After a full week in Paris and Lyon, France, the Spurs title hopes are high. And why shouldn't they? The team returns the core group of players that has led it to titles in 2003 and 2005 and deep into the playoffs every year. Tim Duncan, as we were reminded often during the week, came into camp well rested and in the best shape in years. Tony Parker played brilliantly in two exhibition games in his home country, showing no signs of the injury that sidelined him a month and a half ago. And the team's newcomers had a great opportunity to bond with their new teammates and get familiar with the new system.
"I think we're in great position (to win the title)," Duncan said after the Spurs 97-84 win over European power Maccabi Tel Aviv (Boxscore). "I think we've added some great new bodies to what we already had. We were a basket away from being right in the Western Conference Finals again and I think we're in great position. We have the right people to make the run."
The "right people" starts with Duncan, Manu Ginobili and, of course, Tony Parker, who, in two games this week, scored 53 points on 20-of-29 shooting and had 15 combined assists in his homecoming.
While you can't really call Parker's 26-point night vs. Lyon-Villeurbanne Adecco Asvel on Thursday a surprise, not many people would have predicted him to follow that up with an equally impressive night against Maccabi, especially given the sheer amount of business and social obligations he had during his visit home.
"If he's not tired now," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of his point guard, "he'll never be tired. He's been going about 22 hours a day with practice or appearances or dinners. Again, he's proven what a consummate professional he is."
Parker's profession, however, is dribbling, passing and shooting a basketball, something he was unable to do for a month with the index finger of his right hand broken. Perhaps the time away from the game and the French national team's summer schedule helped him rest up to deal with the busy schedule this week and for the coming season.
"I'm sure the Spurs are very happy that I got some rest," Parker said of not participating in the FIBA World Championship. "It's fine with me. I wish I had played in the World Championship but sometimes in your career you get injured. I'm fine now."
There was no question Parker is healed, although he did admit that he's at times a little hesitant to go after steals for fear of re-injuring the finger.
"It's totally healed," Popovich assured the media Sunday in Paris. "We X-rayed it a final time in San Antonio to make sure it was totally healed. Not 80 percent, not 90 percent, but 100 percent healed or he would not have participated at all."
Had he not participated at all, the outcomes of these games could have been different. Parker was the team's motor, it's spark plug that made things happen and kept all the players in tune with each other. And when he wasn't directing and setting up teammates, new and old, he was penetrating the European teams' defenses and scoring his points in the paint, much as he did last year in a Spurs uniform.
Parker's backcourt mate, Manu Ginobili, though, was not at 100 percent, suffering from a sore hip. But as Manu usually does, he plays through the bumps and bruises -- all part of a day's work.
"You know Manu," Popovich said, "he's a great competitor and as the day went along and the game approached, his hip felt better and better. That's Manu."
Other than Manu's soreness, the team escaped two highly competitive matches in France without any significant damage. They came out on top on the scoreboard in both -- no longer a foregone conclusion as the Europe Live Tour losses by the Philadelphia 76ers and L.A. Clippers prove -- and no player suffered any serious injury, one of the goals when camp opened.
Another goal of camp, getting the players into game shape, may have been hindered by the presence of such quality food. Perhaps a diet and a little extra running is in store for everybody when the Spurs touch home soil in Texas?
"We were competitive at both on the court and at dinner," Popovich joked Sunday. "We ate at different place every night in Lyon and in Paris. We've enjoyed ourselves very much but we have to go home because we can't keep doing this all day and all night."
After resuming practice this week, the Spurs will play their next preseason game at home Saturday against Orlando.
Four players -- Jamar Smith, Olu Famutimi, Jared Reiner and Jackie Butler saw no playing time tonight. Rookie Charles Smith was only in for the game's final minute. They're likely to see increased time as camp continues and cuts draw near. The Spurs have 20 players in camp and only 15 can make the opening night roster.
Practice Makes Perfect
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 12:07 p.m. ET
You might ask why Maccabi would call a time out and Spurs players would put in so much effort on an inbounds play with only 24.7 seconds remaining and San Antonio up by 13 ... Well, it's because the short clock was running low and there's never a bad time to work on such essential elements of the game, situations you may find yourselves in later in the season.
Those 24.7 ticks are now gone, San Antonio picking up a 97-84 win over Maccabi here in Paris. By all initial accounts, the spurs week here in France has been a success. The team picked up two wins, with a stiff test from both European clubs. The players had a chance to come together and forge relationships that will hopefully last the entire season. And the coaching staff got to take a look at the new players while also taking the first steps in getting everybody into game shape.
That's all for game action. We'll be back shortly to recap the day.
That Wily Coyote
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 12:07 p.m. ET
He sure has the fans going here. Holding up a sign that reads Faites Du Bruit -- read: Make Some Noise. The different sections of the crowd cheered louder than during most plays in this game. They continued the love for a Matt Bonner layup. Yes, that Wily Coyote.
Closing in on two minutes to play, the Spurs hold a 91-77 lead. Make that 91-80 after a Maccabi triple. Now's the time for Maccabi to make a run if they're hoping for the upset ... but time's running out quickly.
Looking For the Lock
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 11:55 a.m. ET
Pop must be trying to put this game out of reach. With just more than seven minutes remaining, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are back ont he floor, with Finley, Barry and Bonner. San Antonio holds an 84-67 lead. Make that 84-69.
Three Down, One To Go
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 11:43 a.m. ET
What is it about old dudes dancing that's just so funny? Oh forget it, it's just the in-arena entertainment between quarters.
Back to the game, the Spurs hold a 74-52 lead after three, finishing with a scoring flurry. Manu slashing to the hoop for two. Big Shot Rob with a trey from the short corner. A quick steal and Fabricio Oberto -- who's been coming up big on the boards and hustle points -- for an easy two.
Ginobili's still on the court here at the start of the fourth and made a nice little up-and-under, left-handed, off-the-glass type move he's known for.
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 11:29 a.m. ET
Tony Parker is, again, playing magnificently, but he's going to want that one back. Parker read a pass to Bynum correctly, broke on the ball and had a wide open lay-up. Instead, he decided to give the fans a little more -- or a little less, depending on how you look at it. He blew a wide-open dunk try ... The crowd's reaction was a mix of cheers and boos. Parker eliminated any negative feedback seconds later when he canned a long two to give the Spurs a 60-36 advantage.
