Shawn Respert’s Stankovic Cup Blog
|Shawn Respert is well known in basketball circles from his four-year NBA career and for being named an All-American and having his jersey retired at Michigan State. Now, in his new career as D-League Manager of Player Development, Shawn will be traveling with the D-League Ambassadors during their trip to China to compete against five national teams in the Stankovic Cup. Check back often as Shawn provides his updates on the team's preparations for the Stankovic Cup and a behind the scenes look at their experience in China.|
Meeting The U.S. Warden And Getting Ready To Head Home
Posted by Shawn Respert on August 3, 1:20 a.m. ET
The team was diasappointed that we didn't come away with a 4th victory but we understood what we were up against. The players had dinner at a local Portugese restaurant and said there good-byes. Some of the players had to catch an early ferry to Hong Kong Airport. The rest of the group needed to ride the ferry a few hours later. It was good to see the players back in a better mood. I was in the later group and the players should have been paid from the boat passengers for providing entertainment on the ride to the airport. They could have their own cruise line show and there would not be a shortage of material.
We were able to meet up with the U.S. Warden of Macau, Mr. Reggie Martin. He serves as one of the Board of Governors with the American Chamber of Commerce-Hong Kong. Mr. Martin seemed so excited to have us involved and was really excited about looking to get our league involved with an annual event in Macau. I was surprised to know that he was a true basketball junkie. I thought I was hearing things right before the tip-off with China. I heard someone yelling, "Shawn Respert, Big Ten basketball.". Now I know I'm not crazy. There was no way anyone in this gym in Macau would remember those days as a Spartan. Mr. Martin grew up in Gary, Indiana where former NBA player Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson hailed from. He spoke to the players and even impressed some of them with his own personal game breakdown of their individual play.
He is someone I suggest we stay in contact with. It seems Macau is an untapped resource in the Asian market for sports entertainment.
Well, we are on the ferry headed to Hong Kong as I'm writing this last blog. Kirkwood Buckman, Joel Downing, Larry Smith, Doug Marty, and the D-League Ambassador players, thank you for keeping safe in China and get home in one piece.
Much love and respect to you all,
The Ambassadors Take On The Home Team
Posted by Shawn Respert on August 2, 11:20 a.m. ET
Today was the first day a lot of us started feeling like we were ready to come back to America. The morning had a pretty laid back schedule as we took a late morning shoot-around. The players were loose and eager to get it on with Team China later tonight. I think regardless of the outcome, our players have learned a great deal about a culture that has been very hospitable to us in our travels.
Renaldo Major was pretty focused and quiet all day. I think he could have a big game tonight. We have won 3 in a row and have a chance to win the Stankovic Cup with a victory over China. It will be a tough test though. China has Wang Zhi Zhi, former member of the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat. They also have 2007 NBA Lottery pick Yi Jianlian, who was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the #8 pick. We will need a huge effort from all of our players to pull this off. This was the first time on this trip that it felt like the guys had the locker room feeling like a real NBA playoff atmosphere before the game. Kevin Lyde wasn’t joking around. Yes, I’m serious. He didn’t make one wisecrack to anyone from one hour before tip-off! Watch out, Coach Jerry Sloan. I think you could be rubbing off on him!
The gym was packed and there was electricity in the air. China had struggled early in the tournament, losing 2 games in a row, but came back with a big win over New Zealand last night, so both teams seemed ready to trade punches and fight for the last win. China came out strong and took an early lead, but Team Ambassadors worked harder on the defensive end and took the lead late in the second quarter. Our guys fought but came up short in the end. I was extremely proud of their efforts. I joke and say we helped to grow “Boys to Men”.
The players were frustrated after the game, but coaches Smith and Marty did a great job addressing the many positives from this trip. Our players have only been together for 10 days. Can you imagine trying to beat national teams that get a chance to practice all year together? It is highly unlikely that could happen ON the home-court of the Chinese national team.
Some personal things that I think you should know about our guys that stood out and made them such a great and unique group of individuals: Kevin Lyde’s constant humor and jokes, Lance Allred’s mental preparation for each practice and game, Rick Rickert’s professionalism, Clay Tucker’s unselfishness and willingness to be coached, Terrence Thomas’ all-around court sense, Pooh Jeter’s honesty (and ability to somehow have a phone in his hands after every game and practice, Cheyne Gadson’s basketball IQ, Eddy Fobbs’ humility, Renaldo Major’s work ethic (and TALENT), and Quemont Greer’s toughness.
