"Been a long time...been a long time...been a lonely lonely lonely lonnnnnnnnnnng time..."...Led Zepp fave...

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I know I know, "where the heck have you been, Tom?..."...Let me say this: I don't like to write repetitive accounts on this blog that reflect the myriad ways on how to LOSE a freakin basketball game...I gotta have some "Good Humor Juice" flowin in order to provide y'all with some fun stuff to read and be amused by my ongoing experiences...So, guess what? WE WON!! 109-88 at home vs. a team that beat us by 17 at their place...We had been on a 4 game losing skein and that wasn't a lot of fun, let me tell you...For one, our coach has this incessant behavior that the "more meetings" the better we will play...Wrong...just the opposite...The Chinese players are not easily attentive towards ANY dialogue, good or bad that discusses the game...Why? Mainly because they practice for eight months, then play in the CBA League for 3 and a half months, and MAYBE, just MAYBE two weeks separation from the team and teammates...Get the BIG PICTURE here? Especially when a team is on a multiple game losing streak (4 up to last night's salvation)...How to describe our last two losses before last night's victory: one on the road was an aberration, so much so, I can't even remember the score other than it was ugleeeeeeee to the end, as D Tate, 6'5" G/F got back spasms 3 mins. into the game off the bench and he had already scored 5 points...Imagine a Goodyear blimp getting a large hole in the nose of the craft...yep, it's in deep doo doo as it nosedives down, losing it's helium and power...Losing D Tate is like that with this team...This young player has the God-given skills and discipline, on and off the court to have a "shot" at the League next year...Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Pop in San Antone, PJ and Nate Mac would love this kid's natural talent and skills...He has come so far in his on ball and off ball defense, and yet, still has much room for improvement, BUT WANTS to be told what he's doing wrong, what he should be doing and how can "I get better, Coach" questions...Wow...been a long long time since I've been asked that question...Anyway, our next game is versus the Muslim city team Urumqui (phonetic-based spelling)...This young man is SO eager to improve his game, he wants to come to Seattle in preparation for an NBA tryout next summer...Let's see, that makes 3 of the players from the States who wish to visit me and train for a week at the UW or Seattle U., this is what is called being a "student" of the game: seeking a mentor/teacher that will build one's knowledge and confidence to succeed in any organized environment related to the game...I'm going to have quite a "cast" of characters and players this Spring/Summer...What fun my 'other' students will have when training with these professionals...I can hardly wait for Connor Witt, Richard Woodworth, Jeff Rerucha, Nile Kramer, Ian Gordon, Tanner and Tyson Riley, Lindsey Moore, Teddy McGuire Alyson Stone, Jordan Dalingstad, Josh and J-Mon Smith join my crew from China for our workouts...Man, are we going to have some fun THIS YEAR...my young students here in China are going to be such incredible additions to our workouts, that even Bobby Jones will be excited to join us again, and Ryan Rourke and Eric Sandarin also...Folks, I am having more fun teaching and coaching now than I've ever had before, and you KNOW I always HAVE FUN when I do "my thing" on the floor...Back to the games at hand...so, meetings, dialogues, translations, boredom and mindwanderings aside, we came home to play that Muslim city team, a good one at that, Top 4 in league presently, and Tate is so so for a nod to suit up and play...He received acupuncture from our Team Trainer and STEM hookups (you know, the electric stimulation patches) and was ready to go...We had the game in our hands, literally until we turned the ball over like Santa giving presents at Macy's...EVERY time we turn the ball over in consecutive fashion,I say fashion because our turnovers seem to be a "Runway Model on how to Turn the Ball Over Uniquely...", and we go from being up by 7 with ball to being up only 1 by the end of the 1st. Qtr...18-17...we were playing Defense as a Team so well it was exciting to me to witness and be a part of...UNTIL...we had to initiate our offense at the other end...Our offense at this point in the season is between a "Stillborn Orangutan and baked Cupcakes that come out of the oven flat as a cookie...Got the picture? So, we go into the 2nd Qtr., in a fog that made me wonder if the "energy" drink that these players drink religiously during timeouts, perhaps was spiked with some brown bag MogenDavid, 'cause the only thing that seem to take them out this stupor was the "fog horn" of the scorer's table stopping action to allow a substitution...I gotta interject something here that ALL coaches wish they could do under similar circumstances: call for a Heavenly intervention whereby there is a power outage and the game is delayed OR the scoreboard, clock and the "pea" in the Officials' whistles doesn't work AT ALL, and we retreat to a neutral zone where it doesn't matter whether or not there is light to SEE the players when you speak to them about how bad they are playing on offense out there...If I were taking Rogaine during this campaign, I would NOT be their Poster Generian (newellism word for someone older than 59)!!! I mean, here I am sitting on the bench and thinking about how to change the game completely: you know, have a league where you get POINTS for STOPS on defense and they are worth more than putting the friggin ball through a cylinder...yeah, NOW do you understand the metaphor/analogy of the aforementioned Animal Kingdom and Bakery itesm? Think about it...In wrestling you get points for takedowns, and smooth defensive counters...the same is true for boxing...I know I know, you're wondering now if I've been drinking from the "Brown Bag" to come up with THAT scenario in basketball...This much I know: the next Head Coach job I have, I am going to meet the Electrician, Mechanical Engineer and whoever else that controls the "switch" and tell them if they "see" the same things I do with our team at home, to PLEEEEEEASE pull the plug so we can quietly retire to a dark room and talk about life, Chinese traffic Pac Man, noodles and how cold the weather is outside, THEN talk about why we're here tonight...Hopefully this "mental pause" will resurrect our desires and memory bank to play the game at BOTH ENDS...Just a passing thought...Anyway, on to the rest of the game story here...We go down 7 at half, turned the ball over 11 times already that lead to 12 unanswered fast break points (note: when we turn the ball over, we stand there in disbelief and FROWN...kinda like a 4 yr. old boy whose older brother takes his Fudgesicle away from him and eats it...), not making any valiant/gallant effort in transition to thwart the miscarry on our part...Gimme me another shot from the Brown Bag please...We come out the 2nd half, fired up, forcing the other team into 5 turnovers in 8 possessions...Right?....BUT we in turnover "fashion" provide our own bakery products, all different pastries, but the same freakin TURNOVERS...so we go down 12, take a timeout, get it together, I stay positive about STOPS on defense, and coach is talking about offense, always something different in our sets, never the same...We force two consecutive turnovers, score in transition, and then they miss 3 more shots and now we're only down 3, 54-51 with 6:56 left in the 3rd Qtr...We have BIG MO goin our way at home now, fans are into the game, players are alert, we're playin to win now...and the other team takes a Timeout...So what do we do? Substitute our Point Guard "Pops" out of the game and rotate in a 19yr. old inexperienced PG, whom has not played a minute in 3 weeks, hasn't traveled on the road with us either, and HE is now playing at this point in the game...Gimme the whole damn BROWN BAG now please...I'll put it this way, the STOP sign on Defense became the Ole' "would you like to start your offense on this side of the court or the other Sir...?"...and when this rookie was finally taken out, mercifully I might add, with 4 mins. to play in the 4th Qtr., and the score 88-69, THEM, we all were shocked, founddumbforsure, and discouraged, we could hardly wait to end this death march and go home...err, to our rooms...After the game, the coach never said a word, because HE KNEW what everyone was thinking, and was too embarrassed to say anything...Am I throwing this cat under the bus? Nah, he "jumped" in front of the bus a long time ago...I'm just an attendant in the ambulance making sure the "siren" works as we slowly drive to the Hospital...THEN the next day, nothing is mentioned about the game, BUT there were words about the Journalists stories on our team that the coach spoke incessantly about over and over again: "don't worry about the press...don't listen to what they say (I thought they wrote...), we must overcome our burdens and play better at home, our defense in the 4th Qtr. was not as good as OUR DEFENSE in the first 3 and a half...No foolin Sherlock...Arrrrrrgh...Coach Woods, we HAD STOPS that were right out of your Disruptive Pressure Defense book...you'd a been proud of this collective effort until the 6:56 mark in the 3rd Qtr...