At The Half
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 11:16 a.m. ET
The Spurs take a 48-32 lead into the half, giving them plenty of breathing room going into the locker rooms. But the Spurs can't afford to relax or put in all subs just yet. Maccabi took advantage of the Spurs reserves at the end of the first and beginning of the second, outscoring San Antonio 9-1 in about five minutes of game time. And, as Pop said after the game Thursday in Lyon, the team wants to win, but the overall goal is improving and getting ready for the season. Gone was the rusty moments to open the game. Instead, the Spurs have looked sharp on both ends for much of the first 24 minutes.
A look at the box score:
-- Tony Parker leads all scorers with 17 first-half points. Parker is 7-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe and leads everybody with five assists.
-- Tim Duncan is 5-of-6 from the floor for 12 points, to go with four rebounds in 17 minutes.
-- Will Bunum is struggling for Maccabi, going 1-of-8 from the field and has only two assists to go with one turnover.
-- Yaniv Green and Bynum might not see much second-half action at the rate they're going. Both have three fouls. Five in international play and you're done; that number is six tonight in the hybrid rules.
-- Maccabi has 15 first-half turnovers -- eight of those by way of Spurs steals.
Maybe Not ...
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:58 a.m. ET
Well, Melzer's still on the floor, despite trying to find teammate Tony Parker at the top of the key and instead finding the Spurs bench at the other end of the court. Those Spurs teammates seated down there, though, supported Melzer with a shout of, "Good try. You're alright." Moments later, Melzer snagged an ill-advised Maccabi lob down under the hoop.
Show Me What You've Got
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:52 a.m. ET
With 7:45 on the clock, Rich Melzer checked into the game. Melzer, a hopeful we talked about earlier this week, is on the floor with Spurs regulars Duncan, Finley, Parker and Elson. Just a develpment to keep an eye on as the Spurs have only one roster spot up for grabs between six players.
Time To Stop That ...
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:45 a.m. ET
Maccabi opened the second quarter on a five-to-one run, cutting the Spurs to 11. Spurs call timeout with eight minutes to go in the half. On the floor for the Spurs were Jacque Vaughn, Francisco Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Brent Barry and Manu Ginobili. After the timeout, Finley, Parker and Duncan replace Oberto, Ginobili and Vaughn.
End of One
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:37 a.m. ET
The first quarter saw the Spurs open up a lead as large as 20 points, 29-9, with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter. Duncan, as noted earlier, was active and effective on both ends, even hitting the deck on one trip down the floor, chasing a loose ball.
Maccabi, though, made a run toward the end with Simas Jasaitis scoring on a three point play and knocking down a triple in the closing seconds.
We're In A Zone
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:31 a.m. ET
Maccabi has shown zone against the Spurs for most of the early going and it's keeping the Spurs from penetrating. It hasn't, however, kept the Spurs from knocking down shots or getting at the rim on backdoor cuts and in transition. Spurs lead 24-6. Make that 24-9, now.
Spurs Start Strong
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:21 a.m. ET
With solid defense and execution on the offensive end, the Spurs have jumped out to a 16-4 lead on Maccabi with 6:26 on the clock in the first.
Tim Duncan's been active on the defensive end, giving weak-side help to break up a lob underneath the hoop as well as causing Yaniv Green to pick up his second foul when he was over-the-back for an offensive rebound try.
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 10:12 a.m. ET
There were exactly three American-born players on the court for the opening tip: Bruce Bowen, Will Bynum and Rodney Buford. Just noting.
Speaking of Buford, he just brought the crowd to life and put Maccabi on the board finishing on a backdoor cut and alley-oop.
Robert Horry has just entered the game for the Spurs, for Oberto, with only 2:15 off the clock.
Greetings From Paris-Bercy
PARIS, Oct. 8 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 8, 2006, 9:40 a.m. ET
Welcome inside Paris-Bercy, where we'll be checking in live during today's game between the San Antonio Spurs and Maccabi Tel Aviv. After the number of close games and international-team victories in the NBA Europe Live Tour, we're eagerly anticipating this matchup, as are the fans here in the building. As Spurs player Brent Barry said yesterday, Maccabi is traditionally one of the top clubs in Europe and have a number of talented players, names which you may recognize:
-- Will Bynum: Point guard for four seasons at Georgia Tech before spending last year in the D-League and with the Golden State Warriors.
-- Rodney Buford: A second-round pick in 1999, Buford spent a number of years, playing in 230 games with five different teams. He's in his first season with Maccabi.
-- Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin: Both players, originally from Tel Aviv, were second-round picks in this past June's NBA Draft; Eliyahu the No. 44 pick of the Orlando Magic, Halperin the 53rd pick by Seattle.
Other Notes of Interest:
-- Spurs guard Beno Udrih played for Maccabi during the 2002-03 season.
-- Six current Maccabi players are members of the country's national team: Tal Burnstein, Yaniv Green, Sharon Shason, Halperin, Jamie Arnold and Lior Eliyahu.
-- Maccabi became the first non-American team to beat an NBA team in North America when it defeated Toronto in an exhibition on Oct. 16, 2005 in Toronto.
Game time is minutes away.
Parker Gets Waxed
PARIS, Oct. 7 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 7, 2006, 4:30 p.m. ET
Sometimes your travels are not measured in miles or kilometers but rather by ... inches. At least they are if you're a celebrity walking the few feet of red carpet to get inside the Musée Grévin -- Paris' Madame Tussauds -- and advancing on the French paparazzi.
Pop was impressed with his point guard's twin.
Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE/Getty Images
The media crush -- yes, crush is precisely the right word -- pressed in so tight when Parker and girlfriend Eva Longoria got off the team's bus in front of the wax house that camera people were all but Greco-Roman wrestling in the entrance way to secure their vantage point. Parker and Longoria's progress to the unveiling of his new likeness was at a standstill. I even saw one camera person come out of the fracas with a bloody nose. Yes, it was that intense to get a clean shot of the couple as they arrived.
The scene nearly played out again after Parker's wax figurine was shown for the first time to media, friends, family and Spurs teammates, as still and video photographers sparred for the best pictures.
"It's the first, and hopefully the last, Spurs player to get waxed," Coach Gregg Popovich joked.
The likeness was thisclose, but not perfect.
"We need Timmy and Pop yelling at me," Parker wisecracked.
