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Cleanthony Early turns to yoga to prepare for NBA grind

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Over the past few weeks, New York Knicks forward Cleanthony Early has been doing everything you'd expect of a player preparing for the start of the preseason. He's been lifting weights, running and scrimmaging with teammates at the Knicks practice facility.

But Early has also been doing something you might not expect of an NBA player: yoga.

Early said yoga has been a regular part of his offseason workout regimen. Thanks in part to yoga, Early says he's noticed a difference in his defensive positioning, dribble positioning, ankle and hip mobility and overall flexibility.

"I think all of those [factors] really matter as far as getting your body in shape and getting to a certain level of conditioning," Early said on Sunday at a fundraising event for a children's cancer foundation.

Early said there were times over the course of last season where his muscles felt tight.

"That's not good in any sport," he said.

But Early doesn't anticipate having the same issues this season, thanks in part to his yoga habit.

"I'm focused on preparing myself for an 82-game season," Early said.

Early's increased flexibility could help him on the defensive end, where both Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson have said the 24-year-old can earn a name for himself.

"Defense has to be his calling card," Jackson said of Early last month. "It's defense that will keep him on the court, and his defense actually did improve late in the season."

Said Fisher: "Where he's going to really earn his living is using his athleticism and his aggression on the defensive end and be a shutdown guy."

Early has heard the critiques of his bosses. He views this season as an opportunity to fill that role following a rookie season that was stunted by multiple ankle injuries.

"Based off of last year, the guys that we have this year, there's nothing but opportunity [this season]," Early said. "There's a chance that I can play a decent amount of minutes, if not a good amount of minutes. Phil [Jackson] said it. [Derek] Fisher said it. It's just a matter of getting there."

Cutting hair for a cause: Early was at a barbershop in the Bronx on Sunday afternoon giving Knicks fans haircuts to help raise money for the battle against childhood cancer. The event, which benefited the cancer-fighting organization "Hope and Heroes Children's Cancer Fund," was also attended by Langston Galloway and ex-Knick Larry Johnson.