The Road becomes a Trip indeed...

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Niaho...as in Kneehow as in "hello, how are you, good day"...Everyone greets one another this way all the time...It's the same everywhere except NYC, where "if" you say hello to someone or greet someone you don't know, it's like "Whadya want, Buddy...?"...So, I'll take the universal languages of international greetings, from Guatemala to Venezuela to St. Kitts and the Grenadines to Korea to Japan to Belgium and France to "Howzit, Brah" in Hawaii, to "what up" in Hip Hop to here, Niaho...

The Bus Ride north...Okay, first off, please forgive me for losing the name of the city we were just in last night...I wrote it down and of course it's somewhere but nowhere to be found, just yet...We traveled Northwest though for about 2 and a half hours, leaving the worse smog conditions I've ever experienced in Changchun city...We ended up seeing the outline of the sun faintly about an hour outside Changchun...Along the scenic route to this NE city, which is close to the Mongolian region and noticeably more Third World in the rural areas than what I had seen in the city proper...

The accident along the way...Let's say this, our driver is one smart fella, as he allowed an ambulance to pass him as we made our way North on the well paved highway...You see, he doesn't like anyone to pass him, cross the street in front of his bus OR sneak onto the main street from a side road...This I know, after 5,000 beep beeps and one BIG BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, he knows how to get people's attention in a hurry...This bus drives like a Taxi to him and he demonstrates it very well...Of course, my favorite seat on any team bus has always been the second one behind the first on the passenger side, at least if there is a problem I have the cushion of two seats in front of me to protect me, right? So, my seat on this trip was occupied by two press people and now I am sitting behind the driver who is hoping that I think he drives as well as any player I have on the basketball court...He's got a point, he drives a 40' bus, and I have guys that drive 40' with their heads down, at least he has the "good habit" of keeping his head up when driving...ooops, the accident story...brace yourself for this one...Imagine going between Ft. Lewis and Vancouver, Wa., and sharing the road, two lanes (they make 4 lanes out of two here...amazing phenomena) only, with the following traffic: motorcycles (prevalent in the rural areas, in fact #1 mode of transportation), slow moving 3 wheel cars with 4 people or agriculture in the bed of the truck, tractors, donkey-drawn carts, two wheel long bed variety, bicycles and of course the "lucky" pedestrian who dares to cross the highway at anytime, day or night...So, keeping this all in mind, and the ambulance passing us in a hurry, we come across a highway North accident about 2 miles up, slowing traffic and allowing our driver to "think" of a way to get around this traffic...He does!! He slows down and begins to cross inbetween the median opening and travel North on the southbound lanes...Little did I realize that we would all meet Buddha, Ghandi, Jesus and Elvis together FROM China, that's the "hot" flash of the day I experienced at that moment...BUT, about 200 yds. down the road, other vehicles were beginning to do the same thing, taking HIS lead and before you knew it, without any Police around, we're taking up two lanes on very fast highway with all sorts of characters and equipment with wheels and feet and hooves, making our way North...We came across a terrible scene that had us slowing down to a nail's pace, as we observed 3 people on the highway, laying unconscious and people gathered around them but not touching them...One of the victims was put on a stretcher, only 1 ambulance was there as well as one State Police car and two policemen, who were NOT ABOUT TO ADDRESS any traffic issues at this time...The vehicles involved as it appeared when we drove by: Late model Toyota Sedan, obviously the fastest of the other crash party, a Taxi, a motorcycle and a pedestrian...Both sides of the street were occupied by locals wondering who was their friend that was hit and who was on the motorcycle as well...Needless to say, the traffic "flowed" right on by and no one came to a complete stop while this was all taking place on the highway, blocking both NW lanes...Now you know that would NEVER happen in Tacoma along the auto row area of I-5, right? You know, let the masses figure out a way to keep the traffic flowing, slowing both N/S lanes in the south lane direction...anyway, it was something to behold...The excursion and noticeable things along the way:

a) didn't see one bird until about an hour and a half away from Changchun...didn't see any animals either, but did see chickens coming in and out of houses along the way...

b) noticed an incredible agricultural spread of cornfields...and I mean incredible...Imagine Nebraska doubled times over...