In seriousness, though, the clone was spot-on down to the scars on his right cheek and the Nikes on his feet. The only discernable difference was that Tony must have posed for the artist -- a five-hour process -- right after trimming his hair. The live Tony now had a five-o'clock shadow on his dome.
The figure was dressed in the special Europe Live jersey the team is wearing on it's trip here in France, the one with blue, white and red stripes lining the sides in honor of the French flag. Parker is now permanently in a triple-threat stance, clutching the new Spalding NBA basketball.
When the drapes were pulled back to reveal the figure to the crowd, Parker, dressed in the same uniform, stood beside it speechless, himself unable to believe how much it actually looked like him.
"When you look him right in the eyes," Parker said, "you think it's going to move. It's weird. He did a good job."
The construction scultptor Claus Velte a mere three months but, obviously, wasn't easy, as the creator said meeting that deadline was very challenging.
Parker is only the seventh athlete to have a twin take residence at the museum, joining Fabien Barthez, Philippe Candeloro, David Douillet, Thierry Henry, Amélie Mauresmo and Zinédine Zidane.
Joining Parker for the presentation was his Spurs teammates, but they left immediately after to get their rest for the big game tomorrow vs. Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv.
"I really appreciate (my team here to support me)," Parker said. "It means a lot to me, especially Pop letting everybody come because we have a big game tomorrow. It means a lot."
Tomorrow marks the Spurs' final day in France before they again take up camp in Texas. Game time is 4 p.m. local, 10 a.m. ET, and you can watch it live on NBA TV.
See you tomorrow.
TP9, TP9, TP9, TP9, TP9, TP9
PARIS, Oct. 7 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 7, 2006, 1:30 p.m. ET
Yesterday's mark was surpassed right about the time they started pulling the art off the walls.
For a second straight afternoon, Tony Parker took a seat behind a table and greeted more than 100 fans one-at-a-time, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
This time around, the scene was Fnac, a giant multi-media store at Forum des Halles, an overcrowded and, in my opinion based on many years of suburban-America living, undersized shopping mall. It was only a Saturday in October here, but looked like any American mall might on the day after Thanksgiving.
Parker had to hustle and fight the traffic to get there from the Necker Children's Hospital (see previous post) to make it on time. We tried ... and failed ... just barely. But the fans at the front of the line seemed like they were pros at waiting; they'd been there far too long, so what's a few extra minutes?
Again, Parker signed everything the fans placed in front of him. This time, though, it wasn't a stack of postcards but actual posters -- the cover of NBA Live 07 -- he had on the table and was signing, as well. Those eventualy ran out, so the store's staff and the fans began taking down the posters hanging in the small theater. Parker also began signing the demo disc of the game that each fan in line received.
After a full 40 minutes of writing the same two words over and over again, the last fan made his way through the line and it was time for the next destination: the hotel to pick up his teammates for a little candle-like affair -- a true house of wax.
A Special Trip
PARIS, Oct. 7 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 7, 2006, 11:01 a.m. ET
After a nearly two-hour practice and Q&A session with English- and French-language journalists, Parker and his Spurs teammates Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Francisco Elson, Manu Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto had less than a half hour to shower and get over to Necker Children's Hospital, where they were scheduled to meet sick children and play in the game room with them.
Needless to say, Paris traffic was not so cooperative. But the players were in a fine mood when they finally arrived at 3:15 p.m. The children, naturally, were thrilled to meet the NBA stars.
"Bones, we need four players; you know how to play," Parker said to Barry, referring to the game Blockus.
Barry and Parker sat down with two young patients while Elson played foosball and Bowen shot pool; Ginobili and Oberto went to see youngsters unable to get out of bed.
"Tell them I have a six-year-old who plays back home," Barry asked of Parker, explaining why he was good at the game.
"I don't have kids. I never played before. Bones has kids. He's played before," Parker explained.
After the game -- in which a winner may not have been declared -- Barry showed Parker and some of the old quarter-in-hand magic tricks. David Copperfield would be disappointed -- in the sharing of the secrets, that is, not their execution.
As the visit was winding down, the players wished the children speedy recoveries, posed for photos and signed a good share of autographs. Consider it a warm-up for Parker, who's next scheduled for an autograph and appearance session for EA Sports.
Tell the driver to step on it, Tony, they're expecting you by 5:00.
France's most-famous hoopster in front of the country's most-famous landmark.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
PARIS, Oct. 7 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 7, 2006, 6:23 a.m. ET
Twenty warmup-clad players dropping in, unannounced, on one of Paris' top tourist spots for a team photo can cause quite the commotion, as happened when the Spurs got off a bus in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Fans pressed forward, eager to get a shot of their own of the American players. So did Brent Barry.
"I don't want to be in it," Barry joked as he happily documented the moment for his family photo album.
The entire shoot lasted no more than three minutes, as the players lined up -- Tim Duncan in the middle of the back row while Tony Parker stood in front holding the new ball. A few shots with the tower in the background and the team -- minus Parker and Barry -- bolted for the bus.
For Parker, an NBA All-Star and French native, it was time for a few individual shots with the city's landmark. Barry was just on hand clicking away.
Next stop: the arena for practice.
A Day In Paris
PARIS, Oct. 7 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 7, 2006, 3:30 a.m. ET
The Spurs have a big day here in Paris: Team photos, practice, a number of community events in the afternoon, autograph sessions and basketball clinics -- all of which myself or our NBA TV and photos crews will be trailing. We'll be posting dispatches throughout the day, as time permits, so keep checking this space for any updates. Until then, see what a couple others who travelled to France are saying about the Spurs.
Johnny Ludden talked with Tim Duncan about last spring's loss to Dallas: "About as bad," as the loss to L.A. in 2004, Duncan told Ludden. "It has more to do with the way we lost. I think we got beat badly. We had a bad beat. We had pocket aces and we ran into some (bleep) on the river."
ESPN Insider John Hollinger was in Lyon Thursday for the Spurs game vs. Asvel and has a few observations: "My ride on the Jackie Butler bandwagon might be a lonely one for a while longer."
24: Starring Tony Parker
PARIS, Oct. 6 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 6, 2006, 2:20 p.m. ET
Now that training camp has shifted north to Paris, it's all business for the Spurs. Tomorrow the team has a team photo shoot, a full practice followed by the customary question-and-answer session with the travelling and local media, and then the players break to attend a number of different community and sponsor events around Paris.
