Xin Jiang: a cosmopolitan exchange culture for sure...

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October 31, 2007, Wednesday morning, 5:30am...Hmmm, where to begin...First off, upon our safe arrival on China Southern airlines, which by the way, I have to completely endorse as an incredible service airlines, extremely professional and safety first conscious from takeoff to landing...Plus, flying Boeing makes ANY and ALL travels here worth commenting on, I think...Back to the "blogit" story of the day...We arrive to our hotel: XinJiang Overseas Chinese Hotel around 9pm on Monday night...as we enter the lobby, I thought it was a convention of "Been Ladens" as you would not have believed the large number of Middle Eastern gentlemen converged on this hotel as we walked into the lobby...The looks "we", meaning Steve C-Berre, DT, and myself got as waited patiently for our room keys, well let's it put it this way: imagine Pit Bulls in a yard that can't bark, yet they look at you like they would love to "bite" your head off if they could...and maybe they're "thinking" about it later...all the while, we say nothing to one another (me, Steve and DT, but WE know what they're thinking as they look upon us), and wait for the key and trip to our "team" floor and rooms...Folks, I gotta tell you something, I have pretty good instincts, and my Irish intuition here, sensed some real "bad" characters at this hotel and even in this city, and I'll tell why later...The room is supposedly a "3 Star" accommodation...Obviously, the person who rates "Stars" in this city, only ever received ONE STAR as a young student in school, 'cause that's ALL this place could muster in my opinion...It smelled of cigarettes, the bathroom was an interesting "addon" development, that gave you the impression of a "to be continued..." at some point...this century...

Dinner at a terrific restaurant next to the hotel...Remember I mentioned how it was expessed to us to "take food with us", because there are no good restaurants and the hotel food is not so good, also?" Well, that is FAR from the truth...I joined Head Coach Gao and Asst. Coach Chiang to this Muslim Restaurant (20 yards from our hotel), and let me tell you something: FANTABULOUS!! Coach Gao ordered a dish called "Chiao Mian Pian", a pasta enriched with some spices and vegetables with lamb pieces that was delicious...plus, I had ordered 3 lamb kabobs that were excellent also...So, I went to Pancake afterwards and told him: "Pancake, you were wrong: there is excellent food in this city as the coaches and myself had a wonderful meal together..."...He was shocked to hear this, and then heard from the other players that they too had enjoyed a really good dinner...I am learning to NOT trust the "opinions" of the people who leave their own confines and travel to another locale...They're not always correct in their assessments...Good lesson to learn...Anyway, this Muslim city is a "stopover" for many Middle Easterners, Lord knows where they are going, but I will tell you this: DO NOT TRAVEL TO THIS PART OF CHINA at this time or anytime, as the "spirit" one would sense here is very dangerous...I believe that there ARE certain undesirable characters residing here under the 'guise' of their religion and beliefs, until...yes, UNTIL??? This notion/sense I had was confirmed when Coach Gao addressed the team before practice yesterday, and told the team to be very careful, NOT to leave the hotel alone, and never leave without asking the coaches first...THEN he addressed us, the Americans..."there are terrorists living here, and they are dangerous people, so please be careful...do not go somewhere without us being around...these visitors are not nice people..."...Well, you can imagine the "look" C-Berre and DT gave me and the goose bumps my scalp expressed when I heard this translation...Now, I understood "why" we had an armed security guard on our floor and the other 11 floors did not...and this "security" guard was military and his relief dressed in sport coat and tie...I decided that my "room with a view" was probably not a good location, and changed with Coach Gao, mainly because on our floor there were several Middle Easterners staying next to me the next before and were loud and louder until about 3:30am...I decided that there was no way I would stay in that room another night...Coach Gao, what a guy, offered his room in exchange...I gladly accepted...slept like a puppy last night...

We play tonight versus Xin Jiang, who won their first game at home `105-102...they have a former NBA Chinese player on their team, Bateer, who is 33 and still playing, slowly, but effectively at his size 7'2" 290lbs. in this league...They also have two Americans, one from the U of Oregon, David Jackson, whom I've known over the last several years and enjoyed working with him one summer when he transferred from U of Utah to the Ducks back in the summer of '99...He's an outstanding shooter and scorer as a 2 Guard...He should do well in this league...The other American, Brandon Cole, is 6'9", and works hard as well...should be a good matchup...Last night, I forgot to mention, we watched the replay of our first game and then had a team meeting afterwards...it was a great revelation and meeting trust me...Coach Gao is such a good person and teacher...He mentioned to the players about my concerns before the game with the distractions and then the money on the table before we went out, and said it was also 'his' first time ever to see something like that by an owner...but didn't realize how it may have affected our concentration like I suggested...I was asked to say something after we watched the film and he spoke about the statistics and his thoughts on the game, and I deferred to the other coaches...then when the coaches finished, Coach Gao opened up the floor and wanted input from the players, which in my opinion is ALWAYS recommended when players are distracted and/or not playing with a clear mind....Several players spoke and spoke well, including the two American players, both of whom saw on film that they indeed could have played much better than they did...This was a GREAT meeting...then all of a sudden, Coach Gao WANTS ME to conclude the meeting with my "final" thoughts...He asked me TWICE to please share what I think...So, here's what I said: "Basketball is a game of mistakes and the key to success is not making the same mistake twice, whether on offense of defense...The "next" thing I shared is that when you play professional basketball there two measures of reflection that help players and teams understand what they must continue to improve upon: one is video, it tells no lies, it shows all the mistakes, all the great plays and some of the not-so-great plays of a game...the other is the post game statistics, as they record minutes played, efficiency or not, and more importantly "what" you each can do to improve upon in the next game.." Then I finished my two cents worth with this: you are only recognized by your best effort game in game out...the great thing about basketball is that YOU CAN play better the next time out BECAUSE you have control over this very important aspect of your game and the team's performance overall...With that coached smiled, thanked me and we were gone...Quite an experience I am having now, folks, this is a GREAT collection of young basketball players and experienced coaches that I am truly grateful for the opportunity to learn from and hopefully contribute towards the season's success...Will let you know how we did later vs. Xin Jiang...

Shootaround this morning...11am-12pm...ran into DJax and Brandon...DJax said that it's been difficult in transition here, as he stays close to his room (hotel), and doesn't go out at night in this city...I cannot imagine two American citizens, athletes as that, staying very long in this city, knowing that there are people who despise our country and its democracy...I ain't one to discuss politics, mind you, and those of you who know me well, never venture into that area of conversation with me, which I respect and appreciate very much...BUT...I will say this, hearing a fellow Patriot share with us (DT and myself) his genuine concern for his safety and what he's heard about the "visitors" here in this city, it makes you wonder every time you step out into the public spectrum, either socially or professionally...Told David to be "strong, be vigilant and make them respect you by your play and the respect you have for the game...you are an ambassador now, accept the challenge..."...He smiled and said "I hear you coach, I hear you...I'll be alright..."...Both players said that the team is not "together" at all...they have a lot of internal issues between coach and players, and it's like something new everyday...DT looked at me and I to him, and we just smiled to ourselves, because he HAS NO IDEA what we've experienced over the last two weeks...Good shootaround, players were alert and active and shot well...we'll see if that carries over tonight...By the way, the owner and GM made the trip, arriving late last night, staying at a different hotel...one that HAS several "Stars"...hah...Stay tooned...Less I forget, a 'huge' shout out to my friend "Big D" and the Hawaiian Eye, Mike M, as they did a marvelous job preparing me for the "unexpected" cultural awakenings and to be carefully aware...I have done both...

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