(Ya bu gi naa esoro mmadu o bido inyu amiri na ikuku, o ka mna na gi gafere ya ki malu. Ka o ghali gba gi na anya.) Greetings all! Thanks to all the responders, positive and negative. I’ll try to appease, although you’ll bare with me if I was sleeping while in blogging 101 in college. Oh and happy holidays! Dern near forgot it’s Christmas time. The line above is my inspiring reminder of the day my dad gave me a while ago. I am telling myself that just so I can put into perspective how good what I have been blessed with is. My dad always spoke to me in proverbs. And as goofy as I thought they were back then, I’m actually happy I remember them even now.
If you haven’t heard, I signed to play for Tau Ceramica in Spain. Not just Spain, but arguably the biggest name team in Spain. I mean, easily one of the top 10 clubs to play for in Europe. Euroleague, good money, professional team… All that! It’s sick how great this is. Although everyone in my camp wasn’t as excited as I was but… I don’t give a shite. For me this is a call up. Better than a call up even. I could tell my agent was a bit, let’s just say non chalant, about this deal so I asked him why he wasn’t as happy about this as I was. He (and a few others) said they would’ve liked to see me achieve my dream and get a call up. I would have liked to as well, but it’s not like I could’ve said no at this age. Shiiiii. These teams talk, man. I could ruin chances with other big teams saying no to Tau. And fuuuuhhhnthat! Waiting on what could be a pipe dream in the NBA and losing out on a Euroleague career? The dangling carrot again?
Pas encore mon frere, pas encore. The other thing is… I’m gonna say it… Playing in the NBA was never my dream. What? True. It never was. It was a goal. Same as for a long jumper to get eight more inches. Same as a football player to go from 390 to a 400lb bench press. My “dream” (at least athletically) since I was 8 years old was to be really really good at basketball and have everyone recognize it. I actually liked soccer more and was better at football. However, if I ever needed (yes, I did) confirmation that I am damn good, I got it the day I signed with Tau. I played in Europe sure, but until recently all the talks with the top teams were the same thing… I just didn’t have the big European name nor the “NBA tag”. “Oh yeah everyone knows Gabe can play” is all I ever heard. But who the hell was going to be there first to pull the trigger on this obvious matchup nightmare? Even before I signed here (I was on the first thing smokin’) we were in talks with five other top European teams. But I speak Spanish and well… Tau! But all we ever got to was the big name and experience excuses. Bollucks to that!
Before I came here, I knew it was a done deal and I found out while on a road game. So right then and there I was like “I’m done.” Not playing, getting ready to bounce. At the worst I wasn’t going to take the chance of hurting myself and missing out on literally the opportunity of a lifetime. (Enter Elmer Fudd) “Here Bugs.” It somehow got to my ears there was a team (no names please) that said they were there specifically for me and I was on a short call up list that had to be made within days. Little did I know the list was two or three guys. So I played. Even though I knew it was moot, because it wasn’t like there is a question of my ability. The question was, “Is he mentally ready?” Yeah, I’m just chomping at the bit to be on an NBA team and start biting off ears. I’m intense, not stupid. Seriously, I wonder what they really think I’m going to do. The other concern was I have no experience… Geez. Ever seen that commercial where the dude is complaining how he can’t get an education because he has no money, can’t get money because he can’t get a job, can’t get a job because he has no experience has no experience because he didn’t get an education in the first place? Something like that. It’s a ridiculous cycle. Anyway… I decided to play to give one last ditch effort at a possible call up. I had 30 points, 10 rebounds and, I believe, 6 assists. Before my shoes cooled off after the game, they called up the other dude. Yes, he had experience in the NBA. So there was no anger or surprise really. It’s like pulling teeth to get my family and friends to see the big picture. I could’ve gotten hurt and lost the call up and the deal with Tau. I’m spinning my wheels, mate. And bloody hell if the teams watchin aint pissin’ in the wind. (Sorry in my British mode. Just watched Snatch. Best movie ever).