c) Rest Area: that's misnomer for sure...The Bus stopped at a gas station along the highway, not choosing to go on the property of the gas station, so several players in our party could use their services, or so I thought...Instead of walking towards the gas station and their facilities, they wandered off to an open out house, about 20' long, no doors, no windows, just an overhang (in case it rains) to do their business...I'm looking at this and thinking to myself, "Tom, can you imagine Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers getting off the team bus on a road trip and "this" is what they have to use to relieve themselves...?" ...Now you know how I'm thinking "I've seen it all..."...UNTIL, a few minutes later, another bus pulls in behind us and lets off about 30 people to use the same facilities, except this time there are 3 women who are also in the mix...now I'm really confused...they walk around to the other side of the "troth" and there was a wall divider so separate the two sides, thank GOD, and proceed to do their "thing"...well, there are still about 20 men who decide the young trees behind the troth "looks good to me..." would be the easiest way to relieve themselves so they each took a tree...now imagine this...these "young" trees were much taller than the other trees 50 yds. beyond the troth area, meaning that the "organics" that was conveniently fertilizing them was indeed enhancing their natural growth...

We arrived at our "day" hotel, checked in and then had lunch...

Lunch with the Team: I have been very careful of late to partake in the fine cuisine of China's fine dining since my "blender" has been acting up lately...

The setup for our meals is something to behold...Traditional asian sitdown lunch and dinners, has you occupying a table that seats 12 or more people and has a glass tabletop on turntable that features all the food we'll be able to enjoy...Well, I knew better, and yet I had been really careful to date, and thought to myself (which in my case is dangerous: thinking to myself...), "hmmm, I haven't tried that before", and it "looked" good, but Dr. Pismo, yes he lives here in China with his close friend Pepto, told me to "just look...don't taste...yet"...I relented to the wise "instructions" prescribed and had to try a couple of vegetable dishes that were cooked, and trust me tasted very very good...until about 8 hrs. later and then I heard Dr. Pepto telling me the same thing...I gotta listen to that tandem and their instructions while I'm here, otherwise the plyometrics I am exercising right now for the last 3 days getting up and running, sitting down and getting up, well it's really a new way to get into "shape" if you're not into the South Beach Diet...?

Pregame Notes and Postgame Musings:

Pregame was a reunion of sorts, as I ran into a former Sonic Veterans Camp player from 20 years ago, Andrew Gaze, the Head Coach of the Australian Team we're playing these two days. He has a group of augmented players from Down Under, all having the appearance of Aussie Football players, rugged, cut and obviously they don't eat a lot of vegetables and noodles. Andrew has been coaching Down Under since his retirement from the NBL (Aussie League) several years ago, and is the second Aussie to have an NBA Championship ring as a former NBA player. The trivia question is: who was the first? Anyways, we had a great visit, and he is really excited for his former coach P J Carlesimo becoming the new Sonics coach. PJ was Andrew's coach at Seton Hall, AND was an all Big East performer back in the day. Coach Gaze has another Seattle Sonics connection on his touring team also, Sedale Threatt, Jr. He looks like Sedale and has the same quick step and shot release like his father, who by the way, is a Regional Representative for And1 gear in Australia. Andrew says Sedale also has been coaching a little bit with an National Basketball League team Down Under as well. It was great to visit with Andrew as the last time I saw him was 20 years ago, saying goodbye at Western Washington University as we wrapped up our exhibition season there versus the Kings when I was assisting the Sonics back in the day.

The Great Floor: hmmm, how do I describe this floor? Let's see, Dancing Stars would love it...Fred Astaire would have lived another 20 years moving left to right on it, and Gene Kelley would have made a sequel to "Dancing in the Rain..."...That being said, I think you have a "picture" of what we were going to try to do RUNNING and moving our feet left to right on defense as I had asked ALL of our players to do in this game BEFORE we stepped on the floor...The play of all plays: one of our two American players was filling a lane downcourt, just like I asked and got a fast break pass from the guard behind him, he catches the ball, turns drives to the basket and as he does so his feet slide out from under him, landing bottomsides up with the ball and he SHOOTS it, almost making the shot, but unfortunately was called for sliding...err...traveling...Everyone in attendance and on both benches realized how ridiculous it was to even try to play this game, yet I never heard one player from our team or the other complain ONCE...No excuses, Andrew and myself were the only ones who complained before and after the "floor exercise"...

