Thursday, August 21, 2008

Casey's Journal: The Surreal Life

(Mavs trainer Casey Smith is also performing those duties for Team USA. He's keeping a journal on life at the Olympics in Beijing.)

Three years, over 30 games played together, well over 16 weeks on the road together and it comes down to the next 48 hours. Eighty minutes of basketball will decide if all the effort, time, money, media work, time away from families, etc., all of it worked or not.

It is really strange to be in a position that not winning is complete, abject failure. If we win, everyone says, ‘Well, you guys should win. You have the best players in the world.’ If we lose, everyone says that the players don’t care, we’re too cocky, the rest of the world has caught up … blah, blah, blah. I will say that the team as a whole has a good grasp on the significance of winning this thing.

Yesterday in practice was the most focused I have seen a team. Talk about defensive strategy and really working through scenarios for the game tonight. I was actually impressed. The guys like Kobe, Jason, LeBron have really thought about what we need to do in certain situations, what these players’ strengths are, etc. and they were really dialed in.

Now, what that means for the game tonight, I have no idea, but the general perception that we just roll the ball out and play couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our last game vs. Australia started a little rough for us and we really weren’t doing the things offensively that make us good as a team. Thanks to Coach K, we responded. There really is a lot riding on these next 2 games, more than is probably perceived outside of this group. Anyway, my point is it has been a long haul and it is finally here.

Outside of basketball, the rest of the trip has been interesting, and China is a remarkable country, but I would be lying if I didn’t get the sense that everyone is ready to get home. Today is the 35th day on the road this trip … so yeah, I would say that is definitely long enough.

Lots of other interesting stuff for me, too. I got to go to the Gold Medal women’s beach volleyball yesterday and I got some emails. Apparently they showed Jason on NBC and I was standing next to him. I am sure that event was a ratings win for NBC. Athletic girls + white bikinis + rain = International Happiness. I ran into a couple from Ohio who know where Wellston is. She works for Ohio State and he works for the Ohio Farm Bureau. So I’m in China talking Ohio farming, and I’m such an expert … not. We were at an outdoor cafe and they did like to drink beer, and that is a much stronger topic for me anyway.

One of the women on the women’s basketball team (Katie Smith) is from Logan, Ohio, and I met her parents. I have been to a couple more temples, etc. The traffic here is really mounting here as the Games get ready to come to a close. They have had specific travel restrictions for citizens and automobiles, and I think gradually that has loosened, because the traffic is overwhelming. So the subway has really been the way to go, but the crowds there have been massive as well. Well, off to shootaround, then ready for the big game.

I have attached a couple of random pictures. One is from the dining hall in the Athletes Village. The crowd that you see is the players trying to eat, and the mob scene that they cause just by being there. The best part is you can see where JKidd is sitting. He and I just sat outside of the rest and no one really noticed. I told him he just isn’t that big in China. Too old.

The other is one of me at Temple of Heaven, which is a series of temples built for the emperors to pray for good crops. The best part is adjacent to the temple they have a “Hall of Abstinence” which the emperors had to go for a specified period of time to “purify” themselves prior to praying.

Later,
Casey

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