by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Do you smell what the NBA is cooking? Trainers are getting the icy hot ready, equipment managers and laundering the uniforms, coaches are figuring out playing rotations, media relations guys are filling out credentials… It’s time for training camp!

But more importantly, it’s time for…

drumroll please…

MUSCLEWATCH™ 2010!!

I explained this phenomenon during Musclewatch™ 2009

What is MuscleWatch™? Well, I started doing this here on SLAMonline about six years ago, but in actuality, MuscleWatch™ started in the fall of 1995. Matt Harpring was playing basketball at Georgia Tech and was heading into his sophomore season. Suddenly, there were a bevy of stories in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how Harpring had spent the summer working out and had gained 15 pounds of muscle. My friend Matt and I thought it was strange that this was mentioned about two dozen times heading into the season, and even stranger that it was always mentioned as 15 pounds of muscle. Never 16, never 14, never 13, but always 15 pounds of muscle.

We took note of that, and suddenly we started seeing it everywhere: athletes from various sports all over the world were gaining 15 pounds of muscle. Once I started writing The Links, I noticed that magic “15 pounds” again showing up everywhere.

The suspicious thing to me is the number 15. Is that a target guys know they can reach? Is that just a good general number to throw out there? Is 15 impressive without being overwhelming?

There are some people who contend that Musclewatch simply rewards those who have regained weight they lost during a season, and perhaps this is true. But there are other players who have shed musclesweight, or lost fat and added muscle (or so they say). Also, we long ago moved past the benchmark 15 Pounds Of Muscle to become a record of most of the interesting fitness fluctuations.

All I know is that it falls to me to chronicle the proverbial pounds. Which players have spent the off-season shaping their bodies? I feel like we need to know. And if this be my legacy, my friends, then so it must be.

But I need your help. Despite the wonders of Google News, one man alone can not possibly keep his eye out for every bit of MUSCLEWATCH™ news. Last year, reader Ken Somolinos cemented his lifetime Linkstigator status by sending me literally dozens of links to stories related to MUSCLEWATCH™. Luckily for all of us,  Ken is already on top of MUSCLEWATCH™ this year as well, sending me a link last week about The Tim Duncan Robot, who came into camp a year ago having shed 15 pounds, and this year has apparently arrived having dropped even more weight than last summer. (I guess Duncan is one of the rare guys who gains weight each season? Either that or he now weighs about 180 pounds?)

Now, it’s time. Email me or tweet me, whatever, by clicking on my byline at the top of the column.

Keep them eyes peeled and muscles popped!