Okay, after that Xmas distraction, BallinEurope is ready to write up some more stuff about good tidings and cheer*, namely, the start of the NBA season. With hours to go, BiE’s got just enough time to get in the part two of the Euro-centric big-league preview in this brief look at the teams in the Western Conference – plus Official Fearless Predictions™, guaranteed to be as accurate as they are popular.
*Los Angeles Lakers fans, over whom a huge cloud of doom hangs to start this season, excluded (sigh).
As in the Eastern Conference preview, BiE seeks to keep an eye on those players who contributed a stint in Continental ball this summer during the lockout period and even, to some, extent participants in Eurobasket 2011. BiE believes that the running start from real game-time situations plus the suddenly intensive NBA season will give the Euroballers an advantage in the short-term against more laggardly opponents not in “basketball shape.” And with the shortened regular season, a jump start will provide lasting effects.
In the wake of the NBA lockout, those players from the big league not hawking their wares in Europe or elsewhere overseas are looking to schedule alternative games. Though a big-name international tour appears to be stalling at present, this weekend will see quite an exhibition in the four-team “Las Vegas Superstar Challenge” headed up by former Beşiktaş signee Allen Iverson.
While the game apparently won’t be broadcast on television, an outfit called iLinkSports.com is offering folks worldwide a chance to see the games involving names like Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Amare Stoudemire and Andre Iguodala online. See below for the press release detailing the deal; in short, $4.99 (just over €3.50 by today’s exchange rate) before Friday will get you a pass to see the Vegas games.
That rhythmic pounding you hear over the basketball world? It’s the sound of the clock ticking as many an NBA player gets antsy awaiting a seemingly unreachable resolution to the player lockout in the big league. We’re only three days into the NBA’s first work stoppage since 1998 but with European ball a much more attractive alternative to that of the ‘States than it was 13 years ago, many are looking to The Continent and a few are getting ready to join Atlantic jumpers like Nenad Krstic and David Andersen.
Weems is currently in Spain with fellow Raptor Jose Calderón at a youth basketball camp, immediately leading BiE to speculate that Weems will be playing for some ACB side in ‘11 – perhaps Caja Laboral Baskonia, with whom Calderón played for five seasons…? The presence of DeMar DeRozan at said camp also makes one wonder about this possibility.
Finally blessed with a bit of time to peruse ESPN’s compelling financial stats as presented in its magazine’s “All About the Money” issue (check them out if you haven’t already; big numbers are fun!), BallinEurope just couldn’t help, well … noodling around with the numbers some more!
Such consternation clearly comes from one with an encyclopedic memory, because even for hoops diehards outside of Iowa, the man’s name will mostly elicit an answer of “huh?”
After writing his name throughout the Iowa State Cyclones record book, Stinson went undrafted in 2006 and could not stick with the Golden State Warriors after playing summer league ball with them. And so Stinson took a route familiar to many such players post-NCAA: He sought a job in Europe.
Team World will include Davis Bertans (Latvia/Union Olimpija); Evan Fournier (France/Poitiers); Przemyslaw Karnowski (Poland/SMS PZKosz); Mateusz Ponitka (Poland/Tempcold AZS); and Dario Saric (Croatia/KK Zagreb). Other players on the club are Canadians Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos, plus Brazilians Lucas Nogueira and Raul Neto.
As a holiday present to the audience, each of you has received courtside tickets to the first annual BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament. Thanks to the miracle of totally BiE-unaffiliated (and totally mind-blowingly awesome) website What If Sports, we can bring together great players of the past and present for true dream matchups – and without all the messiness of traditional time travel.
For this inaugural event, six virtual invitations were extended to some of the most memorable players and squads in basketball history. Paradoxes caused by requiring a player to play against another version of himself (a feat thus far only successfully achieved by M.J.) were kept to minimum with only one player – Chris Bosh, oddly enough – forced to warp the spacetime continuum a bit. (Although Coach K could also be appearing simultaneously on opposing sidelines as well.)
Take a look at the rundown of these six teams to imagine the outcome: Who will win the BiE Festivus Invitational? Stay tuned and happy holidays, everyone!
Now something of a personal story, if you’ll allow BiE. One of the great things about working a blog such as BallinEurope – after getting proper press seating for stuff like Euroleague Final Four and FIBA World Championships, of course – are the people you meet as a journalist.
BiE’s not talking about hobnobbing with coaches and players so much – though talking (actually talking!) with Pops Mensah-Bonsu is quite the fulfilling experience – as the warm association with enthusiasts and peers. Happily in the sports journalism world, these are one and the same.
At the Euroleague Final Four alone, BiE had the pleasure of chatting up sportswriters from Serbia and Italy, the braintrust of quality sites like DraftExpress, freelancer Tim Warren on assignment with the Washington Post, the amazing Slam and Freaknick of Euroleague Adventures, fantasy basketball **#$#*#$%ing mastermind Javier Gancedo and scads of hardworking Euroleague front office folks.
But no one who met one particular writer there would forget the incredible whirlwind of drive and enthusiasm for all things basketball: Some of us know her as Nancy, but thousands of her readers daily identify her as “A Taiwanese Basketball Girl With A Basketball Dream.”
See, after first receiving a lightning bolt of revelatory inspiration from a newspaper photograph some 13 years ago – The Basketball Dreamer’s only a twentysomething now, it should be noted – she finally up and quit her job last March and, in Kerouackian fashion enviable to sentimental old dudes such as yours truly anchored down with young children, took to the road and came to Europe.
The purpose: As the bumper sticker-like intro at the Basketball Dream website reads, “63 days, 33 cities, 8 countries, 25 matches & 50 teams (including the Eurocup Finals & Euroleague Final Four). The journey, the Dream of a Taiwanese Basketball girl leaving her footsteps on the European courts, sharing her Basketball love in Europe with the rest of the World.” More philosophically, the “Dream is to promote Basketball & inspire, and that is all there is to it.”