Parker stopped off at the Nike Paris store Friday.
Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE/Getty Images
No Spur is busier in France's largest city than the country's own Tony Parker, who tipped off his outreach efforts this evening with an autograph session at the Nike Paris store on Champs-Élysées.
So, over the course of the next 24 hours -- give or take a few -- we'll be chronicling much of Parker's activity:
6:21 p.m. -- A compact van pulls curbside out in front of the Nike Paris store and the assembled camera crews and gawkers press forward to get an up-close glimpse of Parker.
6:25 p.m. -- Downstairs in the store, with Parker seated behind a thick stack of photo cards, fans begin piling in armed with everything from mini-basketballs, magazines, Tony Parker picture books and even a used shoe or two. Even a uniformed officer of the Police Nacionale was waiting patiently in line.
6:28 p.m. -- Hope Tony's a good speller ... he's armed with a big marker.
6:35 p.m. -- Okay, 10 minutes in and I'm already tired of the flashbulbs popping. Tony doesn't seem to be fazed, however, just as he isn't by giving his John Hancock to 36 fans thus far (yes, I kept tally). The fans are a completely mixed group -- more young girls than boys, a few middle-aged women getting autographs at the same time as their kids, teenage boys and one police officer, as noted.
6:38 p.m. -- With so many fans in line, they're not exactly being allowed to linger and snap photos. It's all a swift, but not rushed, operation. Some fans have figured it out and are helping each other out by snapping photos while the others are getting their mementos inked.
6:39 p.m. -- Many fans have had basketballs of varying sizes, but we've just had our first soccer ball sighting as two fans presented tiny red Nike balls to have parker sign. Every ball, no matter the size or type, has the swoosh.
6:41 p.m. -- By now, all of the camera crews have stopped rolling tape, yet Parker's ink still flows. One fan just approached with a Spurs jersey, all clothes-pinned down to a board, bearing many other Spurs penmanship.
6:45 p.m. -- Twenty minutes, 74 fans, many more autographs. Each fan seems to have at least one item of their own and are also walking away with the signed photo card. That adds up to a serious right-hand workout.
6:54 p.m. -- Done. 106 fans in 29 minutes. No visible signs of cramping or soreness. He must have been drinking his Gatorade throughout the day.
6:55 p.m. -- Parker is immediately whisked into an adjacent room to shoot an interview with the Nike people.
7:04 p.m. -- Done, again. Parker heads for the doors, dribbling a mini-basketball of his own.
7:05 p.m. -- Wait, one more autograph for a lucky young girl at the front doors.
Check back tomorrow for a little additional behind-the-scenes action from Parker in Paris.
Greetings From Paris
PARIS, Oct. 6 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 6, 2006, 6:20 a.m. ET
Greetings from Paris. We've just arrived after hopping an early morning flight out of Lyon -- the Spurs flew out after last night's game. Puffy, bloodshot eyes notwithstanding, we're in considerable good spirits because this is a tremendous city.
The next few days figure to be very busy, loaded with community events the Spurs players and staff will attend, as well as Sunday's game against Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv. So, we'll be hard-pressed to catch more than the inside of our hotel rooms, the arena and the team bus.
That sounds like it'll be just fine, based on Gregg Popovich's assessment just now.
"Have you had the breakfast yet?" Pop asked as he strolled into the NBA work room set up next to the team meal room.
With no real response from anybody to indicate they had sampled the goods, Pop just said, "Good Lord. Wow!"
And with that, he was gone. And, now, so am I. Breakfast it is.
That's A Wrap
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 5:28 p.m. ET
The Spurs win, 115-90. Parker finished as the game's leading scorer with 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Rowan Barrett led ASVEL with 22 points. Brian Green added 19. We'll be back with a complete wrap in a short while.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 5:23 p.m. ET
Despite chants from the crowd, Pop isn't about to let Parker back into the game in garbage time. Or is he? Parker just approached the scorer's table with 90 seconds to go after conferring with his coach on the sidelines. You could see Pop telling him to take it easy and not get hurt. We'll have to wait, however, as a timeout has just been called ...
Now back, Parker has entered the game, much to the delight of the crowd, with the Spurs up 113-87. He's not doing much though. On one trip down the court, he just stood outside the lane on defense. On offense, he's directing youngsters Rich Melzer, Charles Lee, Jamar Smith and Melvin Sanders.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 5:08 p.m. ET
The Spurs have a firm grip on the game at this point, as evidenced by the lineup with just under 8:00 to play: Matt Bonner, Jackie Butler, Melvin Sanders, Jacque Vaughn and Brent Barry. Holding a 101-79 lead, it's fairly safe to say we won't be seeing Duncan, Parker or Ginobili again tonight ... that is, if the Spurs reserves can get the save.
ASVEL, and the French fans for that matter, haven't given up. The team is still playing hard. Laurent Foirest is still in the game -- it seems like he's been on the court the entire game -- and the fans applaud every bucket, near steal and substitution.
France Storms Back ...
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 4:34 p.m. ET
... and two American players are leading the team on it's 12-4 run to open the second half. Chevon Troutman and Brian Greene, with a three from Laurent Foirest, combined to do the most damage -- Troutman getting to the stripe seemingly every time down the court. Popovich had seen enough and called timeout right after Troutman dumped the ball to a cutting Greene for a two-handed jam. The move seemed to pay, as Michael Finley came in and drained a two right out of the gates. San Antonio leads, 73-58 with seven to play in the third.
At The Half
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 4:18 p.m. ET
The Spurs lead 67-44 at the half. Moments in the first 24 minutes have made it clear that it was the Spurs first game together as a unit. They had their fair share of turnovers as a few players tried to force passes they wouldn't make in, oh, say, November. And there were a few plays on the defensive end I'm guessing Pop would like to take a mulligan on -- like Amara Sy crossing over out on the left wing, blowing away Brent Barry and throwing down a vicious dunk over Francisco Elson. But overall, the Spurs, thus far, have to consider it a solid outing.
Positives include: Tony Parker's 25 points on 10-12 shooting in the first half. Fabricio Oberto's energy and hustle around the offensive glass. Tim Duncan hitting free throws and jumpers from the top of the key. And more.
Second half is about to get underway. You are watching, aren't you?
It's Cold In Here
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 4:00 p.m. ET
Tony Parker is on fire and the good people of Lyon may not have the a/c dialed down as low as one American may desire, but it just got chilly inside L'Astroballe. The reason: George "The Iceman" Gervin. As the first half draws to a close, the NBA legend was introduced to a standing ovation.