Now we have our OWN idea of what the Asian culture has to offer and it will be something that we will never forget. We are all thankful for all those that put this together and made it a successful event. Here’s a brief list of those who I would like to say thank you for making my first trip to the Asian continent an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.
NBA Departments: NBA China, NBA D-League, Events and Attractions, Global Merchandising Group, Basketball Operations, Security, NBAE, Public Relations/Communications, Player Development and Legal, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Golden State Warriors, and Coaches Larry Smith and Doug Marty.
Guys, I wish all of you the best in everything that you do. And hopefully we can cross paths again in the near future with our experiences in basketball. Be safe and good luck.
The Ambassadors Are Coming Together
Posted by Shawn Respert on August 1, 10:03 a.m. ET
Man, what a difference a couple of days make. This time I will start from the end of the day and bring you back to the beginning. You all deserve to hear the best news first. The team clinched their 3rd win in a row beating Angola easily. After an opening tournament loss to Slovenia, the team seems to be coming together much better than expected.
What has impressed me so far is how the players have responded to being challenged, criticized, and critiqued on their team and individual play. You’d think young players would just sulk, get a bad attitude, quit giving an effort, and/or become immature in how they find the answers for tough situations on and off the court. But time and time again, they have proven me wrong.
For example, Cheyne Gadson gets frustrated after yesterday’s game and needed to just vent some of it. He didn’t play anywhere near his potential, but wanted to impress the coaching staff and his team after he was selected to replace Randy Livingston. After having a small chat with head coach Larry Smith about what was expected of him, I worried that he would take things the wrong way. He responded with true professionalism, having his best game in this tournament. This makes me feel good because having Coach Smith, assistant coach Marty, and myself try and give some advice to him on some small adjustments meant he had to step out on faith and trust that we were telling him something that would help him succeed. That has been a huge strategy in our Player Development department. We utilize former players to advise this generation of pro basketball players. Validation seems to be a huge factor in teaching and learning the fundamentals of the game, and we want to capitalize on every angle that we can.
Kevin Lyde was up to his old tricks. He spends at least 4-6 hours a day talking about people. I swear.
Lance Allred is usually off to himself, but always prepares himself to be ready to play. Today wasn’t his best showing, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort and energy.
Rick Rickert is such a nice guy. He has been a good pick for this team. He kind of does his own thing too.
Cheyne Gadson, Pooh Jeter, and a few other players travelled after the game to go to a small area in Macau to do some shopping. It had some nice shops and very good sights near the area. The trainer, Johan Wang, myself, and NBA referee, Marc Jones, met up in a place called the City Center and took some pictures of an old church, St. Paul’s, that was built in the 1500’s. Most of its exterior walls have crumbled, but the front has remained pretty much intact. It was amazing to see them bury the bodies underground in open tombs.
Macau has been an amazing experience so far. We hope that we can finish on a good note with a big win over China tomorrow. Our guys will get plenty of rest tonight and get themselves ready to play against the hometown favorite tomorrow. Good night.
Making Our Way To Macao With "The Lover"
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 31, 12:57 p.m. ET
I hope that you couldn’t wait to read the next edition of our travels in China. I wanted to write one last night, but I had this “Harry Potter” thing going on. I was trying to create more interest by taking my blogs off the shelf for one day. Then leave you hurrying back to your computers to catch the 5th edition.
It wasn’t so bad waiting because most of us were being entertained by Kevin “The Lover” Lyde (as he refers to himself). Since joining the NBA, we have continued to have players think about their post-playing career. Well, I tell you, Kevin is one person that won’t have to worry. After having us in tears with his continuous wise cracks on any individual that came in his line of sight, he delivered his version of stand-up (rather sit-down) comedy. I’d have to admit he had pretty good timing with his choice of targets ranging from non-lotioned feet to the shapes of people’s cranium. Def Comedy Jam, look out for the next (or at least tallest) upcoming comic!
