A four game win streak is not too bad at all. Since Kevin McHale took over, it has taken time for us to get his system and philosophy but I think that we are all finally starting to click. We are also building on the defensive principles and system that Randy Wittman put into place befor the coaching change.
Tonight at the Target center, basketball was fun again. The fans were screaming, Randy Foye has 18 points in the first quarter and Al Jefferson continued to be the “Iron Man” that Don Nelson described him to be a week ago. If Al Jefferson does not make the All-Star game, then something is seriously wrong in this league. There are only three players in the league that can score down low the way Al can and it’s Mr. Jefferson, Tim Duncan, and the Shaq Diesel.
In fact, it was Al Jefferson’s birthday party on Sunday night a few days ago! He had the entire team over to his house and an amazing catered dinner along with some relaxation time where players and teammates shot the breeze, played pool and ate appetizers. Al had kevin Love get up and sing him happy birthday in front of all 40 people. Kevin Love ate it up and had a great time with going back and forth with his post player friend and mentor, the Big Al.
McHale’s coaching style reminds me a little bit of my first coach and NBA mentor, Phil Jackson. The one thing they both really have in common is that during practice they’re both all over people and once the game starts they don’t say a whole lot. It allows you as a player to relax, play loose, and just try to make a play without looking over your shoulder. They both cared a lot about effort an energy. Phil Jackson used to always talk about playing with energy.
McHale has a new tradition that no coach I’ve ever played for has used. At the end of practice or a game or before a game when everybody on the team puts their hand in for the break, (“one, two, three, TEAM, or WIN, chant), McHale takes a different approach. Everybody puts their hand in and then McHale will single out one guy and ask for example, “Craig Smith, what do you have for us today?” Craig might say “Family” (as he did once) and then on “three” everyone chants “FAMILY!” I like this as it keeps everyone on their toes and everyone thinking about what they want the chant to be if McHale picks them.
The best chant so far in my opinion has come from Sebastian Telfair, which he told us later he borrowed from the old Portland Trailblazers team chaplain “Too annointed to be dissapointed!” It was a little bit long to chant, but guys LOVED the creativity!
Today we had some time off, so John Edwards (My current teammate who has played for the Hawks and the Pacers) and I went over to see some sites here in Istanbul, Turkey. The coolest one to me was the Hagia Sophia Mosque. For one thousand years, it was actually the largest Christian Cathedral in the World. Then, it was taken over by the Ottoman Empire (I learned all of this from our guide today!) and converted into a Mosque. Today it is a museum! So it’s been a Christian church three times (Replaced once then burned down a second time, finally rebuilt a third time), a mosque, and now it’s museum! How cool is that! The Muslim emperor at the time of conquest ordered that the many Christian mosaics not be seen in the Mosque. But instead of destroying the incredible mosaics, it is said that perhaps his appreciation of art caused him to cover them with plaster instead. Now, that it’s a museum, Istanbul has peeled off the ancient plaster and many of the mosaics are fully intact and incredible. All of the Islamic and Christian influence can be seen in the building! Then we ventured down to a giant underground water tank (Cistern) that was like a mini reservoir to hold water for those many times when Istanbul was attacked and seiged over the centuries. It was awesome!!
I am very excited about our team this year. Gerald Greene Jr. one of my new teammates here is an amazing talent. Obviously he is the slam dunk champion from the NBA from last year, but he does so much more than that. His energy is huge for our team and he’s vocal. His three point shot is good and gets better every day. Sebastian Telfair game him the perfect alley oop pass the other day in a game and when I saw Gerald go up and catch that ball it was in a place that only a few NBA players could get to.
Juwand Howard has been a great addition to our team. He’s really a guy who has kind of done and seen most everyting in the game of basketball. He’s a guy who kind of talks to everyone on the team, 1 through 15 and helps them know what they can do to help the team. The fact that he can shoot the ball from deep differentiates him from a lot of other “bigs” in this league.
OK, I’m out of here and off to try to sleep. I’m not sure…I got one hour of sleep only two nights ago so I definitely need some rest!! Maybe it was the jetlag!
Trivia: From Wikipedia:
Hagia Sophia is featured in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love where Bond’s lover Tatiana Romanova slips Bond small blueprints of Istanbul’s Russian consulate where Bond needs to steal the Lektor communication device. The Hagia Sophia is also seen in background shots in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.