Yes, the term “philosophy” is appropriate her, for this woman’s philosophy *is* basketball, BiE tells ya. The Basketball Dreamer lives a life of wall-to-wall basketball. When she’s not kicking around the courts looking for a game (or perhaps watching the games, what with a recently-gotten bum knee), she got an eye on a zillion screens and scores. Just yesterday, A Basketball Dream managed to fire off update-style posts and/or commentary – the Dreamer’s favorite online medium appears to be Facebook – on the Golden State-Phoenix, Duke-Michigan State, Cleveland-Miami, Los Angeles-Houston, and Maccabi Tel Aviv-Žalgiris Kaunas games. Even more impressive: Taiwan is EST +12.
In any case, this self-proclaimed aspirant to the title “Mother Theresa of Basketball” succeeded in her amazing road trip while the story captured hearts and minds of media worldwide. After landing on Euroleague TV (see above), the cause also landed her time on Taiwanese national television and print everywhere from Greece to Serbia to Hong Kong and back to Taiwan again – to name only a few paying attention to this whirlwind of basketball obsession.
Naturally, without an “On the Road” at the publishers’ to fund a second summer voyage in 2011, the Dreamer finds herself with few financial possibilities to fuel an even more enthusiastic trip. Ever the optimist and armed with a good cause, however, A Basketball Dream has applied for nonprofit backing in Taiwan.
Much to BiE’s surprise, the Dreamer somehow figured that perhaps BallinEurope.com might help in the quest for funding or possibly provide further armament in the perpetual war for publicity. BiE often chats up this tremendous natural force of an enthusiast but this week, Nancy spared some time to talk specifically about her goals, hopes and the future of the Basketball Dream.
BallinEurope: So what’s the status of A Basketball Dream 2011?
A Basketball Dream: I’m applying to a fund for Taiwanese “dreamers” like me to see if they can sponsor me to keep on travelling and promoting inspiration through basketball. My plan is [to start at] the NCAA Final Four in Houston, then spend 2.5 months visiting all 30 NBA teams, then on to Latvia to support Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) at the FIBA U19 Worlds, then into the Balkans to hopefully getting involved with some camps there, then the FIBA Asia championship in Lebanon, EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania, and finally the World Deaf Basketball Championship in Italy.
BiE: And the goal is…?
ABD: To INSPIRE through basketball by promoting all the different games around the world. And to especially inspire the kids through [basketball] camps where interacting and teaching them about this game of basketball in turn teaches them about life and lets them have a sense of belonging. And when i say kids, i ‘m particularly into working with those who are “less advantaged.”
BiE: So you’re basically a one-woman FIBA…
ABD: Except also with the NBA and NCAA!
BiE: Everywhere you go, people want to hear your story and are willing to publicize it. What makes you and your quest so compelling, in your opinion?
ABD: Because i’m a girl. A Taiwanese girl. A Taiwanese girl who *plays* basketball.
BiE: Really? You think that’s it?
ABD: OK, because my love for basketball is second to none. Basketball gives me the strength and the supporters of A Basketball Dream that I meet along the journey give me the power, but i can’t do it on my own. I have *started* on my own … but i can’t finish it on my own.
BiE: Tell me about the picture on the website
ABD: The second i saw it in the newspaper about 13 years ago, it touched my heart, went straight down inside. I was GRINNING at the newspaper (gladly, if i remember correctly, that nobody saw me). I love kids, love to see smiles on their faces because it makes me smile. And not just on my face but from the heart! It brightens you up. And the fact that that kid was trying to pick up that huge-a** basketball, that just spoke to me.
I knew that I wanted to do something like that – I wanted to put smiles on kids’ faces (and see the happy faces, personally!) through this wonderful sport that I hold so dear, that I call mine.
Back then, i was just getting into the NBA, by the way. But basketball was already a big part of my life then. It’s all I wanted to do all day (waiting for PE class so I can shoot some with my friends.
BiE: Now, how tall are you?
ABD: Between 5’5” and 5’6”. (I only got to know my height in feet and inches, by the way, because of basketball.)
BiE: And you told me you *played center in college*?
ABD: Yes, i played center in varsity at National Chiao Tung University, because i was the third-tallest, i believe.
BiE: Do you play these days?
ABD: Not with my knee.
BiE: What happened?
ABD: I played too hard, pushed myself too hard, the weather changes (in the morning, it’s 5ºC degrees, 25ºC at midday, and then there’s another bigtime drop in the evening) and i didn’t warm up well. I woke up after two days straight days of ballin’ for two- to five-hour stretches in non-stop 3-on-3s. Finally, i woke up on January 17th at 6am in pain and i couldn’t bend my right knee at all. And i had just ordered a P90X – i was about to work on that “dunk” – ha ha!
BiE: So who did you manage to actually meet on your 2010 tour?
ABD: I met the coaching staff of Efes Pilsen, the players on Montepaschi Siena, Vlade Divac and his wife, Stephen Curry, Bostjan Nachbar, Josh Childress, Linas Kleiza, Kevin Durant … also A.C. Green. He’s a good person.
BiE: And you just approach these folks, tell them about the mission and chat?
ABD: Yeah, it’s pretty much all for A Basketball Dream
BiE: Do you have a personal life? ABD: Ha ha, yes, i do, but i really wouldn’t mind spending all my time on basketball. I mean, the fact that i’m injured now helps. Or else i’d *always* be out on the courts.
But dedication is what it takes, right? So before I can sit back and relax, until the Dream is realized (if ever), i’ll dedicate myself to it as much as I can.