Example… Are all the guys coming to the NBA from everywhere other than the U.S. really that much better? I mean there are exceptions of course… Peja, Dirk, Vlade, Pau. But when you sign a guy 1,000 miles away that is a dime a dozen in the U.S., what is really being said? And I’m not saying these guys aren’t good. They are very good, but for the guys already making millions in their European home team and then that former team of his signing an American guy at the same position and for the most part equal talent… That’s not pissin’ in the wind? Or maybe making popping firecrackers into rocket science. However you slice it, it confuses me and now I am just happy to know I’m pretty damn good at this sport I gave my time, body and a large portion of my life to. Now… All the frustration, insults, crazy talk, all that nonsensical, fecal revelry, it was all worthwhile.
Having said that, I’m happy to divulge into some fun. The funny ass stories from overseas and NBA experiences will definitely inspire. (No, still no names in the negative experiences). And as luck would have it, I just haven’t had that many in my dealings with NBA teams.
I must admit though, I was a bit scared when I signed with the Rockets. I had heard so much from other players about Jeff Van Gundy, I thought I’d be cut in a day. People thought I was just a camp body at the time. But I was signed September 8th and I was being run into the ground by my lonesome for almost a month before I saw another soul. All I did was run and shoot. Ran some more and when I was done with that I ran again. The whole time just trying to keep JVG from chewing me out even though he gave no indication he was like that. In fact, he was super cool off the court and on the court all he cared about was basketball. That’s it. He wasn’t there to hold your hand or beat around the bush. He just said it how it was. He didn’t give a damn about potential, just what you did or didn’t do. So if you were playing like shit… Man, he would call your ass out in a minute. No discrimination! Funny as hell. So if you were a player looking for a babysitter, he was not your guy. But if you were looking for a basketball coach that knows the game (and useless players) he was/is your man. So he remains the lone reason why I really couldn’t argue or complain about being cut. He was 100 percent honest with me from jump.
I met him by accident while playing pick up in The West Side tennis club, where the Rockets used to practice. Summer time pick up games were sick and I always couldn’t get much run because of all the guys with “years” (that’s NBA time in lei) under their belt. But James Posey was happy to get extra work in after the games. We played one-on-one everyday after pick up was done for God knows how long. (That SOB never got tired… of me giving him fits) Ha! Gotcha. We’re cool so I can do that. N.E. way, damned if I didn’t know there were cameras in the gym and next thing I know I got a call, which I thought was a prank. Serious. I almost hung up. It was Carroll Dawson and… Wait…
Carroll Dawson. GM. Rockets. Just recently retired. I heard he was struck by lightning… twice! WTF? Are you kidding me? Mr. Dawson? Sir? Can you please buy me a lottery ticket? Or even better, when you start your own cult sign me up. Damn! Twice? That cannot be true.
I was (swear) just about to hang up on him and the other line clicked. It was JVG. He was short and to the point and I had watched enough NBA on TNT to know it was him. “This is JVG. Be in my office at 10 am Do not be late. Bye.” Click. Back over to Mr. Dawson. Needless to say I was much more receptive. You know all that PR crap famous people say to us nobodys? Throw all that out the window. He told me he heard I was crazy. Before I could answer…”It’s OK. Crazy can be good. Just don’t be an asshole. If you’re not an asshole, you’ll be here all year. See ya tomorrow at 9.” (Oh you’re still here? Uh… We’re done.) Damn that, that was funny. He ran two years out of me. Incredible. Till today never have I ran that much. Not even in Europe, where they believe you should run from bed to shower, shower to car, car to grocery store… In short, they run a lot.
JVG was quite simply a basketball coach and he was a breath of fresh air to a guy who grew up in basketball with nothing but hard-nosed coaches. So you can imagine… Prima donna + JVG = JVG. Believe me, that equation is correct and has been proven by the greatest mathematical minds. If you produced, you played. Period. Initially, I produced and even led the team in scoring the first preseason game against Portland. The next game against Seattle I started. Started. We lost that game, but I made plays and played three positions. He was testing me out and I knew it.
