On this day of gluttony, we tend to be more tolerant of the runaway appetite that haunts some of us every day. Almost always, there are reasons. There may be an unrepentant love of food, but it also could be genetic or metabolic or perhaps a coping mechanism.
There is, however, an example of someone who not long ago was in such a well of discontent that he sought comfort in groceries. He was piling up the pounds, 10, 20, 30 and more, and the excess weight was threatening his path to a very lucrative career.
Omari Spellman would like you to know that career is in the process of being saved, and he is crediting his new surroundings as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
When the Warriors acquired Spellman from the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for center Damian Jones on July 8, the man came to the Bay Area lugging a caveat. He was about 6-foot-8, with a 7-2 wingspan, young (22) and skilled – but he also weighed a few bricks north of 300. Would he be able to control his weight and maintain the conditioning required to be an impact player in the NBA?
Less than five months later, Spellman is 40 pounds lighter, a delighted Warrior and rapidly becoming the force that every team craves: The “energy guy.”
Spellman’s latest performance came Wednesday night in a 104-90 win over the Chicago Bulls at Chase Center. Playing 24 minutes, nearly all of them in overdrive, he totaled 13 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and a game-high three blocks. He has played between 23 and 28 minutes in each of the last five games, averaging 11.6 points and 6.6 rebounds. He is plus-24 in that span.
“This is the best I felt since college, to be honest,” Spellman said after the game.
He weighed 254 pounds at the NBA draft combine The Hawks selected the Villanova product in the first round (No. 30 overall) of the 2018 draft believing his explosive athleticism, soft hands and nice shooting tough would play well in the NBA. Spellman would show flashes of what he could be, teasing his employer, and then he would fix himself a hearty plate or two.
Every day was Thanksgiving. A lot of the nights, too.
Spellman had to do something to assuage the emptiness. He was, by all accounts, including his own, not ready for the adult responsibilities that come with being in the NBA. He suddenly had money and time, and that equation led him astray.
The unhappiness of Spellman’s pre-Warriors NBA experience has receded, and he is feeling the joy of today.
“This is the best I’ve felt as a person since college, and that’s not a knock on Atlanta,” he said. “There was just some things I was going through, and things I didn’t understand that made it harder for me that first year in Atlanta. And just having people come around me and seeing that I need help and help me in a way that they have, especially my family, my close circle and the Warriors organization has made it a really easy transition from a very bad place to being happy again and just playing basketball.
“It was a long time that I kind of dreaded basketball and to get that back is pretty dope.”
The Warriors are a team in transition, moving on from the super-team age – five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, three championships – and into the age of uncertainty. They’re trying to build a bridge from what was to what will be.
Spellman is helping them build it. The Warriors saw enough ambition and talent to pick up his option for next season for $2 million. He’s 23 now, is staking a claim to being in the rotation even when – if? – the team returns to health after a devastating series of injuries.
His energy is the best kind, productive and contagious. On a team in need of scoring, he’s shooting 37.8 percent from deep – 52.6 percent over the last five games. On a team in need of rebounding, Spellman attacks the glass.
“He’s really explosive athletically,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He has long arms and he’s bouncy. For a guy his size, you don’t expect that kind of lift and explosion. So when the ball goes up, he’s already in the paint because he’s got strength, position and he goes after it athletically. It’s pretty impressive.”
Spellman in all likelihood will remain thickly built, but his endurance and athleticism are evidence of muscle. The NBA has seen many players lose the battle with the scale, from John “Hot Plate” Williams to the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor. There are others, though, that conquered their caloric demons and forged impressive careers, with Charles Barkley a high-profile example.
Spellman yearns to be among the success stories. He listens. He reacts. Now that he has found a place to blossom, he may be too relentless to give up.
“Our coaching staff really feels like playing that hard and that aggressive for me gives our team the best chance to win,” he said. “So that’s all they had to say to me, like, ‘Alright, I’ll do whatever.’ Just going after blocks, going after everything, trying to get every board, every dive, every loose ball.
“That’s my role on this team and I’m going to continue to bring that energy, along with spacing the floor or whatever. But I’m just happy to be bringing the energy for this team.”
He’s a happy man who has, at least for this day, earned the right to splurge at the dining table.