I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Gervin before tonight's game to talk shop. Be sure to check back for the full interview.
You Can Tell It's A Friendly
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 3:44 p.m. ET
If this counted toward a trip to The Finals, would the ASVEL Astro King let the Spurs' Coyote use his t-shirt gun? Just asking ...
Frenchman vs. the French
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 3:38 p.m. ET
At the end of one, San Antonio leads 33-29. Tony Parker has an astonishing 18 points in under 10 minutes of action. Yes, it's good to be home. Parker connected on a number of slashes to the rim as well as a few from just inside the three-point arc. Guess that finger's feeling okay.
Eddy Called It
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 3:30 p.m. ET
Before the game, Canal + broadcaster George Eddy said ASVEL would give the Sprus a run, given that San Antonio is just getting underway and ASVEL is already into its regular season. The score is knotted at 24 with two to play in the first. Check that, Tony Parker just hit the free throw on a three-point play to give the Spurs the one-point edge.
ASVEL Early Lead
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 3:20 p.m. ET
ASVEL has jumped out to an early lead, 13-12. Amara Sy and Chevon Troutman are quick, long and athletic. They're getting after loose ball on defense, forcing bad passes and turning them in to easy buckets on the other end.
On the flip side, Tony Parker has rattled off four straight Spurs points.
Sixteen championships. Four corners.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 1:30 p.m. ET
Greetings from the French Celtics' hoops hall. We're 90 minutes from the tip and fans are already pouring into the ASVEL fieldhouse, better known as L'Astroballe. Adorning each corner of the arena are four banners celebrating championships the team has captured in the PRO A division of the Ligue Nationale de Basketball. Situated squarely between each pair of two trophy-printed banners is another with an ASVEL legend: Delaney Rudd, André Buffière, Henri Grange and Alain Gilles.
I say fieldhouse above because the building reminds me of a small college gym. It's tight. The roof hangs low. It's spartan for a purpose. The fans are close to the action. All the better to really amplify the volume when some 5000 fans really get rocking, as they're sure to do tonight.
A neat touch in here is all the lime green seatbacks -- padded cushions for those in the sideline seating -- except for one or two red sections.
The Spurs, warming up out on the floor, have a few colored sections themselves. The familiar black and silver jersey has been given a splash of red, white and blue down the sides. No, this isn't some patriotic move or nod to Old Glory. It's a sign of respect for and acknowledgment of the host country, France.
Respect Thy Opponent
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 9:00 a.m. ET
Are you're sitting at home or work thinking this is the San Antonio Spurs ... one of the greatest teams in the land ... one that's won three titles in the last eight years ... one that was a contender the years it didn't win ... three-time Finals MVP Tim Duncan is healthy again ... it's a team that has international players on its roster who know the Adecco ASVEL squad ... so, the other team can't possibly eke out a win tonight?
P.J. and Pop worked the team hard to get it ready for an early test in Lyon.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
Well, it is possible, just ask Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo.
"If we play these guys in two months, it's not going to be a game," Carlesimo said earlier this week. "But we're not playing them in two months; we're playing them after six practices. If we don't come into the game and respect them and play well, it's going to be a lot better game than people think it's going to be."
On Sunday, the Spurs coaching staff went over the L'Astroballe in Lyon-Villeurbanne to scout ASVEL. What they witnessed was a 66-45 thrashing of the defending French champs, Mans SB, which keeps ASVEL atop the Pro A standings.
"I thought they were very well prepared," Carlesimo said of what he saw from the host team. "The thing that was very obvious was how well coached they were. They were very well prepared. They were very organized.
"I thought a lot of guys played well," he continued. "Of the starting group, we're very aware of (Laurent) Foirest. He's a very good player. I thought that (Brian) Greene played very well. He was active. He played inside and outside. He did a good job. Rowan Barrett had a very good game. We know Rowan very, very well. I thought Chevy (Chevon Troutman) played hard. He's a physical guy. He makes his presence known out there. He did a good job. I thought the point guards did a good job. I thought No. 20, Yohann Sangare), the starting point guard -- Aymeric Jeanneau came off the bench -- I thought he did nice job. I thought Aymeric came in and really got them going. He penetrated. He found the open guy. I like No. 5, Amara Sy, too. He played very well off the bench. He's strong. He's got a nice body. He's a big strong guy who can knock down a shot."
So, it sounds like most of the squad caught their attention ...
"Well (expletive), they won by 30 points! Mans usually beats them. They killed them. Who didn't play well? I like the team."
That, folks, sounds like respect to me. But still, anything can happen. That's why they play the game, which these teams will do in six short hours. But if the players are anywhere near as ready as Carlesimo -- he had a bounce to his step and was high-fiving NBA staffers in the hotel lobby after this morning's shootaround -- the Spurs should start their 2006-07 campaign with an early exhibition victory.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 5 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 5, 2006, 5:00 a.m. ET
Is it October already? Wow, time has zipped right by. Seems like only yesterday Dwyane Wade was tossing the ball into the air and the Miami Heat was celebrating as the 2006 NBA champs.
Well, just a little over three months later, the first NBA action is set to get underway as the San Antonio Spurs play Adecco ASVEL in Lyon-Villeurbanne and the Philadelphia 76ers play Winterthur FC Barcelona. Both games tip at 3 p.m. ET. That's good news for you at home in the States interested in getting a look at the Spurs. NBA.com will present the game live online.
Want to watch the game on a larger screen? Well you're in luck. Every Europe Live game will air live in the States and in Europe.
Currently, the Spurs should be putting the finishing touches on a morning shootaround at the arena, getting used to any nuances of the gym and the rims, then catching a final few moments of rest before tonight's game.
We'll be following the action at the game to give you a complete report afterward. Then, it's on to Paris, where the Spurs will face Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv on Sunday.
How 'Bout Them Spurs?
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 4 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 4, 2006, 7:00 p.m. ET
I tell you, those Spurs know their stuff.
Earlier we were saying Brent Barry is a bit of a photo afficionado and was planning on sharing a few of his photos with us all on his blog. And Barry delivered. Check out the photos Brent took with his Canon. Reading his blog, you can tell he was really taken by the miniatures museum and, after one look at the photo of the dinosaurs, it's easy to see why. Can you believe all that detail fits in the palm of your hand -- even if your hand is NBA-size? Brent really did a good job at capturing this image; I can't help but think I'm standing in the Fossil Halls of the American Museum of Natural History.