My problem came when Eddie Griffin (RIP) had some personal issues to take care of and Maurice Taylor dislocated his shoulder, which left the team needing a 4. I was like… Sweet! I’m a natural 4, I can do my thing now. I’m strong, I’m quick, I’m… Reggie Evans… Damn you, Reggie. I started the next game against Seattle again in Arkansas. And let’s just say… I wasn’t a 4. Reggie gave me a fine dining experience of elbows and vogues. Mmmm mmm, bitch! Tasty. And. I’m. Spent. Torraye Braggs slowly established himself as a solid NBA 4 and I still played well at the 3, but the fact was they needed a 4 now. So JVG played out the rest of the camp with me. Testing me. Looking for the separation. But I wasn’t about to give it to him. If they were going to cut me, it wasn’t going to be for me being dumb. Like this one…
I played the whole preseason, then one game against Sacramento I didn’t play the whole game. But I was waiting anyway, enjoying the scenery. Got to see the sickest dunk I’ve ever seen in person (you know when Gerald Wallace jumped over Boki Nachbar? Look closely. That’s me on the floor of the bench. I’m famous, biyatch!) With 57 seconds left, JVG, “G—.” I didn’t even let him get the “abe” out. I knew it. You, sly devil. These are the ways a team will separate two guys they are deciding on. If I had not been ready or been at the end of the bench, where I couldn’t hear him, that would have been the deciding factor of cutting me like your wife n’ daughter. He told me to guard Peja. Great. The league’s best three-point shooter. Sac down by three, and me (a rookie free agent) guarding him. The bad part is not me being a rookie free agent like I couldn’t guard him. The bad part is every guy who’s been there for a while, knows you are a rookie free agent. So they go right at your ass. I mean, right at you. But I was confident. Fuck it. I’m about to shut down this, little, slow, goo… Tall, swole, huge… What the? As I jogged closer to him, he was much bigger and athletic than what I thought I saw on TV. Every bit of 6-foot-10, my friends. God must have been looking out for me that day because he made one jab step, came off a Webber screen and he was wide the hell open. But they missed him. Threw it away from me and right to Cat Mobley and I burned out down court like I had something to do with the great defensive play. Yeah, beer! Anyway. Finished out the preseason well. Came down to the last day and on the way to the gym morning of final cuts, I was a mile from my house when Keith Jones called me and said coach wants to see me… Bring your playbook. As emotionless as JVG seemed, you could tell he felt bad cutting me. But what could he really do? They needed a 4 and Reggie Evans did a great job of showing him I wasn’t that. Or just that he was a Rhino. So maybe I could play the 4 but I just couldn’t play Rhino. You’re the man, Reggie. Now I’d feel much better if I saw you do that to every other team in the league… You… Rhino. Just joking… Triceratops.
My brothers and sisters, I am geeked to be in España. I played my first game, probably in my life, with zero frustration. I got hit with cheap shots, fouled sin pita, played 15 minutes… But we won. Nothing can bother me now, man. I’m taking this opportunity to finish my career. For a guy that was told he’d never play again after my quad was ripped from my knee cap, I get to be happy as well as thankful. God has been good to me. I feel like I can play 10 more years (although I won’t). Just happy to be recognized. Even if only a bit. I know when I talked to guys who tell me they played for CSKA or Benneton or Maccabi, I look at those guys with respect. And if my son knows basketball when he gets older, I’ll feel proud to tell him I played for Tau.
Now I can just do what really makes me happy… Analyzation of completely useless details of everyday life. Beser lisoko na nagi, I like being weird. I see you and I remember. Don’t be scerred. Mo. I’m tellin you next blog, I aint playin’. I just had to vent this happiness about coming here. I was deterred because it was unexpected but I’ll get back on track and no one’s protected!
Oh, the first line is a West African proverb. It essentially means: If you are trusting someone enough to follow him/her to a goal, there are two ways to tell if he/she is pissing in the wind. You can pass that person up or stay behind… And get sprayed.
Well… I’m wet enough.