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The Golden State Warriors' Kelenna Azubuike drives to the morning "shoot-around" in Oakland, Calif. on Friday, January 11, 2008. On a game day, Azubuike rests and stays off of his feet as much as possible saving all his energy for the night's contest. (Dan Honda/Contra Costa Times)
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OAKLAND -- The life of an NBA player is worthy of envy.

Millions of dollars. Celebrity access. Plenty of free time.

It's a life of itch-scratching and thrill-seeking. It's a life of luxury and abundance. Most people would do anything to be in a player's shoes for just one day.

Well, if Warriors guard Kelenna Azubuike is a typical NBA player, game day would be the wrong day to do so.

Earlier this month, on a day when the Warriors were to host the Memphis Grizzlies, Azubuike allowed a reporter and a photographer a glimpse at his daily routine.

For Azubuike, game days are all about relaxing. Call it the calm before the storm. He purposely keeps his life tranquil in the hours before tipoff.

The goal is to preserve every ounce of energy before the real fun starts at 7:30 p.m.

10:07 a.m.: A pearl blue BMW 750Li, rolling on 22-inch rims, creeps out of the basement parking lot of an apartment overlooking Lake Merritt. Azubuike, sleep still painted on his face, peers through the windshield from behind the steering wheel. Shootaround, game day's version of practice, starts at 11 a.m., but Azubuike needs to be there by 10:30 for some pre-practice drills and treatment. He usually leaves by 9:45, but his slumber was just too deep. He isn't worried.

"I'll get there in plenty of time," he says, "with the way I drive."

10:26 a.m.: He arrives on schedule but without time for breakfast.


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(The Warriors provide a chef who whips up made-to-order breakfast before practices and lunch after practices.) Azubuike quickly changes out of his smoke-gray hooded sweatsuit and into his practice uniform, grabs a quick bite and heads to the court.

He starts with shooting drills, taking up to five consecutive shots from various spots on the floor. After that comes a minipractice, in which the Warriors go over the scheme for that game's opponent. The practice ends with a review of the scouting report and free throw shooting.

12:25 p.m.: Traffic is heavy on the streets of downtown Oakland. Azubuike, an ice pack under his sweats strapped to his right knee, maneuvers his car through the lunch crowd heading back to his apartment. He can hardly wait. The most important part of game day other than the game is just minutes away. Nap time.

"Sleep is everything," Azubuike says. "It means being alert and ready for the game. It means being very relaxed. ... You want to try to stay off your legs, save your energy."

12:37 p.m.: Azubuike opens the door to his apartment, which is a reflection of his minimalist personality. His yellow corduroy couch stands out against the hospital-white walls. The highlights of the apartment are a new dining room set and a Nintendo Wii. That, and a patio with a scenic view.

"I like to keep it simple," Azubuike says. "I don't need too much."

Of course, that's not surprising for a second-year player yet to make his first million. Azubuike, called up from the NBA Development League just over a year ago, signed a two-year contract this offseason after his play persuaded the Warriors to keep him around. He has the ability to become a free agent next season, which is likely to happen. Still, don't expect Azubuike to be indulging in many luxuries.

3:30 p.m.: The alarm clock screams into Azubuike's ear, concluding some 21/2 hours of sleep. He's a little hungry -- all he's had since breakfast was a couple slices of store-bought banana bread -- so he devours some leftover chicken parmesan his uncle made the day before.

4:58 p.m.: Azubuike parks in Lot F at Oracle Arena, amid a sea of BMWs, Mercedes Benzes and Range Rovers in the players' lot. Almost immediately, he heads to the training room tucked away in the back of the Warriors locker room. He needs to get taped, have treatment on his knee and stretch before engaging in pregame drills.

6:30 p.m.: Azubuike's schedule is thrown off by a meeting with the Warriors' team doctor. Normally, he would be heading to a small room just outside the locker room where interested players participate in a Bible study known as chapel. Among the regulars who attend are forwards Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson and Brandan Wright. But Azubuike needs a stretching session with strength coach John Murray. The tendinitis in his right knee has bothered him lately.

8:06 p.m.: Azubuike enters the game to start the second quarter, his first action of the night. Coach Don Nelson goes the first 11 minutes with the starters, using only six players in the opening period. By the time Azubuike checks into the game, the Warriors are down 33-27.

8:35 p.m.: Warriors point guard Baron Davis keeps an eye on Azubuike as they race down the court on a fast break. At just the right time, he lobs a soft pass that Azubuike snatches in mid-air and slams home with two hands. It is his first basket of the game after missing two shots and drawing an offensive foul. The next Warriors possession, Azubuike nails a pull-up jumper from just left of the free-throw line. Then he finds rookie guard C.J. Watson wide open for a 3-pointer with two seconds left in the half. In a span of one minute, 17 seconds, Azubuike totals four points and an assist.

8:48 p.m.: Just before the second half starts, Azubuike has one more duty. He takes part in a check presentation from Verizon Wireless to the Alameda County Family Justice Center -- a $57,500 grant to bring awareness to domestic violence health care.

It seems trivial, posing with a display check and a corporate representative. But it shows just how far Azubuike has come in his brief NBA career. New Year's Day 2007, Azubuike was a member of the Fort Worth Flyers. Now, he is an NBA player and a spokesperson for a community-relations promotion -- the kind of duty usually assigned to players such as Davis, Monta Ellis and Jackson.

9:47 p.m.: Azubuike hustles down court, trailing an Ellis-led fast break. With the crowd roaring, Ellis races to the basket, but his layup rolls off the rim.. Azubuike comes out of nowhere to dunk it home with 1:48 left in the game, capping a 9-2 run that puts the Warriors ahead by 13 en route to a 116-104 win.

10:18 p.m.: Azubuike, wrapped in a towel, shuffles slowly to the shower as if he'd just finished a long day at a construction site. In reality, he played 18 minutes, totaling nine points and four rebounds. With his playing time uncertain, he has to go all out every time.

"I always have to have the attitude of bringing energy," Azubuike says. "You want to do whatever you can to help your team. Like a lot of guys in here, I never know when I'm going to get in or how long I'm going to be out there, so I have to be ready."

10:37 p.m.: Fully dressed, Azubuike heads out of the locker room, ready to unwind. Jackson invites his teammates over to his apartment after the game for some food and movies. Never one to pass up free food and relaxation, Azubuike joins in. It's the perfect way to end his perfect game day.

Contact Marcus Thompson II at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com