Game Notes: we lost 97-83...Great effort considering circumstances, lotsa unforced turnovers, Spider is forcing me to help him write a letter of recommendation to the Culinary People's School for Exceptional Pastry Dishes Specializing in Turnovers...I told him I'm going to "wait" a little bit before drafting THAT letter for him...He made a pass on a play to open the 3rd qtr. that was "money", and I mean "M-O-N-E-Y", as we have this pick-the-picker play (screener gets a screen next) which was wide open for the first picker and I draw it up for Spider and his teammates...Well, just like it was drawn up with lines and dashes, the only thing I FORGOT to remind Spider to do TODAY was "pass the ball with TWO HANDS not off the dribble with one...", he has short memory syndrome from day to day operations, which in his culinary field will work well, as Turnovers spoil after one day "freshness"...The play evolves and Wang Bo, our BF, is wide open, and Spider's eyes become as large as Marty Feldman's and he passes off the dribble...the pass "hit" a wide open Policeman under the basket who was smiling fondly at a "dance and cheer at a timeout only" young lady next to him...The policeman recovered, fans "cheered" for him and if you saw the look on my face at that moment TOWARDS Spider, you know I was wishing I had a Blackberry that would take dictation and convert to Windows Word for his Resume'...He did however come back to redeem himself mightily as he ran the same play again and passed this time with both hands and we scored and his teammates "smiled" at me...they KNEW as I did, Spider finally "got it", and that's my Spider story for this game...Less I forget, the "music man" for this game was wonderful...he entertained us with John Denver's "Country Road" and Elton John's "Welcome back Yellow Brick Road..." to some Hawaiian string music that was quite relaxing...The crowd: about 4,000...They had a good time, laughed a lot at our sliding when coming to a "jump stop"...Coaches Wooden and Newell would both be at their wits end during a game like this, as nothing prepares a coach for how to help his players to NOT SLIDE when coming to a stop with or without the ball...

Post Game Musings: I spoke to the players and expressed how pleased I was with their effort, each player, considering the adverse playing floor...I told them that do have to do a much better job communicating on defense and helping weakside like we have practiced to this point...That the reason for exhibition games prior to the regular season is to make sure we learn from our mistakes and make the necessary adjustments during these type of games so we can be better prepared when it counts...My translators were wonderful again...I love Pancake (Shortstack) and Joe Guan, both excellent people in their assigned tasks of helping me with my words in English presented in context to the People's players...We gathered our things and went back to the hotel to eat again, I didn't, choosing to stay on the bus and rehash in my mind points of the game that needed to be addressed today before we hit the floor again...An hour later, we're on the road again, and I put away my book of the week, "Coach" edited by Andrew Blauner...what a GREAT compilation of stories by writers who reflect upon their sports mentors who influenced their lives at an early age...forever...this book was a gift to me before I left Seattle, by Coach Lee Larson, my close friend from Happy Valley, Oregon, just outside Clackamas, Oregon, east of Portland...Coach Lee is one of those rare birds in life you meet along your life journeys, who really cares about kids, parents and the world, and has used basketball as one of his many mediums for helping others universally...This book has been a wonderful read...Parents: get it!! Read it and share with your sons and daughters, I guarantee you will enjoy each page turn to the end...

 

Today is Friday, 5:00am China, five hours sleep, we leave in two hours for a six hour bus ride (by the way, our driver is really good, Kasey Kahne has nothing over him...)...Dr. Pepto gave me some more "additives" and I reread his and Dr. Pismo's directions...They don't want to "see" me tomorrow, so I guess I will be reading my book and drinking lotsa of green tea ( I LOVE green tea)...We should be a little better prepared for what we experienced from the Aussies and their two Americans (Threatt and a young fella from a small Iowa school playing down there)...I plan to "add" a high post release for our point guards to help them get into the offense quicker and allow our "footer" Steve Castleberry to be the passer from the top of the key, that's to start the game with...We play 4 Qtrs., 12 mins. each, 6 personals, 24 second clock (if they have one, otherwise they count down in Chinese and ring a bell courtside...we got 3 shot clock "favors" during the game, as the Aussies don't know Chinese very well...) BUT only 2 Officials...

Take care all...a special "shoutout" to my family and friends and kids whom I have been blessed to learn from over the years when teaching them new skills about this wonderful game as I have experienced it in my life to date...

Coach tom...

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