My personal favorite, however, is of the sun setting over, what I believe is, the Rhône River. There were precious few sunny days here during the time in Lyon, with drab grey skies as far as you could see. Brent, on one of his only free days, caught a great break in the clouds and captured a wonderful postcard-quality shot.
Well, it's clear Brent knows his way around the camera as well as his coach knows his French foods and wines. On the first day of camp, Gregg Popovich raved about Paul Bocuse's L'Est restaurant. A few friends and I took Pop at his word. Earlier in the week, we happened to eat at another restaurant, La Splendid, at the same time as the Spurs coaching staff. That meal was above par, so we figured we couldn't lose if he was making such a recommendation.
While I didn't try any of the items Pop rattled off, my dinner company did when we visited the bustling restaurant. Two tried the risotto and scallops, another pair tried the sole meunière, which the wait staff picked free of bones right there at the table! I had the fettucine with mussels and mushrooms. By consensus -- for the first time on the trip, not a single person could stomach dessert -- we all agreed this was the best meal since we landed in Lyon. We were so engulfed in the food -- and each others' company, as four of the eight in our party were from France; the other four from the States -- that we completely failed to notice the restaurant had completely emptied by the time we finished our meals.
Excellent work, gentlemen. Then again, did we really expect anything less from Spurs?
Causing A Stir
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 4 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 4, 2006, 11:00 a.m. ET
"He is not happy," Bruce Bowen said, looking cautiously over his right shoulder.
It wasn't Gregg Popovich, however, who was unhappy with the Spurs forward, it was a Frenchman with a guitar strapped across his back, who, for some reason, was venting his disapproval of the NBA TV camera crew stationed outside a cafe on Rue Saint Jean in Vieux Lyon.
Bowen, and the camera crew, were there shooting a segment for NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad, just as his teammate Tony Parker had along the banks of the Rhône River one day earlier.
His mere presence caused a crowd to gather and stopped traffic -- literally. Well, the camera trained on him, seated at the cafe obviously pointed out the fact that somebody of some importance was in the area. And so, the crowd grew.
During the interview, Bowen talked about his experience playing pro ball in France: "I had the chance to get to Paris often -- at least two times a week." While playing in the north of France, Bowen's French language skills were good enough to get by, he said.
He was actually a scorer in his playing days in France, but said, "Nobody scouted me so nobody knew me for that." Most people who saw him play just assumed he was the good defender he's turned out to be in the NBA.
The session was not without the usual assortment of odd occurrences, such as the angry Frenchman, noted above.
The tight alleys of Vieux Lyon that we've come to love on our stay here is not only where typical sidewalk diners are located but also functioning roadways. Thus, cars zig-zag down the cobblestone alley, avoiding tables of diners. With a camera crew and crowd of onlookers taking up much of the street, a few cars had to shut off their engines and wait out a few minutes of the interview.
Moments later, a young woman walked by with what looked like a rat on her shoulders. "I'm going to giver her credit that that's a ferret," Bowen said, casting a she's-crazy look.
But, despite the interruptions and ruckus caused by the assembled crowd and idling engines, sound man, Frank Baglino said it all turned out well and that you never really notice background noises because you're focused on what the subject on the screen is saying. On the visual side, camera operator Rob Newman noted the only issue was the bright sun flooding the area toward the end of the interview; Bowen was seated under a tree, so Newman said he pulled out to a wide shot so you could see the sun on the street and buildings as well as the pattern of the sun filtering through the trees on Bowen.
See for yourself when the show airs, or be sure to check back soon for clips of the interview on NBA.com.
Now Say Cheese
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 3 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 3, 2006, 11:00 a.m. ET
Maybe he is readying himself for a second occupation beyond hoops after all ... In the hotel lobby a bit ago, NBA Entertainment photographer Gregory Shamus and I caught Brent Barry heading out to do a little sightseeing -- through the lens of his digital camera. Turns out, Barry is a bit of a photo afficionado and was talking gear earlier in the day with Shamus. Barry told us he'd share some of the shots he's taking, including the one we talked about yesterday, in his blog on NBA.com, so be sure to check back during the week.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 3 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 3, 2006, 8:45 a.m. ET
One couldn't really fault France's own Tony Parker if he burst out and yelled, "Laissez-moi tranquille!" meaning, "Leave me alone!" But, in truth, Parker's been nothing but accomodating to all here in his home country. Each day the crowd of journalists grows ever larger, awaiting a sound bite from Parker. And each day, there's Parker in the middle of a crowd of microphones, answering queries until it's time to get back on the bus.
A common scene at the end of Spurs practice.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
Today was even more demanding for the Spurs point guard. As soon as he got off the bus at the team hotel, he was rushed to a location along the banks of the Rhône River for a quick sit-down interview for NBA Access with Ahmad Rashad.
Among the topics Parker talked about, he said he felt very lucky that his team is opening camp in his home country, but added, "It's kind of weird to see everybody and talk French."
It might also be weird then for Parker to play against Adecco ASVEL on Thursday. He said he had played against the team in his last game in Europe, so he's familiar with the squad.
Parker also talked about the disappointing loss to the Mavericks in last year's Playoffs ("It's still in our minds. It's a tough loss and it's going to give us a lot of motivation."), on the challenges of playing for Gregg Popovich ("Pop is a very hard coach to play for ... He expects you to be perfect.") and about the Spurs international makeup ("I'm very happy. I love my teammates.").
Wearing nothing more than a Spurs warmup tank and adidas shorts, Parker braved the grey skies and stiff winds, but at least the rain helf off. See, now that's accomodating.
But Parker wasn't done. He headed back to the hotel and immediately sat down in the lobby for an on-camera interview with L'Equipe.
He's still not done ... after all, there's a trip to Paris at the end of the week.
Neither Rain Nor Shine
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 3 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 3, 2006, 6:32 a.m. ET
The skies have opened up here in Lyon, just as forecast. It was raining so hard for a short spell that the Spurs had to switch courts in the gym because the roof's skylight was leaking. It's going to take more than a little leak to get Pop to call off practice.
Can I Buy A B?