One thing I will say about our journey to Hong Kong is we traveled every mode of transportation possible. We took a ferry, subway train, bus, and cab. If there was a plane to take, we would have been on it. As we made it to Hong Kong, we started heading to the markets before they closed. If we were to be graded for our Hong Kong tour, it would be: “A” for effort, “D” for preparation. We walked for 2-3 miles before coming to Hong Kong’s version of Times Square. No shops were open. We got lost walking a couple of times before reaching our destination. By the time we arrived, we were only left with 45 minutes to make it back to the boat to catch our ferry back to Macau. Tired, irritated, and hungry, we hobbled back to the hotel to crawl into our beds with only our expectations hurt. The good thing of all this was we saved spending a lot of our per diem in one night.
On Tuesday, some of us walked around the city for a few hours and took in a few sights near the hotel. We strolled up the block to the Wynn Hotel and took some pictures of the water fountain show in front of the hotel. Fitted with shooting water spouts and flames, it was a sight to see. And this was at 11:00am. Think about what that would look like at 11:00pm. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you at 11:05pm what it looks like.
The team prepared themselves well during shoot-around, so I am not surprised that we were able to pull out a win against a tough Venezuelan team looking for its first win of the tournament. We held a large lead for most of the second and third periods, but gave away some easy baskets in the fourth quarter. The lead was trimmed down to 4 points, but after a foul and technical with under 2:00, we pushed our lead back to a safe distance.
The only blemish of the game was having everyone on the Venezuelan bench have no idea of what the international rules were concerning fouls and technicals. It took about 15 minutes to clear up the situation. Only then did I see our players and the Venezuelans converse with each other. Renaldo Major pulled one of their young stars aside and started giving him some advice on becoming a successful pro. You go ahead, ‘Naldo. But be careful giving away trade secrets!
We succeeded in our second straight victory. Well two more games left. The players enjoy playing the early game, and look forward to getting in bed a lot earlier than usual. Good job guys. We will face another underrated opponent that is still undefeated in this tournament. Make sure you tune in for an exciting match against Angola. Good night, people.
Hunting For Sneakers, Breaking Chairs, And Our First Win
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 29, 12:37 p.m. ET
Things were pretty normal during the morning, as the players got the chance to sleep in a little later. Today we were scheduled to have a shoot-around at arena, but Head Coach Larry Smith and assistant coach Doug Marty decided that the team needed to watch the film of last night’s game and rest the players’ legs for another tough match-up tonight. You’d think that would make life for the staff a little easier. Nope. One of our players (I won’t name him because he’s a good guy!) forgot to pack an extra pair of shoes in his luggage. He had a blowout in the only pair of shoes he had to play in. So off we go into Guangzhou to find a pair of size 14! Like they really have size 14’s sitting on the shelves in Nike or Adidas shops in China. Have you seen the general public over here? Most people are barely taller than my Grandma Byse, who stands a healthy 5’2’, on most days that she stands vertical. So imagine heading into about 20-25 shops and asking for a shoe this size? We got looks like they thought we were asking to buy something illegal. Needless to say, we never found any store that carried the proper size. But we were told by the event coordinators that they found some for him back at the arena.
After spending all afternoon (and I mean ALL AFTERNOON) looking for some basketball shoes for our “mystery player”, we made it back to the hotel and had just enough time to change clothes, eat, and get on the bus to travel to the arena for the game.
I got a little worried because it seemed the bad luck hadn’t subsided from yesterday’s loss. As we prepared to start our pre-game meetings, Terrence Thomas sat in an authentic wooden chair in the locker room and the chair shattered into pieces. Was it Coincidence? Maybe it was. Now he is a big fella, but he ain’t Shaq.
Our guys started really slow but picked the pace up eventually and took the lead in the late 3rd quarter. This would be a lead they would never relinquish. I was so proud to see the players get their first win, especially after yesterday’s performance. A number of players contributed in various areas to seal Team Ambassador’s victory. But one player I must say has my respect for being a true professional. He didn’t play one minute in the first half. Not one second of time. And with nearly half the 3rd quarter underway, his number was called. He was the vital ingredient for our team making a comeback against an opponent we had no answers for all first half. Lance Allred would have made not only his family and friends proud with his inspirational play, but all of us as Americans that enjoy rooting for the “underdog”. We would have understood his pain, and celebrated his personal victory. Lance scored on his first shot attempt, coming just over a minute after entering the game. And continued to help us with his strong post play and rebounding. Way to be a true pro big guy.
