Houston • All Jamaal Tinsley needs is a pair of sneakers, a T-shirt and shorts. No smartphone. No GPS map. No iPod or headphones. Just the bare necessities and his two feet.
Sometimes Tinsley hits the treadmill. Other times, it’s an elliptical. When the sun shines and the wind blows, the Jazz backup point guard refuses to be stuck inside another boring high-priced hotel. Utah played the Blazers on April 2. Before tipoff, Tinsley ran along the downtown waterfront in Portland, Ore.
Jamaal Tinsley file
Position » Point guard. Year » 9
Vitals » 6-foot-3, 197 pounds
Season stats » 3.9 pts, 3.1 ast, 1.1 reb
Career numbers » 9.4 pts, 6.4 ast, 3.2 reb
Draft » 27th overall pick in 2001 by Atlanta
College » Iowa State
Born » Brooklyn, N.Y.
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The nine-year veteran doesn’t jog just to count calories; he never obsesses over time. Tinsley just runs. Pushing his body until it’s working best. Pushing his mind until it’s working better. Heart pumping, lungs breathing, feet moving. All in the name of mental toughness.
Tinsley escapes for 45 minutes, an hour — whatever he feels and whatever it takes. When the former NBA outcast casually ripped through seven miles Wednesday afternoon before he scored seven points, dished out four assists and played 28 minutes while guiding home Utah’s 103-91 victory against the Houston Rockets, it was just another daily workout for the basketball lifer.
"You’re blocking everything out and just going out there and trying to achieve something," said Tinsley, 34.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native hated running as a kid. To the point that when Tinsley tried out for his first basketball team and his coach barked out the standard "go run laps" command, Tinsley walked out the door.
Hate became love three years ago. Tinsley eclipsed 30 at the same time he was exiled from Indiana. Trying to find new life in Memphis and wanting to extend his career so he could keep playing the game he loves, the anti-jogger became a believer.
During the offseason, Tinsley will rack up eight miles a day. He hits at least three whenever possible during the season, alternating between a rate of seven and eight on a treadmill, changing his heart rate while maintaining a smooth pace.
There’s no flair to Tinsley’s running. No self-promoting, either. He doesn’t have cool, expensive gear or proud runner’s stories. He’s content with straight, flat routes, but doesn’t hesitate to cut up random big-city blocks when the Jazz are on the road.
The only reason Tinsley runs: to run.
"I don’t need nothing to push me," he said. "I just go in and do what I need to do."
Raja Bell understands Tinsley’s passion. Between groin and knee injuries this season, the 12-year veteran was regularly putting in three-mile runs. Bell alternated suicide sprints with jogs, building up his 35-year-old lungs but not beating up his body. While Tinsley’s seven-mile journeys seem extreme, Bell said they make perfect sense.
"When everything’s not great and you might be a little stressed or whatever, getting out there and just beating up the bricks can be kind of therapeutic," Bell said.
Tinsley’s becoming a recruiter.
He couldn’t stomach the sight of Utah rookie center Enes Kanter recently being beaten down the court by San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair for an uncontested layup, especially since the bulky Spurs forward is known throughout the league for playing without both of his anterior cruciate ligaments.
"He can’t really run," Tinsley said. "How he outrun [Kanter]?"
The player-coach’s punishment: A full minute on the treadmill for Kanter at the maximum speed of 15. That was in addition to the rookie’s six 40-second sprints during practice days, which Tinsley — player, leader, mentor, survivor — demands.
"He’s been big for us, man, on and off the court. He even got Big Turkey running with him," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "He’s showing the young guys that it takes a lot, not only to get in the league, but to stay in the league."
Tinsley’s more entrenched in the NBA than he’s been in years. He’s not going anywhere. Unless he’s running.
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