Bold predictions and a big job for a good guy
Okay, who wins in Turkey?
That’s a great question.
And, after careful consideration, and I’m talking minutes if not half hours I’ve spent carefully deconstructing all the rosters and the playoff permutations and what have you, I’ve come up with this:
I have no real idea.
But I’m going to go with this, simply because of a gut feeling and a wee bit of experience having seen some of these teams.
I like Spain over Brazil in the gold medal game and the United States over Greece for bronze.
I’m not entirely sure why, except that Spain has tremendous guard play and vast experience, Brazil’s big and old and has a coach now – Ruben Magnano, ex of Argentina – who should keep them focused.
I fear a lack of size and big international game experience will ultimately be the undoing of the Americans, who should get Spain in the semifinals. Greece? Well, you can throw a blanket over them and Argentina as the fourth best team there, I think, so I’m not dead certain on that selection.
I will tell you this, though: There will be some great games and some intensity you seldom see. I fully expect a couple or three “events” to pop up – not as big as the Serbia-Greece brawl but some hostilities – and the playoff rounds will be exceptional. The always are.
The thing I don’t like is how spread out it is, the three previous ones I’ve covered have all be so close together you could see every team in the preliminary round if you wanted, that’s not going to be the case in Turkey, which is too bad for me because there are usually some excellent first-round games to watch.
Anyway, clip and save this and tell me what a dolt I am on Sept. 13 if you like but what the heck, now you know the feeling from here.
He had no comment when I spoke electronically with him overnight but I’m told that’s just because the final paperwork hadn’t been completed and that was just some routine work.
It really is a tremendous story, 39-year-old guy who left Nigeria as a teen to chase a dream becomes an NBA general manager and an accomplishment that really does show you can get what you want through hard work and perseverance.
I remember the first time we talked, he’d just been hired by the Raptors and we had some friends and experiences in common in the international game. He told me then he didn’t know what the career path would be for certain but that he wanted to work hard, help develop the game in his country and in Africa and just to see where that took him.
Well, I’d say it’s taken him pretty far.
I know there have to be thousands of young players that Masai’s come to know and help over the years who are entirely proud today that a guy rose from such humble beginnings to such lofty heights.
They should be.
Quick dip into the mail.
Q: Hello Doug. Seeing as your going overseas, what sorts of basketball-gameday-related stuff would you like to bring back with you and put it in to NBA games? For e.g., I think I remember once reading you liked the chanting in the stands. Would you mind the occasional flare or two at an NBA game? How about the common area with the barricade separating players and reporters - are you a fan of that? Anything else you'd like to bring back to enhance your or the common fan's (including us that watch on TV's) experience?
Have fun out there!
Manny L, Winnipeg
A: No, I don’t mind the chanting at all, a little singsong can liven up a sports event now that I think of it.
What I particularly like about international basketball is the lack of “stuff” because it’s usually about the game. There is no music blaring during the actual playing of the game, there are no PA announcers screaming and there are no “contests” during timeouts. Sure, there are European versions of June Taylor Dancers but why not?
A flare? Um, no. I’d fear for them being thrown on court, at a player or, egads!, at press row.
Another thing I don’t like about European basketball are the neon advertising signs that ring the court like boards. Too intrusive and while I’m not sure they’ll have them at the worlds, that’s the one biggest TV difference you’ll notice if they do.
As for the barricade, it’s in what’s known as the “mixed zone” which is the only post-game interview area that all the players must go through and, trust me, in the crush of the crowd at some of those games, they are absolutely needed. Let’s say that some of my brethren from around the world can get rather, um, aggressive and emotional when conducting interviews. I’ve only seen one or 100 “reporters” reach over those barricades to hug a player after a significant win.
So, I’m told Andrea Bargnani is killing in the European qualifier he’s playing in with Italy these days. I say “I’m told” because I haven’t been paying all that close attention for one reason:
It really doesn’t matter and certainly doesn’t tell me much.
With no disrespect to the emerging basketball, um, powers of Finland and Montenegro and Israel and whoever else is in it, they are still Finland, Montenegro and Israel and whoever and it’s not numbers that I care about with Bargnani at all.
I guess the biggest thing he needed to do this summer, in my opinion, was the play games and continue to develop the on-court intuition – especially defensively – that had been lacking.
The fact he’s getting 25 and 12 or whatever it is should be of little importance, if a five-year NBA vet wasn’t getting those numbers against teams like that, that would be something to notice.
So, good on Andrea for playing and putting up numbers but to suggest it will translate into NBA points and rebounds is folly.
All right. Here’s the drill on what we hope is going to happen around these parts the next little while seeing how it’s a seven-hour time difference and the Lewis and Clark travel schedule has me leaving Toronto about 6:30 and getting to Izmir about 4 o’clock Friday afternoon their time.
Until I get the lay of the land over there, all I can hope to do is get to this stuff a bit earlier than usual for you, at the end of my day rather than the beginning, and we’ll have the usual fun and frivolity.
The plan is for in-game blogs on the Canada games (11:30 a.m. East Saturday is the first) and the normal game coverage.
I see the, um, suggestions of some sort of video component to what’s going to come from Turkey and all I can tell is I’ll give it a shot.
Anyway, if there are comments that get delayed tonight or if this isn’t here at the usual time tomorrow, it’s due to travel things, not any personal slight.
Oh, and, finally
Q: Doug, have you ever written using a pseudonym? If not have you ever had the temptation? Is this a common, or uncommon event in your field?
Steph G, Glencoe
A: Um, I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag, I’ve been found out.
Perhaps you’ve read some of my previous work. Does the name “Hemingway” ring a bell? Toronto Star reporter, liked sports …
On a serious note, never done it and don’t know of anyone who has; we kind of have to take responsibility for what we write.
Anyway, that’s the end of the mail stuff for today but you’ve got ‘til I get on the plane this evening to get some in. Click here to do it.