The London Update
|Team photo outside of London's O2 Arena.|
Timberwolves director of public relations Mike Cristaldi is traveling with the team in Europe and continues to email us updates here on timberwolves.com throughout training camp.
Today, the second practice in London and at the O2 featured half court three-on-three work and half court five-on-five work in which the coaching staff focused on defensive principals with the team... The coaching staff also implemented some new plays for last second shots... For the second straight day, Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and Marko Jaric - all who missed the game in Turkey - participated throughout the practice. Ricky Davis, who missed some of Monday's practice with a sprained ankle, returned to the court today ... however, both Gerald Green and Al Jefferson left practice with a sprained ankle ... Craig Smith and his patented short jump hook has returned ... He connected on a few of them during the five-on-five full court session ... Smith's movement looked good and it didn't look like his ankle was bothering him.
Midway through practice the house lights at the O2 went out, halting the team's five-on-five halfcourt drills. The only light in the arena came from the ribbon board that was scrolling NBA Europe Live logos. Half the lights turned back on within a matter of a few minutes, and it brightened up until the lights were back on at full power.
Prior to practice, the Wolves posed for a team photo in the lobby of the O2. The photo was originally scheduled to take place at the Tower of London, but due to the rain, a last minute switch was made ... a few of the players and several members of the team's basketball staff took a bus tour of London yesterday after practice.
|Rashad McCants takes a water break inside London's O2 Arena.|
Day 9 - London, England
The Wolves returned to the practice court on Monday morning after having Sunday off. The team left for London early Sunday morning with a 6 a.m. bus to the airport. After getting back from the game at almost 2 a.m., it was a short night for everyone - players, coaches and staff. So between the travel and going hard for the last week during training camp, head coach Randy Wittman gave the guys a day recover.
Three of the Wolves' four injured players who did not play against Efes Pilsen did participate in practice. Craig Smith, Rashad McCants and Marko Jaric all participated throughout the almost three-hour session. All three looked good and showed no signs of slowing down due to injury...once again at least in the eyes of this bystander. However, Ricky Davis sat out the last quarter of practice due to a sprained right ankle.
The Wolves worked on dummy offense, defensive rotations, three-on-two drills, as well as full court five-on-five end-of-game situations. In one of those situations, in a tied game with .8 seconds remaining, Sebastian Telfair connected on a three-pointer that gave the black team the win. The play can off of a diagramed inbounds pass.
Other notes from today's practice...Rashad McCants looked as though his hamstring was not giving him any trouble as he continually knocked down shots, many of the three-point variety...Following practice, Kevin McHale was working with both Al Jefferson and Chris Richard on their low post moves around the basket. It included footwork, ball fakes and head/body positioning... Telfair continues to showcase his quickness to the ball - several steals and tipped balls - and his ability to run an offense. Folks should not forget that Telfair is a former first-round pick and was traded by Portland to Boston for a top 10 draft pick. He is clearly looking to find a home with the Wolves after a few NBA stops...Juwan Howard and Greg Buckner's leadership continues to impress the coaching staff. As two veterans on the team, both have excelled in teaching the younger guys on the Wolves roster the intricacies of the game. Head coach Randy Wittman praised both of them again after practice today to the media.
There was a heightened media presence around today's practice - with writers from ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, London press outlets, the Associated Press and reporters from Boston - with obviously much of the focus around the first time KG plays his former team. It was strange to look across the court and see him wearing Celtics gear. I'm sure the media interest will continue through Wednesday's game. We practiced first, and had our media availability period on the court from noon - 12:30 p.m. with the Celtics' availability following prior to their practice. That's the reason for the overlap between the teams.
The O2 - London's brand-new state of the art arena definitely has some of the STAPLES Center feel to it. There is a double-decker row of suites/club seats, although STAPLES has three or four rows of suites stacked on top of on another. The O2 holds 23,000 people for basketball, and even more for a concert. Our bus driver mentioned that Prince played 21 straight concerts here recently and sold out each one. The facility is run by AEG, the same group that now operates/manages Target Center.