I would also like to thank our personal cheering section and think that they helped us in our victory. I have never seen a five person “wave” from fans, but they pulled it off. Thanks a lot for being supportive and loud ladies. (Breezy, Kim, Sarah, Whitney, and Jaime)
But most importantly, thanks to the team as a whole, for not sulking after a tough game yesterday. Coaches Smith and Marty both had their hands full, but they did a wonderful job of preparing our players for a tough, yet much deserving win. Congratulations fellas! Now get some rest and get ready to go on the road for a 3 game stretch in Macau.
The First Game Is In The Books
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 28, 3:28 p.m. ET
After getting a chance to sleep in for the first time, we all look forward to the best meal of the day, breakfast. It is funny to see so many different personalities coming together while they are half-sleep. Clay Tucker seems to always be tired, except in practices or games, while Pooh Jeter acts as if he never needs any sleep. He seems to gain more energy and movement as the day winds down. Kevin Lyde is the constant complainer about anything that is not in the perfect condition, yet he will run through brick walls if he believes it is the right thing to do. Cheyne Gadson, Rick Rickert, and Terrence Thomas are the kind of people that don’t say much, but when they do, you usually find yourself just closing your mouth and listening to learn something important. So imagine mixing all these potent chemicals in one room at 8:00 am?
Tonight will be a tough match-up against a pretty good Slovenian National team. I was able to catch up with a Slovenian player that played on the European All-Star Team with me the last year I competed. I wasn’t sure if my math was correct but after holding a brief conversation, I asked him how much longer he was going to play before retiring. He said, “Well, I’m only 33 years old, so maybe 3 or 4 more years.” What the heck? I could’ve sworn he was 30 something when we played together in ’03. You do the math because I counted, and I was coming up with an age nearing 40 years old.
Our team seemed pretty loose during pre-game warm-up. The players were pretty focused all day and I thought they would be ready for their first Stankovic Cup opponent. But Slovenia had other plans for our D-League Ambassadors, as they jumped out to a big lead early in the first quarter. Leading by as many as 15 points in the first half, Slovenia made our players’ inexperience in international play become more apparent to the coaches.
Pooh Jeter struggled with the size of the Slovenian’s guards and their size with the pick and roll plays as they utilized getting deep into the lane. Clay Tucker and Quemont Greer scored early well, but seemed to slow down a little bit nearing halftime. I enjoyed watching the players getting some much needed experience with the international game, but it was torture not to get out there with them and fight for a win.
After the game, I spent some time with a couple of players talking basketball in their hotel rooms. Well, it’s hard to write a good blog after a disappointing loss. So we will hope that this doesn’t happen again on this trip. Sorry we couldn’t get this win, but we plan on taking it out on our next opponent. Have a good day in America.
The Ambassadors Haven't Lost Their Shooting Touch
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 27, 3:10 p.m. ET
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
I was happy to see Cheyne Gadson (Austin) and Renaldo Major (Dakota…and self-appointed team joker) getting into the flow of things as they both knocked down plenty of shots. Head Coach Larry Smith and assistant coach Doug Marty seemed very pleased to see the players start making shots consistently during the practice.
The bus ride seemed like I was sitting in a presidential debate, as the players volleyed opinions back and forth on who and what were some of the best plays of the 2007-2008 NBA D-League season. Whether it was dunks, blocked shots, or dribbling wizardry, everyone seemed to recall something that made them explode with excitement, or break into laughter. It was what a players’ bus should sound like on the way home from the gym.
We all showered and changed clothes back at the hotel. And we got ready to take a bus into the city to do a little sight-seeing and shopping. The guys cleaned up at the markets as they picked up a variety of bags, watches, sunglasses, and wallets. I even picked up a few nice items for a discounted price. I would tell you how much, but I’d rather you buy a plane ticket to Guangzhou and find out on your own. Believe me, it is worth the trip!
We rushed back to the hotel to attend a reception for the Stankovic Cup for all of the teams participating. The unusual highlight of the evening was watching our Events and Attractions coordinator, Kirkwood Buckman, negotiate the price for some Manchester United soccer tickets from someone who could barely speak English. They looked more like two people flailing their arms at each other in self-defense, while making some Caveman-like grunts and groans! Well, I must say he did come through, although it was not with the grace and beauty of a skilled negotiator.
