What’s up, #FlightNation!!! If you haven’t seen the news yet, we got our first win yesterday. We defeated Argentina 91-82. We really prepared well for this one. Argentina has a lot of shooters, and they definitely didn’t give up, but we closed it out well.
I LOVED how we came out the gate for the game. We jumped out to a big lead to open up. It reminded me of a Mike Tyson fight. They had to call a time out 4 minutes into the game being down 8 points right away. We controlled the tempo throughout the game and held a solid lead, which enabled me to rotate the minutes better to give everyone a chance to play.
I think that’s better the biggest growing pain for me: balancing winning, minutes and trust in my players. I trust them, but when we are chasing from behind, I find myself going with certain guys that I just have more trust in. I don’t make all the right decisions, but I’ve learned to not be hesitant and go with my gut. What’s great us I’ve been coaching a long time now, so trusting my gut makes a lot more sense than it did when I didn’t have as much experience. This team is the best team I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching, so it’s still a learning process.
I spoke a little about Mamadou N’Dyie last blog. The other high profile player on our team this tour is ex-NBA player Jermareo “Jayo” Davidson. Jayo was drafted by the Golden State Warriors right before Steph Curry arrived on the scene. He was then traded to the Charlotte Hornets. He struggled to adjust under Head Coach Larry Brown, and has spent the last several years playing in different countries around the world.
Jayo’s pressence has been so beneficial on multiple levels. He’s played in the NBA, the highest level capable, and sees things and knows things that would otherwise take our guys years to see. He’s got a calm demeanor, and has really been one if this team’s’ best chemistry builders. That’s interesting, because usually when you have late additions to the roster, the rest of the team often struggles to embrace that player. Embracing Jayo was easy for us.
He’s also a vegan, which has been very interesting for me to observe. If you’re unaware, vegans not only avoid meat, but they also avoid anything that comes from an animal. No milk, no butter, etc. needless to say, Jayo has struggled to get good here in China.
After a few days of seeing him struggle, he and I took a trip via taxi to the market area in search for fruits, vegetables and other vegan food options. I cannot fully articulate into words what a challenge that was. The taxi driver (only a dollar for the ride by the way) dropped us off in the middle of the downtown district, and we journeyed from store to store trying to find food. Again…NO ONE could speak any English. It was like we were playing an intense game of charades with complete strangers. Then I tried using Siri. It was magic…except that…it was only half of the communication portal. Communicating to them was easy. Getting their message communicated back to us???? LOL We managed though. After 30-40 minutes of walking, we found a big indoor fruit and snack market. Jayo bought two bags of food. He’ll be good for a couple of days now.
I can’t say enough about the people in China though. I know there’s some US-China trade war going on, but to the people, they could care less. Everyone is extremely polite, and so very giving. On multiple occasions, we’ve had people just buy stuff for us. One day, Brandon Moss and Elliott Glegg went to eat, and two times that day, someone in China bought them their meals. Like I said before, we definitely look like a basketball team and get rockstar treatment, but to buy our food? As Brandon would say, “America we need to step our hospitality game up!” LOL LOL LOL
One of the coolest stories for me so far was from a couple of days ago. 8 of us wanted to go to Walmart, but it was far enough from our hotel to where we needed a taxi. So we went out to the road to hail a couple taxis.
This was also a lot more complicated then it seems. First, we had to be sure we were able to communicate properly to both the driver on the way there and on the way back. We had to split into two groups because we wouldn’t fit. The first four got a taxi pretty easy, but almost left with the written address (in Mandarin) to communicate where we wanted to go. Right before that taxi left, we stopped them before going and got the address. Weeeew.
The second group (my group) didn’t have an easy time getting a taxi. We were getting a lot of local attention due to our height and look (again, obviously looking like a basketball team), but taxis either would t stop or were occupied. Then out of no where, two guys in this small, two seater vehicle with a truck bed stopped in the middle of the road (facing the wrong way towards traffic too) and started asking questions. They kept doing the ghost arm basketball shot movement. They clearly lived basketball a lot. We tried to communicate with them, but we were getting no where. Then Kenny Bellinger pulled out the Walmart address in Chinese and showed it to them. Somehow Kenny was able to communicate that we needed a ride, so they got all energetic, hand signaled for us to get in the back of his truck so he could take us.
Brandon was off a few yards away looking at mopeds to use (couldn’t rent any because we had no China ID), but we finally pulled him over and we were off. It was such a crazy experience. People stopped, stared, waved and smiled at us along the way. It was awesome and weird…a totally unconventional way to go about getting to Walmart.
When we arrived, you could see the pride of hospitality on their faces. They were so honored to help us. I then asked if he wanted a picture with ya, but he said no. Then I held out money and offered it to him for the ride, and he vehemently denied me, closed my hands and pushed it away, shook his hands and then bowed. I was so bewildered by that. Then I recalled the little bit I’d learned about Asian culture. It’s important to bless people without receiving anything in return. Such a great culturally experience, and a memory that Brandon, Kenny, Jayo and I will share and tell for years to cone.
I’m on a 4 hour bus ride right now, so I figured I’d write a longer blog to try and catch everyone up on everything. I can’t tell you what an amazing experience it’s already been (although I’m trying in this blog). I hope…I actually expect this to be the first of many more amazing multicultural experiences throughout my basketball career. I’m pretty exhausted, and we have a game tonight, so I’ll sign off for now. As always…we ALL appreciate ALL THE LOVE AND SUPPORT we are getting from you all back home. I hope you’re enjoying the blog and feeling like you are a part of our tour. Week one done…2 more weeks to go!
Until next time…