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 2 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 2, 2006, 11:30 a.m. ET
Not only is Brent Barry an NBA.com Blogger, but could he also be a Bike cop? Alert NBA staffers just spied Barry out in the hotel's drive, mounting a French police motorcycle -- helmet and all. His ride was short-lived, however, as that bike, and its real driver, were about to escort the team bus to the evening practice session. Word has it that Barry snapped a photo with his own camera of him sitting on the bike. We'll see if he'll give it to us to post on his blog.
Barry, as you know, is a pro Basketball player by trade, but, should he be thinking of other occupations, here's more that begin with B.
Brent, really, don't quit your day job.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 2 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 2, 2006, 10:30 a.m. ET
Seems I'm not the only one here in Lyon keeping a blog. The San Antonio Express-News' Johnny Ludden is here filing columns and blog posts. So, let's have a quick look at what he and other journalists are saying about the Spurs, bullet-style:
The Express-News has a look at the globalization of the team and NBA
Partly Cloudy Means Partly Sunny
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 2 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 2, 2006, 8:30 a.m. ET
The sun is out, sort of, today, which means it's an opportunity -- maybe the last -- to see the city of Lyon and visit any of the outdoor sights without getting completely soaked. Take a look at the weather forecast (to the right) for the rest of our time here before heading to Paris.
Those rain clouds don't bode well for the Spurs, who are trapped inside all day again, going through two practices -- once in the a.m., once in the p.m. Brent Barry said in his blog today that the team is hoping for some good weather once it starts practicing only once a day so the players can do a little sightseeing of their own.
Sorry Brent, don't blame me, I just play a weatherman on NBA.com. If there should be a break in the clouds, may I recommend a few places to visit?
Egg On My Face
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 1 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 1, 2006, 2:30 p.m. ET
The good folks at the Lyon Convention and Visitors Bureau weren't joking when they wrote on their website that Lyon is "a true gourmet city."
That's all fine and well with most everything I've encountered here in the last few days, but you don't have to be a gourmet to know that a half-cooked egg cracked in the middle of a sausage pizza pie probably isn't the tastiest treat.
Maybe this should have been sent back.
Still, when it arrived on the table at Pizza Pino, I tried it. If this is the last blog entry posted here, you'll know that raw egg on a pizza pie is a really bad idea.
But, despite my fear of salmonella, I ate the pie and it was pretty good. Figures, since we're not too far from Italy.
Later, in my zeal to have dessert, I asked for the Ile Flottante even though the item was described simply as a "floating island." I'm thinking ice cream, maybe even a brownie, floating in a bowl of chocolate sauce. Yeah, I want that!
Our waiter, however, was kind enough to ask if I liked eggs. Call it a coincidence, I guess; I used to until I ate that pie. It turns out Ile Flottante is some sort of flavorless whipped egg.
I opted for the tiramisu instead.
Eat, Drink, Training Camp Is Merry
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 1 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on October 1, 2006, 1:00 p.m. ET
Maybe we'll just rename this blog to something like "Bocuse's Blog," because we could be talking food quite a bit more before the week is out. To wit, and to find out just what or who is a Bocuse, let's get the take from Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich on on the best part of training camp being held in Lyon:
"I can't think of a better place to start camp. The facilities are great and, most importantly, the food and wine is spectacular. And that's really why we're here. A lot of people think this is training camp, getting ready for the season, but that's a lie. This is a gastronomic experience for all of us and we're taking advantage of it. We already started last night.
"I'm glad practice is over. I was getting bored (with practice). It's time for lunch now -- the second-best part of the day."
Think Pop is kidding? So, did we, but nope. Get a load of this meal:
"We went to L'Est. It's one of Paul Bocuse's restaurants.
"We started out with escargot and then we had a little risotto with scallops and a sole meunière, a little Côte Rôtie, E. Guigal, Rhône wine and little Meursault and Chablis. It was a great night."
Okay, so surely a meal that only Alex Trebek could pronounce at a restaurant by one of the world's most famous chefs has to cost a small fortune, right? Not so, says Popovich.
"No, it's brasserie. It's great. It's casual. It's great food, great wine."
Then again, money might not be the real issue preventing some from experiencing this culinary delight.
"If we keep doing what we're doing, these double-days, nobody's going to have time to eat," Brent Barry joked in his NBA.com blog. "Our coaches are going out and making sure they're experiencing the fine wine and the cuisine. If they give us a little bit of a break, I'm sure our guys will go out and grab themselves a good meal while we're in Lyon and Paris."
Pop, the oenophile, doesn't think it has so much to do with the two-a-day practices.
"They don't drink wine so they're not having quite as much fun as the coaching staff."
Fortunately, I do, and we passed L'Est on the way back from practice, so we know where it's at. It looks like we may have to see if Pop is as good an evaluator of food and drink as he is hoops talent ... stay tuned.
Camp Opens In The A.M.
LYON, FRANCE, Oct. 1 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on September 30, 2006, 3:45 p.m. ET
What's even better than all-you-can-eat steak and fries at L'Entrecote? Well, how 'bout Miss Dominique singing MacArthur Park in Fra-nglish on the "Symphonic Show" -- think this country's version of "American Idol"?
I give the edge to the beef and spuds.
But, really, after dinner tonight, there she was on F2 (channel two) on the hotel television butchering her way through Richard Harris' song, popularized by Donna Summer in the 1970's. It was bad then. It's still bad now. And I still love all 17-plus minutes of Ms. Summers' version. Miss Dominique's version ... not so much. Thankfully it wasn't nearly the length of the alternate take Donna issued up once upon a time. After all, exactly where would a commercial break go? Or, for that matter, where would the fans watching at home go when forced to suffer through 17 minutes of that?
"Someone left the cake out in the rain."
Maybe I've been singing a lot here on this blog, but it seemed fitting just now, what with the drizzly afternoon and forecast for a rainy week here in Lyon.
Fortunately for Coach Popovich, the practice court is covered, so his two-a-days can go on as planned. We'll be back with a report from the morning session tomorrow. Until then, I leave you with a few relevant links:
-- Tony Parker, fast healer
-- No. 10, Mr. Deveney? Really?
-- There are some new faces in camp. Watch the video here.
-- Book Donna Summer to play your next event ... just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.