The evening saw the team split up into two groups: one group headed to enjoy a soccer game featuring European powerhouse, Manchester United. And the other wanted to enjoy a great American tradition. One that is near and dear to all of us. Haven’t guessed it? Come on. “Dinner at KFC!”
Today was another good day. All of us made it safely back to the hotels and are getting rested up to face a tough opponent in tomorrow’s late game against Slovenia. So I better get some rest also. 2 days down, no problems to report. It’s all good so far.
The D-League Ambassadors Arrive In Asia
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 26, 12:38 p.m. ET
This was the first time most of us had visited the country of China. Most of the guys relaxed on the long plane as we had an 11-hour trip to Narita, Japan, and a two-hour layover before heading to Guangzhou. Most of the guys spent their time watching movies (and there were plenty to choose from), listening to music, and sleeping on the flight. The plane had engines so huge that I could stack two cars on top of each other inside. It made me think that we should be able to get to Japan in more like 11 minutes.
I was impressed to see the players actually taking in the Japanese culture on our stop in Narita. As a member of our Player Development department, we always encourage our players to learn to network with people and utilize their unique position as professional athletes. And because of the general public’s interest in sports, athletes are in positions to meet these successful people and get great advice on where to start their other career plans. It was great to see our players exchanging email addresses and taking business cards from some of the established businessmen on the plane. And they did a good job of explaining some of the details about our league to those who were interested. The players and staff did a great job of upholding the professionalism that our Commissioner would want all of us to display.
As we waited in Narita, some of the guys were asked to have their pictures taken and it made for some interesting photos. With Kevin Lyde, Eddie Fobbs, Lance Allred, and Rick Rickert all standing close to 7-feet tall, it looked like an attack of Godzilla and Friends on the city of Narita as the foursome walked from our arriving gate to the departure gate for Guangzhou. It feels good knowing that these guys remember what this trip is really about. We are continuing to create a great brand for the NBA, and with the emergence of NBA China on the horizon, our players will continue to have opportunities to make a great name for themselves and our league globally. Well, looks like I have to start wrapping this up before one of our “Godzillas” step on one of the locals.
We landed safely in China and arrived at the Hotel Shangri-Li. The hotel was immaculate as we saw the entrance from the freeway. My hotel room looks more like something from Star Wars with so many gadgets to try and figure out. Just turning the light on was an adventure. The players are really excited about this trip and ready to help claim back our status as a world power in international basketball. They could learn a thing or two from “my jumpshot”, but I will have to go back into retirement because I can barely move after giving them a sneak preview of my “old game” back in the training camp in Oakland. Well, good night, or rather, good day to our loved ones in America. We’ll get you updated again tomorrow.
P.s. I must get a bathroom like this one! Between the twirling shower heads, heated floor tiles, and European toilets, I felt like I was going to a day spa every time I entered the bathroom!
Training Camp With The Ambassadors In Oakland
Posted by Shawn Respert on July 24, 9:08 p.m. PT
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
The players began with some warm-up exercises, shooting drills, and quick scrimmages to get a feel of each other’s game. It was pretty exciting to see the players compete hard as they prepared to represent our country, as well as our league. The Ambassadors’ Pooh Jeter displayed the personality needed to lead this group of talented players, as well as the respect from his teammates.
Many of the players were coming from one or more of the NBA’s Summer Leagues in Salt Lake City, Orlando, and Vegas, so basketball conditioning wasn’t a problem. After throwing in a few half court plays and some inbounds plays, the players got after each other in an intense “loser runs sprints” scrimmage. You could tell immediately that no team was ready to give an inch. After 10 minutes, the Blue jerseys defeated the White jerseys.
The early surprise of training camp was the “coming out of retirement” play from an NBA staff member. Yes, yours truly, me, got back out on the floor with the team and played for the first time since retiring in 2003. I enjoyed the camaraderie and realized how much I missed being around my old teammates. I even knocked down 6 or 7 baskets, which surprised not only me, but the players as well.
Concerning the Stankovic Cup, I think this team can do something special because not only do they have fun, but they are very talented and enjoy being out on the court together. I’m looking forward to our trip to China. We leave tomorrow so the guys are getting up very early to get their last practice before we depart. Well, I certainly must get some rest. The “old man” has to rest all of his bones, joints, muscles, and anything else that might need a surgery. Thanks guys for allowing another former player to relive those great moments again. Good night.