It feels good to be practicing in an NBA facility - no disrespect to our time in Istanbul. The bright lights, the press table to work on and the wireless Internet access. There are a lot of things that you take for granted in NBA arenas that you don't notice until you are not there.
An interesting thing about the situation in London is that both teams are staying at the same hotel. There is a constant milling about of players in the lobby, walking to the buses, or going to the meal room. It reminds me of a hotel at an All-Star game. Players everywhere. The teams are in such close proximity to one another. This is no more apparent than with the meal rooms for each team. The meal room is one large room split in two. A black curtain that runs just about all the way to the ceiling splits the room. Although you can't see the other team, you can hear them. Yesterday, while in line getting some food, Gerald Green heard Rajon Rondo's voice in the next room and yelled, "Hey Rondo, what's up?" To which the two share some brief conversation behind the curtain.
THE ISTANBUL UPDATE -- Some closing notes...
On Friday, the entire team, led by Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor attended an NBA Cares event in Istanbul as the Timberwolves and the NBA partnered with the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The NBA, the Timberwolves and Glen Taylor all made financial contributions to the Starkey Hearing Foundation in order to provide more than 2,000 hearing aides to the people (both young and old) of Turkey. People were fitted for these hearing aides over the course of the week, while the Wolves were here. On Friday, there were 50 children that were fitted for hearing aides during this event, which took place after a brief ceremony, which included brief talks by NBA Commissioner David Stern, Glen Taylor and Mark Madsen. Mark actually learned a few sentences in Turkish and started his comments off with them - a huge hit with the audience. But, that's Mad Dog.
Afterwards, the team split up into stations with a couple of guys at each station and they helped fit the children with hearing aides. This is one of the most powerful things I have personally seen. For some of these children, it is the first time that they have ever heard a sound. For some of them, it is the opportunity to hear clearly for the first time. Some of the children cried, some screamed for joy, but all of them had the biggest smiles on their faces. The Starkey Hearing Foundation travels around the world to provide hearing aides to people and communities that cannot afford them or do not have access to them.
One member of the traveling party that had a rough week was equipment manager Clayton Wilson. While in Istanbul, Wilson lost his Game Boy early in the week. Later in the week, Wilson's room was ransacked - clothes displaced and even a bite taken out of a chocolate chip cookie. After a brief investigation, the hotel and the Wolves security director ruled it an "inside job." Members of the team's traveling party are the usual suspects.
On Saturday afternoon, following the morning shootaround, a few of us went to see the sites of Istanbul. Our tour guide took us to the Hagia Sophie, the Blue Mosque and what was supposed to be the Grand Bizarre. The Hagia Sophie was simply awesome. At one point, it was the largest church in the world. Later, it was converted into a mosque, and now it is a museum. Our tour guide told us that it was built in only five years. Five years... to importing marble and stone columns...simply amazing. Currently, in the middle of the Hagia Sophia, there is staging that is set up all the way to the ceiling as they make repairs. When asked how long it will take for the repairs to be made, our tour guide joked, "Well, when I started as a tour guide - 10 years ago - the scaffolding was up. Today, it's still there. I'm not sure how they can build it in five years and take 10 years to repair it."
We stopped by the Blue Mosque, but only stood outside. Being Ramadan, people from all over Turkey come to the Blue Mosque on the weekends to pray, as it is still an active mosque. Being a Saturday, there was a really long line outside and since we had to get back to the hotel for the game, we did not have time to go inside. Our tour guide said that it is called the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles that line the inside of it. We were trying to make it to the Grand Bizarre - sometimes referred to as the world's oldest shopping mall - but time was not on our side. Our slim chance of making it left town after our tour guide took us into a rug shop to look at world famous Turkish rugs. There were beautiful silk and woven rugs of all different colors and varieties. What we thought was going to be a quick five-minute excursion, turned out to be a 20-minute sales pitch from a guy who clearly was a friend of our tour guide. (Also, guessing our tour guide was getting a bit of a cut of any sale.) But no one in our group was buying today, and with that we looked at a few shops that were close by, but never made it to the Grand Bizarre. Thoroughly enjoyed the few hours on Saturday visiting some of the sites in Istanbul. It was especially gratifying after spending most of the week just traveling from the hotel to the gym.
