’Wave’ Goodbye to London
Posted Oct 11 2007 9:00AM
EUROPE LIVE NOTEBOOK - Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves
LONDON, Oct. 10, 2007 -- All you need to play a basketball game is 10 players, a leather ball and an iron hoop suspended 10 feet in the air. But to conduct an NBA game, (not play, conduct) so much more goes into it.
On Wednesday night in London’s O2 Arena, an NBA game was conducted, make no mistake about it. From the dance team during timeouts, to the lights coming down for players introductions over the PA system, to dunkers using trampolines at halftime, to 18,689 fans in the stands, all the way down to branded seat back covers for the team benches, the NBA’s return to the land of the Queen for the first time since 1993 was a rousing success.
Oh, and the Celtics beat the Timberwolves 91-82.
Obviously the NBA revolves around the game itself, but even the players were glowingly talking about the experience of playing abroad and the continued globalization of the league rather than breaking down what happened on the court for 48 minutes.
It was the preseason, after all.
“I said a couple times on the bench, ‘This is the NBA right here,’” Ray Allen said during the post game press conference after scoring a game-high 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting and going 5-for-8 from behind the arc. “You saw them do the wave, you saw the mascots, you saw everything that goes on during an NBA game go down here in London, so, it seems only appropriate that there’s an NBA team in this building right here because it can facilitate one.”
Wait a minute. The wave? At an NBA game?
“The wave, we don’t really see that too much back in the states,” Minnesota forward Ryan Gomes said with a smirk.
Allen also pointed out that it was nice to see celebrities sitting courtside, just like in America. The guest list included popular UK figures Kris Marshall, Lewis Hamilton, Anton Ferdinand, Didier Drogba, Darren Bent as well as somebody who established his fame in the U.S.; D.J. Jazzy Jeff.
“I don’t know if [the NBA having an expansion team in London] is going to happen in my career, but I relish the NBA growing globally like this,” Allen added.
The Trade Revisited
The five players that Boston traded to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett -- Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson and Theo Ratliff -- combined for 33 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and just six turnovers while Garnett's numbers were nine points, six rebounds, two assists, three blocks and six turnovers all on his own.
So the Timberwolves got the better deal, right?
Well, not exactly. Remember that the Celtics did win the game and the double teams that KG was drawing from his former teammates was creating open looks for the aforementioned Allen. So maybe in this case, the numbers might be lying just a little.
The much-anticipated reunion went off without any major mishap or emotional rollercoaster for either team. Gomes said that he just pictured it as the same playing against his former teammates during an intrasquad scrimmage in practice. Minnesota guard Ricky Davis said he almost passed the ball to Garnett on one possession by accident, but steadied himself before making the turnover. As for Garnett, he says "what's past is past" and he revealed that he tried to use his knowledge of his former squad to his new team's advantage as he mapped out some of the Wolves plays that he recognized on a clipboard and shared the information with one of Boston's assistant coaches during the game.
In two preseason games, Minnesota head coach Randy Wittman has already started eight different players.
Ricky Davis, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson and Mark Blount started against Efes Pilsen while Davis, Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and Juwan Howard started against the Celtics.
How's that rotation coming along, coach?
"I don't have an idea yet where my rotation is," Wittman said. "I don't have an idea yet who my starters are. That's kind of what we're in the process of doing here with playing different guys in different combinations. We have three weeks to figure that out before we play November 2nd at Denver."
Wittman added that his team was a little "nicked up" and that Jefferson was questionable to even play, but asked him to see some court time against his former team. He also said that Foye is dealing with tendonitis in his knee.
The Name is Bonding, Training Camp Bonding
"The trip in general - Rome first and then London - for this team, I thought was very important," Boston head coach Doc Rivers said. "I think we got away from everybody. We did some sight seeing in both cities. We got out and ate together as a team. At night, even when I didn't schedule anything you saw five guys here and seven guys there, they were always together."
For two teams with so much roster upheaval from last season, Europe Live was an opportunity to get to know each other much faster than just a regular training camp where the players go back home to their own life, their own bed, their own family every day after practice.
Wittman echoed Rivers' sentiments.
"For the new team that we have, with all the new players, I think it was an experience that was beneficial to us," Wittman said. "To have an opportunity to spend the last 10-11 days together, we basically spent three meals a day together and did a lot of things together to come together amongst eachother."
"I couldn't think of a better time for us to come overseas than this year," Rivers added. "It was a perfect time to come over."
Have Fans, Will Travel
Buying season tickets pays off. No really, it does.
Just ask Matt Wiebke, 37, from Bloomington, Minnesota.
When Wiebke renewed his season tickets for his ninth straight year year back in April, he was entered into a drawing with the rest of the season ticket holders and he won the grand prize: a trip overseas to watch the Timberwolves compete in Europe Live.
He had been to L.A., Orlando and Miami to see Timberwolves road games before, but London?
"It was wild.," Wiebke told me. "The first thing we did after taking a 10-hour flight and an hour and a half bus ride to get here was step off the bus and the first person we saw was KG. It was like, 'Wow!' I had to do a little double take for a second there."
Matt didn't just win tickets to the game. He got to live every fan's dream: stay at the team hotel, get inside closed practices and even tour the city with some of the team staff.
Decked out in an authentic Garnett No. 21 Timberwolves jersey after Wednesday's game, the experience for Wiebke was bittersweet.
"Something wasn't right about seeing him in that green, but on the other hand, we weren't getting it done with him and he was our ticket to try something else so I'm willing to give it a couple years to see how it pans out."