It's a long, hard road to the second round and an old friend says hi
Okay, I guess if you’re trying to find silver linings over here, we did see some improvement day-to-day in Canada’s, um, mental toughness, and that is no small step.
Yes, they still lost to Lithuania, a team that on talent alone would look to be vastly superior to Canada, but the way they finished the game has to be a bit heartening. And the way they played about 36 minutes of it was as good as I’ve seen them play.
After blowing that huge lead, they could have easily folded their tents and lost by a dozen but they hung tough the entire fourth quarter, played smart for the most part and well for almost the entire 10 minutes and it was a game they could have had.
Now, blowing a 17-point lead speaks to a huge lack of experience and the ability to calm things down, and trying to steal four crucial minutes with backups was, as I mentioned in the gamer, a gamble that didn’t work but I know most of the people connected with the team were far happier after that game than they were about the Lebanon one.
Still, the road to the second round is bumpy and, as best we can figure it out (and you know me and mathematical permutations) this has to happen: Canada MUST beat both France and New Zealand and New Zealand has to beat Lebanon to leave all three teams with one victory. Even then, it goes to points differential so it’s impossible to predict for certain.
And, Lithuania has to beat France and Lebanon as well.
That’s conceding that Spain won’t lose again and I’m pretty sure that’s a safe assumption.
Anyway, that’s where we think we are over here.
Now, other stuff …
So we’re sitting on this patio deconstructing the day with a gaggle of Canadians at the team hotel, which is a luxuriously appointed joint a short walk from where the media is housed.
Seems all the teams are staying at this place, it was late Sunday night and here comes Spain after their win over New Zealand.
Of course, I had to walk in to intercept the one guy I know as he wandered through the lobby and I can dutifully report Garbo is doing well.
Had a nice little chat for a few minutes, no real “news” but just catching up and, yes, he and his teammates were disappointed about the way they played against France the other night but, yes, they still feel pretty confident.
The think about running into Garbo somewhere in the world – the last time it happened for me was in Beijing – is that he seems genuinely happy to see a familiar face.
It’s been two years, but he was asking about family and guys back in Toronto (hi, Ray Chow!) and got to reminiscing about all kinds of things.
He is one of the good guys in the game and I still contend the Raptors were too cautious with him and his leg; and that seems to be an opinion that’s been shown to be true since he’s played at a high level ever since they thought here he couldn’t play.
I’m not sure he’s got an NBA game today but he sure would have had one the last couple of years.
Anyway, it was good to see him and good to find out he’s doing well.
As an entire aside, I read somewhere that Kobe Bryant expressed undying loyalty to the Lakers on the weekend and said he’s “99.99 per cent” sure he’ll finish his career with the team.
If he’d played in Toronto I’m sure I would have received at least one e-mail that said: “See, I knew he was leaving.”
I’m sure you all raced breathlessly to your computers or newspapers to read this, right? (Seriously, I’m sure you did!)
Anyway, the first time I really got to experience the whole Lithuania basketball phenomenon was back in Barcelona at the 1992 Olympics, when the recently-independent country made its debut on the international stage.
I was floored and ever since, it’s been a constant at every international event I’ve been at.
I’m not sure I can adequately explain the passion or fun they have, with their drums and chants and cheers.
And with a few thousand of them in the Halkapinar Arena, a somewhat smallish place where the fans are right on top of you, I can only add one thing: Thank goodness FIBA banned vuvuzelas.
I tell you, you have not seen television until you’ve seen a decades-old McGyver dubbed into Turkish.
I need to unplug that contraption and listen to music or something while I work.
Oh, remember yesterday’s security note (and forgive the metal/medal faux pas, my mind was obviously not working right)?
Well, it seems that if you show up at the place two days in a row and the same crew of young volunteers is working, you can get special access right past the second detector and the X-ray machine if the young woman recognizes you.
She did, I guess I look trustworthy because every time I walked through after various trips outside for fresh air, got waved right past the detector and back into the gym.
The word I’m getting from people over in Istanbul has to be heartening to Raptor fans since Leandro Barbosa is apparently looking really good for Brazil.
But I’m going to wait a few days to get more information because while it’s all well and good that he’s played well and Brazil’s won twice, they’ve beaten Iran and Tunisia and still have the United States, Slovenia and Croatia to go.
We’ll see how he does in those games.
Wonder how much things cost here?
(Boss, stop reading, the expense forms will be accurate).
Well, it seems to depend.
I have a nice meal the other night of a local grilled spiced meat with rice and salad and the omnipresent tomatoes and cucumbers for about 18 Turkish Lira (and that’s the currency, they kind of blanche at the sight of Euros) and the Efes was about 8 TL.
But then last night, at the swank team hotel, the drinks were about 12 TL and a very good toasted sandwich of a Turkish cheese and a spicy salami-like meat was about 20 TL on its own.
Guess I need to keep in the lower level of life, right Mr. Money Man back home?
As you well know, it’s an off-day here today (and it’s already 12:30 p.m. so half of it’s gone) and I guess it’s time to explore. I’m thinking the local bazaar and – get this – the Izmir International Fair is on just down the street from our hotel and I’m told it’s the best in the country.
It’s more trade fair than the Ex and I’ve seen the picturesque grounds from a bus passing by so wish me luck.
Oh, and yes, I will find time to write something about, you know, this tournament.