Thanks to the people of Istanbul who made our visit to their city tremendous. The people were gracious and very accommodating. Hopefully, we'll make it back sometime soon.
|Al Jefferson drops one of his unblockable baby hooks against Efes Pilsen.|
DAYS 6-7: Wolves 84, Efes Pilsen (Istanbul) 81
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Efes Pilsen squared off in the first-ever NBA game in Turkey Saturday night as part of the NBA Europe Live Tour. The Timberwolves withstood a late rally by Efes Pilsen to come away with an 84-81 victory.
Click here for the box score
Minnesota led by seven points midway through the fourth quarter before Efes Pilsen stormed back in front of a raucous crowd with a 10-2 run capped by an Andre Hudson's basket and foul. That basket gave Efes Pilsen a one-point lead, 77-76, at the 2:41 mark. It remained that way until Al Jefferson grabbed an offensive rebound and connected on a jump hook from the baseline to put Minnesota back up by one. It was a lead that the Wolves would not relinquish.
Drew Nicholas, the game's leading scorer with 24 points, missed a layup on the ensuing possession and Jefferson corralled the rebound, his 17th of the night. Two free throws by Sebastian Telfair extended the lead to three points (80-77) with 27.2 to play. Hutson responded with a 20-foot jumper and Efes Pilsen closed the deficit to a single point again with 14.1 left. Randy Foye made one of two free throws, but followed the miss of his second shot and grabbed the offensive rebound. After being fouled again, Foye made the two free throws to extend the lead to four points - 83-79. A Nichols jumper followed and Foye made one of two free throws to put the score at 84-81. In their final possession, Efes Pilsen had an open three-pointer by Nicholas rim out in the closing seconds.
The Timberwolves opened the fourth with an 8-0 run to grab their largest lead of the game, 68-59, behind Gerald Green's five points (three-pointer and a dunk) and Telfair's three-pointer. Green scored seven points in the first five minutes of the quarter.
Five Wolves players finished in double figures with Ryan Gomes and Ricky Davis both topping the squad with 12 points. Gomes finished with a double-double as he also grabbed 13 rebounds. Teammate Al Jefferson joined him on the double-double charts with an 11-point, 17-rebound effort. Along with Nicholas' 24 points, Efes Pilsen's Hutson scored 15 and snared a game-high 18 boards.
For the game, Minnesota shot 33.7% from the field compared to Efes Pilsen's 35.0%. The Wolves held a huge advantage on the boards, 68-47, including a 24-14 edge on the offensive glass.
The Wolves pulled out to eight-point leads a couple of times in the third quarter. Minnesota led 49-41 by opening the quarter with a 7-2 run. After a back-and-forth couple of minutes, Efes Pilson closed the quarter on a 6-0 run and only trailed by a point - 60-59 - entering the fourth.
Through the first 6:10 of the second quarter, the Wolves held Efes Pilsen to five points and took a 31-28 lead. However, Efes Pilsen battled back and re-gained the lead (36-35) on a Drew Nicholas three-point play with 2:52 to go in the first half. After exchanging baskets, a Gomes offensive rebound - his fifth of the half - put the Wolves back on top 39-38. After an Efes Pilsen free throw tied the game at 39, the Wolves' Gerald Green connected on a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer for a two-point halftime advantage, 41-39. Ryan Gomes, the lone Wolf in double-figures, scored 14 points and added 9 rebounds to lead Minnesota. Meanwhile, Nicholas, the former University of Maryland guard, scored 13 for Efes Pilsen.