Last night's game: WE WON...WE WON...I know I am repeating myself here, forgive me, it's just that it's been so long since I was able to share with family and friends: "WE WON!!"...Our collective defense and applications at both ends were astonishingly consistent and fun to watch...From start to finish, we played the game the right way...We forced them into 26 turnovers...bad shot selections...and transition hoops for us at the other end...We also had a season HIGH 24 assists...in one game...48 mins...usually we have MAYBE 9-10 assists total...yeah, I know, hard to believe...but true...Now, about this game and a life lesson here for young coaches who read my blogits...There is a "cardinal rule" in universal basketball that all coaches must observe, reserve and preserve...and that is: NEVER EVER take a timeout with under 3mins. to go unless there is an injury, you're just trying to substitute a reserve into the game for a regular, etc., or another game emergency situation otherwise this is considered a "cardinal sin...", but then again, there is no sin in China, right, how would this coach know "sin" in basketball? Anyway, he calls a 20 second timeout, much to my and the other Americans on the floor amazement and question, and proceeds to draw up a PLAY...??? I can't believe it...can YOU?? Play resumes, time runs out, we don't get the shot off and now I am going down towards the Visitors Bench to shake the Foreign coach's hand (we have mutual acquaintances in Belgrade, Serbia, where he's from), and he has this look upon his face that resembles someone who went out the front door to get the morning newspaper and the neighbor's dog dumped a "footlong" on the walkway and he didn't see it...steps barefoot in it...,and says to me: "Coach tom, why did he call a Timeout when you are up 20...doesn't he know that a coach NEVER embarrasses the other team and coach at home doing this...?"...I tell him I don't know, and yes, we shouldn't have done this, I apologize, and then I say "maybe it's because we haven't won in so long and he wanted to keep playing....?...We both laughed at that, hugged and wished one another well...oh for the humor in war between foes...Spirits were lifted once again in our locker room after the game...what a relief it was to see how well we can celebrate our hard fought victories, however few they have been so far...By the way, D Tate had 35 pts. and showed no ill effects of his previous back spasms that kept him less than average the previous two games...He plays with heart and soul, meaning that he plays hurt very well, and our Team Trainer, "Doc", a "Master in Acupuncture", did his professional best to get DT ready for last night's game...I encourage parents of kids in youth sports: check out Dr. Bob Greczanik, Sports Acupuncturist, Bellevue, if your son or daughter EVER has a problem with a sports related injury and the alternative at hand is Anti-inflammatory meds...I am DOWN on kids taking these prescriptions and will go toe to toe with any "Doc" on the so called "merits" of these medications...A child SHOULD NEVER be given a prescription for a sports injury that could affect their organs later, and by that I mean this: 90% of kids today, ages 8-18 do NOT EAT properly, meaning that when they are told to "eat BEFORE taking medication. drink liquids", (water, NOT soda pops), they ignore that on their own (at school, taking meds anyway, maybe NOT even eating lunch prior to time order of prescription)...So, as a Parent, you need to Google anti-inflammatory meds and read up on the post effects of same on the body...I speak from seeing so many former Pro athletes, basketball, football, baseball walk with arthritic conditions now, some in their 40s, others older, all former "under care" of prescribed anti-inflammatory meds...Boy, I know if someone wants to take issue with me here, I'll raise a few eyebrows...good, at least I'm suggesting a positive alternative to orals...