Je m'appelle Tim Duncan
LYON, FRANCE, Sept. 30 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on September 30, 2006, 9:45 a.m. ET
Having Tony Parker, a French citizen, as a teammate means Tim Duncan has probably learned a French phrase or two in the last few years. He'll have a chance to practice those language skills starting today as the Spurs open training camp here in Lyon for the next week. A short while ago, the team arrived by bus with a lone motorcycle-cop escort. Their arrival was a pretty low-key affair, however, as only a few photographers and San Antonio- and France-based reporters were outside the hotel to greet them.
Duncan and Co. arrived in Lyon on Saturday.
Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
After grabbing their room keys and a bottle or two of water, the players headed straight for their rooms for a bit of shut eye to thoroughly rest up before tomorrow's camp session.
Not sure how much rest they'll get though, if they're anything like me. I had a perfectly good twin-sized bed that went to waste last night. The standard guest room here at the players' hotel has twin beds jammed side-by-side. My initial thought was that I'd just sleep sideways so I didn't fall in the crack, but I quickly learned otherwise. The beds sag and the center, where they join, is rigid, meaning I'd be laying across a mountain range. Not my idea of comfort. Then again, I'm not seven-feet tall, so those twin beds could pose a whole different problem for a typical NBA player. I'll have to investigate tomorrow to see if they got special beds. That should be easy ... look for any players with bags under their eyes.
Tight Alleys, Old Stone
LYON, FRANCE, Sept. 30 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on September 30, 2006, 9:00 a.m. ET
"This is just about what I pictured France to be," I said as I stood in the middle of Vieux Lyon earlier today, burning time by sightseeing before the San Antonio Spurs arrived from the States.
Vieux Lyon, however, isn't really what modern-day France looks like so much as what it might have, say, oh, about 500 years ago -- give or take a century. After all, the name literally translates to mean Old Lyon. The area was granted UNESCO World Heritage site status nearly a decade ago, protecting the area that sits high atop a hill overlooking the rivers Rhône and Saône. Tight alleys lined with narrow sidewalks, small eateries and four-to-five story stone buildings are the norm in this small village founded by the Romans well into the B.C. days.
Vieux Lyon also happens to be the setting for last night's dinner, although neither myself nor any of my co-workers really had much interest in the view after a long day of travel. It was the food we were interested in most. And it didn't disappoint. I can't recall the name of the little restaurant we stepped into, but I highly recommend the duck with cherries along with a glass of red wine. (Hey, when in wine country ...)
But, don't be mistaken, the area was truly wonderful to see when bulbs, not the sun, illuminate the cobblestone corridors. Much the same when we returned. Today, however, the area took on a decidedly different feel as children pedalled bicycles, small bakeries wafted the aroma of today's creations and sidewalk musicians plied their trade.
"Good morning America how are you?" The troubador seemed to be serenading us directly, clearly identifying the tourists. And how couldn't he, what with 'us' being a traveling party of still and video cameramen, a sound guy, two TV producers and me, your friendly web scribe. Still, on he sang, breaking from the French songs he had previously chirped to offer up Steve Goodman's tune made popular by artists such as Arlo Guthrie, John Denver and Johnny Cash. "Don't you know me, I'm your native son? ... I'm the train they call The City of New Orleans ... I'll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done."
"Welcome to the city of ... Lyon."
I can't say I was really surprised to hear him belt out a 30-year-old song from the States ... Only moments earlier I was remarking to NBA photographer Gregory Shamus how it was odd a street performer in France would be armed with a Martin acoustic guitar. Martin is a Nazareth, Pennsylvania-based company specializing in high-end acoustic instruments.
And, so there you have it; Somehow, thousands of miles away from home, I still managed to talk American folk music and acoustic guitars.
Back in France ... Vieux Lyon is a relative baby compared to what we stopped by a short while later: an 11,000 seat Gallo-Roman Theater and it's smaller neighbor, the Odeon, built right around 43 B.C. And -- get this! -- the Theater is still in use today for outdoor summer concerts. You can clearly see the elements that the Romans probably didn't build -- perches for spotlights, stair handrails, a wooden performance stage -- but you can actually pull up a seat on Roman ruins and take in the sight and sounds as we did today.
The Theater and the Odeon were in considerably better shape than the smaller, fenced-in theater I came across on my morning run. I didn't get the name of the most-likely-irreparable structure, but I'll surely be back as it's only a few blocks up the hill from the National Opera House (L'Opera) and not too far from Vieux Lyon. But that's about all the time we had, it was time to run back to the hotel to catch the arrival of the Spurs players and coaches. Be sure to keep an eye on NBA.com for a few photos Shamus took while we were out sightseeing. We'll be adding those and many more very soon.
UPDATES: Photos from Vieux Lyon and of the Roman theaters
Welcome To Lyon
LYON, FRANCE, Sept. 29 -- posted by Jeff Dengate on September 29, 2006, 12:30 p.m. ET
Greetings from the banks of the Rhône River, Lyon, home to all things gastronomic and a major player in the development of cinema. For the next week, this French city lying somewhere between Paris (to the north) and Marseille (to the south) will also serve as home to the San Antonio Spurs, who are opening their training camp here. Next week, the Spurs will play an exhibition against Adecco ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, before the team packs up and spends a few more nights in Paris.
We'll talk more about Paris at a later time, as we will those gastronomic delights and additional background on the history of cinema. For now, let's scratch the surface from my first experiences with the country and its culture. On the seven-hour flight from New York to Paris, I used the idle time to delve into French cinema courtesy of the Criterion Collection two-disc set of Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player.
Truffaut's second film was often suspenseful, at times comical and for the most part enjoyable. It was the young director's opportunity, in 1960, to craft his take on the American film noir. It also was my opportunity to brush up on my non-existent French language skills. Not sure the film helped, given my limited knowledge base (read: one junior-high semester) and the English-language subtitles throughout. I have, however, loosely committed myself to memorizing the off-color tune cheerfully sung mid-way through the 80-minute film, which, obviously, shouldn't be sung anywhere outside my shower-stall walls.
There must have been something about subtitles on the flight over, as I followed that film up with Vittorio De Sica's The Bicycle Thief ... well, at least until the juice on my Dell ran dry. I guess a dead battery is better than the alternative.
After travelling through the night Thursday and dark cloaking France's second-largest city on this Friday night, it's time to recharge my own batteries. But stay tuned to NBA.com for more on cinema, more on the food the French are famous for and, of course, more on hoops. We'll get to the hoops part sooner, as the Spurs arrive here tomorrow afternoon.