After the first quarter, Efes Pilsen held a one-point advantage, 23-22. The team from Istanbul led by as many as six points (21-15) in the first stanza, before the Wolves closed the quarter on a 7-2 run, with a Jefferson hook shot at the buzzer. Randy Foye tallied six points on two three-point field goals to lead the Wolves while Nicholas topped Efes Pilsen with 8 points.
Tonight's game gave new meaning to the new-look Wolves. Of the 13 players dressed for Minnesota tonight, 10 were making their debut in a Wolves uniform. Only Mark Blount, Ricky Davis and Randy Foye played with Minnesota last season.
The Wolves have been in Istanbul since Sunday where they have been conducting their training camp. Minnesota heads to London tomorrow as their training camp continues as part of the NBA Europe Live Tour. The Wolves play the Boston Celtics in London on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the O2.
|Ryan Gomes notched a double-double with a team-high 12 points and 13 rebounds, including six offensive.|
Postgame Quotes -- Head Coach Randy Wittman:
On the game vs. Efes Pilsen...
From the standpoint that it was our first game together...I thought it was an exciting game. Now, we have a lot of things that we need to work on. We did a lot of good things, but we have a lot of things we have to work on...Right now, I'm more concerned with my young guys. I had a lot of the young guys in at the end of the game to try to teach them. This is a teaching situation for us, too. At some point, the future of our team will be these young guys and they have to learn to play at the end of games. I thought at the end, Dave [Dave Blatt - head coach Efes Pilsen] drew up a heck of a play, the kid just misses a shot. So, we could still be out there.
On the youth of his team and how they are progressing...
The six days that we were here and able to practice, they gave a great effort. We got a neat group of guys. We have eight kids who are 24 years or younger. But, as you mentioned, and I try to keep imposing this on them...Al Jefferson did come out of high school, but this is his fourth year. Ryan Gomes is young, but this is his third year. Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, those guys have been knocked around, beaten up, thrown down and know what it is to play at this level. So, I'm not giving them any excuses for that. But, there are a lot of things these kids have to learn. That is what this process is.
It [Turkey] was just fantastic because of our youth to have this experience. For a lot of these eight kids, it was the first time they were out of America. The first time they traveled overseas and to do it in a manner of a city like this, and then to play a team like this.
We got a lot out of this. I thank Dave because I haven't really been able to put a zone offense in, but sometimes that's how you learn to play against a zone. Learning how to fill gaps and slide into open areas. I think that is going to go a long way for us. When I get to that portion of my teaching as the month of October rolls around, I think we'll be a better zone team because of this; in the things that they were able to do to us from a defensive standpoint. Those are the things our guys are going to see at some point, so this is a great learning experience.
Cristaldi's thoughts and notes from the Efes Pilsen contest:
Ryan Gomes does all the little things that a team needs...six offensive rebounds, at least two of those resulting in put-back baskets...after having his shot blocked, he recovered by tipping the ball on the ensuring pass, which resulted in Al Jefferson grabbing it, and passing it back to Gomes who then made the layup...on another possession in the first half, he stole the ball and connected on a fantastic finish as he laid the ball up at the rim after hanging in the air...he's one who is not afraid to give up his body.
Sebastian Telfair provided a spark off the bench with energy and hustle. The point guard finished with nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and three steals. He attacked the basket consistently and had a few layups skip off the rim - he deserved better scoring numbers. He did a solid job running the offense and picked up full court defense the whole game.
In only 27 minutes, Al Jefferson did his best impersonation of a vacuum cleaner, snatching 17 rebounds. Four of which were on the offensive end, and none more important than the one with 46 seconds left that he put back in the hoop with a jump hook. The Wolves reclaimed the lead for good with that basket. And, on the next defensive possession, Jefferson corralled the defensive board after a miss by Efes Pilsen.
Gerald Green brought a ton of energy to the team in his Timberwolves debut. The high-flyer had four offensive rebounds and an outstanding blocked shot. Green scored seven points of his 10 points in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter allowing the Wolves to build a lead. And, he connected on a jumper at the buzzer to give the Wolves a two-point lead entering halftime.
