finale.
"When we get to Memphis I’m eating at every bar-be-cue place that I can," Armstrong said. "Win or lose, I’m going to eat whatever I can.
"I’m going to Gus’s (World Famous) Fried Chicken in Memphis, I’m going to find me a soul food spot in Memphis, I’m going to eat at three or four bar-be-cue places in Memphis."