"A Fistful of Dollars...err, Yuan..." Where's Clint Eastwood when you need him?

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October 29, 2007...Monday morning, 5:30am...We lost our first game last night, but that was really NOT the surprise of the evening...The OWNER of the team was...we're in the locker room and he wanted to address the team, so the Head Coach spoke, then the other two assistants and it was my turn, but, the owner took precedence over me and I kept quiet until he finished...Mr. Qu comes in with two young female assistants, carrying a Red Velour cover over a tray...they put the tray on top of the table in the middle of the room and he begins to give us a "pep" talk, talking about being like a soldier in a war, not giving up, playing hard every play, etc...Now I'm looking at the "Dissident 7" (sans Abbie Hoffman) and they're not even looking at him at all...He then concludes the meeting with "You will get big bonuses, big rewards for your victory tonight, JUST LOOK...." And with that he uncovers over 10K of Chinese Yuan on this silver tray...Now, folks, I gotta tell you something here, I've been around the world in pro basketball, and this is the FIRST time I've ever had anyone bring in money to "try" to motivate a professional team to victory...The only players who marveled at the tray were the Americans, dumbfounded by the translator's words and also what they were seeing, as I was totally shocked as well, and then I looked at the last 3 players who held out until yesterday afternoon, and they didn't give it much notice whatsoever...The reason for the strike: the new GM tore up the just agreed upon contracts with the players by the old GM and basically told the Chinese players that they would "get their bonuses and many more when the team wins..."...Good People, I KNEW right then and there we would NOT win this game as the players body language told the 'true' story of not caring, only playing because of family and friends, etc...Well, I was right...we stunk up the place...it was awful...the "3" played horrible and without their points and experience we had no shot...The locker room afterwards was quiet until after the new coach and GM left the room and then the players loosened up, like they never lost the game...It was the most surreal experience I've ever seen in my basketball lifetime, believe me...Anyway, I am preparing now for our road trip that takes us all week to the road for the next two games...Muslim cities...will try to connect with you from there...the weather "switch" has been turned on to C-O-L-D now, and I sure am glad, Bo, my son, gave me his winter hat to wear now...it'll protect what few strands up top I have left...

Postscript on Game #1: we made 5 turnovers, unforced, in 1st qr. and still only down 1 point...We started all Chinese players in the beginning, same as the other team, as you're only allowed to play the Americans 3 out of 4 qtrs. total, and only one player can play one qtr. alone, meaning that we would play DaJuan Tate, 6'5 G/F in the 2nd and save Steve C-Berr for the 2nd half...It didn't matter, as we seem to go through periodic mental lapses that I've seen before with this group when I was the Head Coach, and now the new "Dragon", has his own firsthand experience...I tried to understand his substitution patterns with the Chinese players, and it was difficult in the first half...Stretch, our 6'6" SG/SF, lanky, scrappy (most improved player out of camp in my mind), didn't get a minute in the first half let alone the game it turned out...Coach Gao, chose to start a player, Tiger, who sprained his ankle a week ago and has been hobbling on it ever since, and that was a disaster as he couldn't guard lamp post let alone a gate WITH a good ankle...He alone gave up 4 3's in the game, and could not run a lane in transition, thus making our "attack" 4 vs. 5 whenever he was on the court...Cash, our "money" man, who really plays hard in practice and makes things happen, never got out of the dressing room, as he was MIA also...This I learned from the game: you have prime time players and those who are matinee attendees, and we got some matinee attendees...I really feel for Coach Gao, and expressed the same to him after the game, sharing with him that our team distractions so close to the season's start is not an easy issue to overcome and expect optimum performances by the team in general...I also told him that we need to keep the offense simple, and not change or go into so many plays, as our guards do not do a good job of getting into the offense anyway...I will find out today if my words were accepted, as Pancake called me to tell that the coach "he feel you, coach, he know what you say..."...Best way to surmise the experience: we were as sharp as a paring knife trying to "slice" a balloon...Yeah, that bad...Overall, our defense in the half court wasn't as bad as our closeouts in transition, meaning the same players who were delinquent in matching up during the exhibitions, manifested the same "spots" again...I was so upset within, I swore I was going to take away their chopsticks...really frustrating...Coach Woods KNOWS exactly what I'm venting here about right now...take care, good people, have a safe, happy week...

Reflections about the "return" of the "Dissident 7"...On Saturday morning, at the team's hotel, we watched a video tape of the team we were going to play on Sunday...Now mind you, I had asked for this tape and the rest of the games from last season when I first arrived...The Supreme Commander at the time, remember him? Well, he had the "key" to the cabinet for such and only gave me 8 of 32 games, and none of the first two opponents...I tried so hard and continually pleaded with Pancake to "get these now, please, we need them for preparation..."...To no avail, did my request ever get fulfilled...So enter the new "Dragon", who asked me if I had any tapes...told the new Coach, that "no", couldn't get anyone to help me there...Turns out the asst. GM who was fired took the key with him and there is a law in China that says you cannot access someone else's file cabinet without their permission, so in other words NO TAPES...fortunately, the day before, on Friday we were able to finally get a copy of one game of our first opponent, Zhe Jiang, and watched it, minus our 3 top players, Cannon, team captain, Wong Bo, best team player and leader on team, and Spider Monkey, solidarity "brother" to the team's leaders...So we're watching this tape, unedited, just a TV feed, and I'm trying to read the tendencies of the players who we'll face on Sunday, especially their 7'2" Post player, Samake, who has been on this team two years now and is long and longer...Anyway, the "mood" of the brood was indicative of whether or not we were going to "play" competitively or not, as it was a somber collection of what was suppose to be an exciting time: the beginning of a new season...Shucks, I was fired up, and have been for the season's start until the Dissident 7 held out...We finished watching the video after 3 qtrs. and then return to our hotel, (Americans stay in a different hotel than the players...??), and wait until later in the afternoon for our final practice before the game...The Dissident 7 minus 4 have now joined us, and it was a relief to have those 3 back on the floor, but there was "still" something lingering between them and the rest of the team...Unbelievable...We got through the session, went over matchups and crossed fingers and toes that we would really "play" a game the next day...This was the reflection of the day before...

I will try to blog once we're settled into the Muslim area of North central China, close to Mongolia...I hope and pray that the plane has no problems getting there...evidently, the "trip" is just that: a trip...Best to all, Coach tom

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