There was a raucous Turkish crowd that filled Istanbul's Abdi Ipekci Sports Hall to capacity. Chants of "Efes" and flag waving were constant throughout the second half. Noisemakers and whistles were being heard throughout the contest - and they were loud!
|Wolves point guard Randy Foye notched 10 points, three assists and two rebounds in 28 minutes against Efes Pilsen.|
Despite the very loud and very pro-Turkish team crowd, the Wolves did have a few fans on their side last night. A group of about 15 teenagers from three cities in Turkey - Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara - attended the game. This Wolves fan section designed their own Wolves t-shirts and brought gifts and cards with them to give to the team. They were all wearing Wolves jersey...creating a neat section of blue in the crowd. Following the game, vice president of basketball operation Kevin McHale and assistant general manager Rob Babcock stopped by and visited with the group.
Head coach Randy Wittman played Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye in the backcourt together a few times in the game with Foye moving off the ball. He did it for a couple of minutes in the first and third quarters (Telfair was the first player off the bench in the third), and then again in the closing minutes of the game. In his postgame press conference, Wittman stated that he wants to make sure to utilize Foye at the off-guard position as well as the point guard position.
A sign of things to come for Wolves fans...Corey Brewer checks in the game at the 1:06 mark in the first quarter and immediately - seven seconds later - comes up with a steal in his first defensive possession as a professional. Fellow rookie Chris Richard had nine rebounds in his professional debut.
The Wolves faced old friend Loren Woods last night. Woods, selected by the Wolves in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft, played two seasons with Minnesota (2001-02, 2002-03). He last played in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors during the 2005-06 campaign. He finished with eight points and seven rebounds in almost 30 minutes of action last night.
The game featured a mixed referee crew with two officials from the NBA - Luis Grillo and Jack Nies - and one Turkish League referee, Recep Ankarali.
The cool moment of the game...the sell-out Turkish crowd giving a standing ovation for NBA legends BJ. Armstrong, Clyde Drexler and "Dr. J" Julius Erving when they were introduced at center court during a timeout in the third quarter.
Four Wolves players did not dress for tonight's game...Craig Smith (sprained left ankle), Rashad McCants (sore right hamstring), Mark Madsen (right shoulder surgery) and Marko Jaric (sprained left ankle).
Head coach Randy Wittman told the team at shootaround that not everyone would play in the game. He said that it didn't mean anything as everyone will have their opportunity to show what they can do during the remainder of the preseason. It is extremely difficult to play all 13 guys in a game. The two players who did not play last night were John Edwards and Theo Ratliff.
Last night's starting line up: G - Randy Foye, G - Ricky Davis, F - Ryan Gomes, F - Al Jefferson, C - Mark Blount
First substitution: Juwan Howard for Mark Blount at 6:15 in the first quarter.
Game presentation notes...Crunch, the Timberwolves' mascot, found his way to Istanbul and attended at the game. His zany antics were thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd. Efes Pilsen has a dance team.
A special thanks to the people of Istanbul, in particular the staff of Efes Pilsen, who were extremely gracious to all members of our traveling party and NBA staff members while we were in Instanbul. It was a very memorable experience that will not be forgotten.
|Julius Erving met up with Timberwolves players to take part in the opening of a Reading & Learning Center in Istanbul for a NBA Cares initiative.|
The Wolves got back to work on Thursday with the team's final set of two-a-days of Training Camp. The morning session was a non-contact session consisting of offensive and defensive sets, shooting and conditioning drills. Craig Smith participated in the morning session, running the floor well (at least in the eyes of this observer) as he recovers from a sprained left ankle. Smith worked out on the sidelines of the night practice.