On the road again this morning, December 8, 2007...early morning flight...coaches and players are upbeat, good sign...tired and hungry I'm sure, as they will always sacrifice appetite for more rest...go figure...Anyway, we're headed to Yunnan area (Southern) of China...Short trip: 6 hours on plane, then 3 hours on bus all today and a game tomorrow night, then same return trip home on Monday, and game on Wednesday...Ain't life grand!?!...We beat this team for our first win last month...hopefully we can do it again, as our defense has improved demonstratively since then...Fingers are crossed that our coach will NOT have practice when we get in, rather just a meeting, watch some film, and get some food and rest tonight...usually what he does is has us dress down for a two hour practice, or one hour and weights one hour, then go back for two hours, eat, then have a meeting at 7:30 for an hour, watching film and hearing his dissertation on life as a basketball player in the CBA, then back to our rooms for the night...Monotonous? Nah, nutz, yes...These players need rest #1, not shooting baskets, jumping up and down in a scrimmage full court, or doing a 3 man fast break drill...we need fresh legs...I share this with him regularly and feel like I'm one of the detainees in Guantanamo...deaf ears...If he would just listen to experience now and then, his words of "wisdom" might be received better in the BIG PICTURE...I will say this: George Irvine, Indiana Pacers, Bernie Bickerstaff, Sonics, and Bill Fitch, Nets had more sensitivity towards "reading" players body language and 'LISTENING' to their Trainers, they should all be teaching coaches worldwide with this genuine "feel" for the game and their team...I learned so much from each of them over the years...it's a true gift, and they "had it"...

Okay, battery is low on the laptop, we're about to land in a half hour and I need a break from my fingertip touches...geeeze, I don' know how people with long nails do this so well...I know I promised my "musings" on life as I know it here in China...I will try to enter this tomorrow...in the meantime, hope you enjoyed this latest "catchup" and wish everyone good health, an act of kindness towards someone you don't know, and that your families are well and happy....God Bless...Coach tom

UPDATE on Bus Ride to Yunnan: beautiful Flintstone (at least that what it appears to me to look like) monoliths rising up from the ground like petrified tree trunks...There was one visual that stood out on this sortie, and that was off in the distance was the LARGEST GOLD Buddha that sat upon a hill overlooking the farmland below, with a path that lead from the Temple to this "wonder"...Incredible sight...The three hour ride here was an incredible assortment of new development mixed with old clay/straw one door shanties...I will say this: if the Farmers of China ever decided to NOT farm, this country would be in a world of hurt...Big Time...I mean the land is so red rich soil that you could plant your old kids shoes and they'd probably grow an inch or two in a year!! Anyway, observing couples working together on small plots, hands and knees cushioned by the tender soil, you really appreciate the time, effort and discipline of these quiet people, doing what millions of generations did before them throughout their country...One other notable observation: there were hundreds of white shrines scattered throughout the countryside, very very old, yet you sensed that this was a family tradition, a reminder of the farmer who raised his family and their children also for many years...Quite a sight if you can imagine...the shrines were mostly similar with about a 7' arc with columns and a tombstone...First time I've seen ANY gravesites in China...Did I tell you that you probably won't see Hearses or Mortuaries in any large Chinese city, let alone graveyards... Cremation is a strong belief in their Creation...Practice? NO!!! Coach says to me that we will watch video since the trip was so long (12 hours) and we need rest...He's learning, slowly but surely...Good for him...he's a nice person, no question...Alright, I'm off to bed, watching on Chinese television the Rockets vs. Nets in New Jersey...This Chinese station will televise at least 120 games this season: FREE to the Chinese nation...Guess where the "next" cash cow in the NBA is spawned? You got it...

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