The night practice included more defensive sets before the team scrimmaged and worked on five-on-five half court drills. Rashad McCants' hamstring kept him out of scrimmaging, although he did participate in some of the other drills. Tonight the Wolves were back at the scene of the crime...the gym where Chris Richard broke a rim two nights before. Thankfully, they have let us back and for that the team is very grateful. The gym's location cuts a good 45 minutes (at least) off the nighttime commute. The difference between getting back to the hotel at 8:30 p.m. compared to 9:30 p.m. is huge, especially with two practices.
Following the first practice, Wolves players Craig Smith, Mark Madsen, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, John Edwards and Chris Richard along with assistant general manager Rob Babcock took part in the opening of a Reading & Learning Center in Istanbul as part of the league's NBA Cares initiative. NBA Legends Clyde Drexler, Julius Erving and B.J. Armstrong were also on hand to assist.
The school, Avcilar Ataturk Ilkogretim Okulu, was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1999. The Wolves and the NBA donated a new computer center, library and a refurbished basketball court to the school. When we arrived at the center, our van was mobbed by children - guessing in the age range of 8-10 years old - that we couldn't even open the doors. It was crazy.
After a brief opening ceremony and ribbon cutting, the Wolves players divided up with some running a basketball clinic and others working with kids inside - playing games, reading books and utilizing the new computers. Wolves forward Craig Smith helped a young girl finish a puzzle...ironically, the last piece Craig put in was the nameplate on Kevin McHale's uniform. The puzzle was a photo from a classic Boston Celtics-L.A. Lakers game. On the way out again, all the players were mobbed...just like at yesterday's NBA Cares court refurbishment, the kids wanted to high-five the players. And, the Wolves players gladly obliged. On the way into the van, Chris Richard commented, "I feel like Michael Jackson." Adults had to keep the children away from the van and as we pulled away, kids were chasing after us. It's really cool to see how much excitement the Wolves players brought to these children - just with their smiles and high-fives.
Tomorrow the Wolves complete their NBA Cares events in Istanbul as the team, the NBA and Wolves owner Glen Taylor partner with the Starkey Hearing Foundation to distribute hearing aides to over 1,000 children in Turkey. The entire team will be participating in an event tomorrow afternoon.
At one point on the way to the community center, the driver of the van pulled over to ask a group of kids for directions...one of the boys yelled, "Zidane" and pointed inside the back of the van. The next moment, the entire group was banging on the windows and shouting. Unfortunately for them, the French soccer star was not tagging along with us this afternoon. Although a six-pack of Wolves - Madsen, Foye, Brewer, Smith, Edwards, Richard - is not too shabby!
This afternoon when the team returned to the hotel, several players and our equipment manager, Clayton Wilson, were locked out of their hotel rooms. Their keys didn't work. To which Wilson said, "I feel like I'm at Target Center."
As a huge fan of Diet Coke, Coke Light - the European version of Diet Coke - just doesn't cut it.
Tonight, NBA Entertainment sat down with Al Jefferson and Gerald Green to talk to them about their transition from Boston and their future in Minnesota. Green, the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Champion, has been one of the most requested players for interviews while here in Turkey.
|Greg Buckner, shown here doing warm-up drills, has been a terrific leader since arriving in Turkey.|
When the Wolves acquired guard/forward Greg Buckner prior to training camp, the team knew it was getting a solid veteran defender who could also shoot the three-point shot. Through the first few days of training camp, Buckner has been draining his three-point attempts, and after today's practice, head coach Randy Wittman shed some light on Buckner's leadership ability.
"He's been fabulous since coming in here. His talking to the younger guys, he's helping them out with the little things. The little things you don't think about as a young player. He has been unbelievable...I would not have expected somebody coming in here that new to do that. He has really, really stepped forward in that aspect."
On Wednesday, the Wolves only had one practice as the coaching staff gave the team the night session off. Wittman was very complimentary of his team's efforts thus far in training camp, and realized his team needed some rest.
"You can tell we're at the point of soreness and fatigue setting in," said Wittman. "We went extra hard this morning and we'll give them this afternoon off to let their bodies recoup here and come back tomorrow morning. Their effort has been wonderful. Now it's a matter of executing and keeping fatigue out of their minds."
Today also marked the first of several NBA Cares events that the Wolves will be participating in as part of NBA Europe Live. NBA Cares is the league's social responsibility initiative. Following practice, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff and assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg took part in a basketball court dedication and clinic at the Educational Park at Findikzade in Istanbul. The basketball court refurbishment was a partnership between the NBA, the Wolves and Adidas. The event tipped off with a ceremony/press conference dedicating the court. Afterwards, Fred led the kids, who were 12-and under in age, in an on-court clinic consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting drills. The only thing missing was Hoiberg's trademark step-by-step instructions on three-point shooting. Diehard Wolves fans will recall that Freddy led the NBA in three-point field goal percentage during the 2003-04 season.
"We do so many community events back home in the United States," said Gomes. "So, it's great when we can do something like this around the globe. It's such a positive way to give back. Anything involving kids is tremendous, and anything that we can do to help them reach their dreams and goals is wonderful."
It was absolutely amazing to see the excitement of these kids ... There were 100 children on the court that were screaming and hollering almost the entire time. The basketball court was fenced in as part of the park, but there must have been another 100 children - probably from the surrounding neighborhood - that were standing outside watching intently and cheering. Unfortunately, we couldn't fit any more kids on the court! After the clinic finished and the players left the court - they were swarmed like rock stars. Kids everywhere, wanting to receive high-fives from the guys. And, Ryan, Theo and Fred did not disappoint. They must have high-fived every kid there. Attending an international event like this makes you truly understand how global the game of basketball and the NBA really is.
|Minnesota's practice facility in Turkey.|
Head coach Randy Wittman and his staff continue to emphasize and teach the fundamentals with five practices now completed at Minnesota’s training camp. Tuesday morning's session featured the team's first scrimmage while in Istanbul. Some of the notables:
- Sebastian Telfair used his quickness and pressed full court throughout the two games, doing his best to disrupt the other team. While being the lone defender back-peddling on defense, Telfair timed his jump and blocked a Randy Foye layup attempt. Later in the game, he drew an offensive foul.
- One of the prettier baskets involved a two-on-one fast break in which Marko Jaric and Ricky Davis made several passes back-and-forth from halfcourt without the ball hitting the floor. The result was a Jaric layup.
- One of camp's lighter moments came when Rashad McCants -- sitting on the sidelines -- tried convincing one of the Turkish referees that the opposing team tipped the ball out of bounds. The official first looked to McCants for help on the call and initially signaled in favor of McCants' team before realizing his faux paus. Both smiled and laughed and the Turkish official shook his finger at McCants in Dikembe Mutombo-like fashion as if to say "I'm not letting you get away with that.”
- In the closing seconds of the scrimmage, with the black team trailing the white team by three points, Greg Buckner connected on a three-pointer and was fouled. However, the refs ruled it was before the shot and did not give him continuation on the play. The next play, Ricky Davis drained what looked to be the tying three-pointer with 2.6 seconds on the clock. But, much to Davis' chagrin, his foot was on the line. Foiled again.
After the first practice, rookie Corey Brewer visited a local Turkish market with the NBA Entertainment television crew for an interview. While navigating the cobblestone streets, Brewer received several friendly smiles and greetings from passer-bys and shopkeepers. The only problem? Several thought he was a soccer player.
The highlight of the evening's practice was rookie forward Chris Richard doing his best Jerome Lane and Darryl Dawkins impersonation by breaking the basket rim after a dunk. Unlike his predecessors, Richard didn't shatter the backboard, but rather snapped the rim causing bolts to crash to the floor. Moments later, a sponsor sign hanging from the wall above the basket fell down, too. Luckily, it was at the end of practice.
|Mad Dog gets off the plane in Istanbul.|
The Wolves completed day two of their training camp in Istanbul on Monday with another set of two-a-day practices. The Wolves are preparing to play Turkish League standout Efes Pilsen on Saturday night in what will be the first NBA game played in Turkey.
Although it may be new to most of the team, Istanbul isn't new to two members of the Wolves. Guard Randy Foye visited Turkey while a member of the World University Games for USA Basketball as a junior at Villanova, as did Boston College's Craig Smith. The two second-year players even practiced at the Efes Pilsen's practice facility. Foye said teammates haven't hit him up for good places to eat or historical sites as of yet since they've been in the gym most of the time. However, he did mention teammates have joked that his shots keep falling because he has played on this practice court.
Speaking of Foye, the second-year guard continues to grow in his leadership role and his confidence is evident in his play during the first few days of camp. After Monday morning's practice, when asked about playing point guard, Foye responded, "It's no pressure. I just go out there and play my game. I think that's the biggest thing...never try to do something that you're not used to doing. I just go out there and play as hard as I can. Whatever coach decides he decides, but I know I left it all out there on the floor.
"All the point guards [in the NBA] can score and pass. The biggest thing is that you can't just be one sided - you have to be able to pass and score. I think sometimes they [the media] get it mixed up...sometimes when they see me being aggressive [people think] that I'm just being a scorer. But, most of the time the team and the coaches tell me to do that so I can open it up...This year, when I get open shots, I'm going to take them.
Ricky Davis on Turkey...
"It's a beautiful city...I love it. It's an opportunity of a lifetime to see the different culture and different lifestyle. Some people run from it, but I take it and cherish it. I love it."
Observations & Notes...Despite missing the past year and a half due to injury, center Theo Ratliff can still flat out block shots. He had a few blocks in the morning session that had sideline observers consisting of various NBA staff and media asking, "Did you see that?"... Forward Juwan Howard's leadership is obvious to anyone in the gym watching practices. He has a calm demeanor and a penchant for teaching and explaining...On the way to the morning practice, the bus ride was delayed a bit as an overturned car lay in the middle of the road. Thankfully, the driver walked away unharmed as he was standing on the side of the road. On average, due to traffic it takes about an hour (each way) from the hotel to the practice facility.
|Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world, containing more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops. The Wolves could be among the 250,000 to 400,000 visitors on any given day.|
The Timberwolves arrived in Istanbul at 3:30 p.m. (local time) on Sunday afternoon following a 10+ hour plane flight from the Twin Cities. Three hours later, the team left for its second practice of Training Camp, and its first in Turkey. The Wolves are practicing all week at the Efes Pilsen training facility - the home of their Saturday opponent - which also doubles as a brewery.
Outside of the NBA three-point line (which is taped on the floor), the wider foul lanes and the permanent markings of the international three-point line, it's a basketball gym with six hoops and 94 feet of court. Efes Pilsen proudly displays banners from its 12 Turkish League titles, three EuroLeague Final Four appearances and the 1996 Korac Cup. Winning the Korac Cup really put Turkish basketball on the international map.
Craig Smith and Mark Madsen continue to work on their rehab from ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively. After doing some strengthening exercises with strength coach Dave Vitel, Smith could be seen ferociously riding the exercise bike on the sideline. Madsen ran sprints, did some agility drills and dribbling on the sidelines.
Ricky Davis participated in his first practice of Training Camp - having missed Saturday's practice in the Twin Cities due to illness - and brought energy on both ends of the court. Davis knocked down several three-pointers during the course of practice.
Forward Al Jefferson showcased his low post repertoire with a wide array of jump hooks, push shots and up and under moves throughout practice.
Following practice, head coach Randy Wittman addressed a contingent of Turkish media.
"The guys worked hard tonight. I wanted to get them moving and active after the long flight. They responded with a real good energy level. Tonight was another step in coming together as a team.
"The facility here at Edes Pilsen is great, and everyone here has been so welcoming. I"m really looking forward to spending the week here, and hopefully being able to experience some of the culture."