It’s New York folks and when the bus pulled into the bowels of Madison Square Garden this morning for the team walk-through, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo stepped off and started the traditional walk up the ramp. The playing floor at MSG, in the event you were unaware, is on the 6th floor and it’s a long walk uphill which means you need to be in shape to make the climb up, but hey it’s tradition.
On the walk, Colangelo was heard to ask my broadcast partner Eric Smith and I, “Are you ready for the circus?” with a big smile as he was referring to the media horde that was expected to be waiting to talk to Chris Bosh and company..
“This is the same walk the elephants take isn’t it?” he laughingly asked.
Surprisingly, the assembled New York media contingent wasn’t that large and the Bosh chit-chat with the media this morning was relatively tame. Yes the usual questions were asked about the pending decision he will have to make this summer as his contract expires but Bosh’s answers were the same ones people following the Raptors have heard all season.
The best chat this morning came with DeMar DeRozan who was chosen to be part of a one on one dunk contest with Clipper guard Eric Gordon to determine the last spot in the All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest.
DeRozan talked about how creative you have to be in dunk contests these days and in his case, he will have to use some of his good stuff just to get into main competition the next night.
“That’s what I was thinking, because you got to come up with two dunks, just to beat one person, and try to save your good stuff,” the rookie explained with a smile. “It’s about how much more you can add on before the dunk and after the dunk. Dwight Howard was a prime example of being creative with his dunks.”
DeRozan claims his most creative dunk he ever performed was in the McDonald’s All-American Game dunk contest. He also said that the guy he will listen to most when it comes to advice is his man, Sonny Weems.
“Sonny thinks he’s a better dunker than me,” DeRozan said laughingly. “He thinks that all the advice he gives me is great but hey, that’s my man, and I’ll listen to him and take his advice. He won a college dunk contest so I think he’s got a good enough résumé to listen to.”
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It’s Italian Heritage Night at MSG and there are many looking forward to the battle between Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari. But the Raptors could be down a ‘paisa’ (official spelling of the word from strength coach Francesco Cuzzolin) since Marco Belinelli missed the morning shoot as he was not feeling well. Head coach Jay Triano said that in speaking to head trainer Scott McCullough it was better to leave him at the hotel and let him rest. They will see how he feels at game time.
It’s not just players. When asked about his Italian lineage, Triano said he thinks he might be 1/8th or 1/16th Italian as his dad’s grandfather landed on Ellis Island and then made his way to Welland, Ontario. When quizzed further about his grasp of the language, Triano said he had enough to communicate and make his way around a bit, but then laughed and said he wasn’t sure all of it could be repeated.
You never know who you might see in New York as on the way back Smith and I ran into street magician David Blaine doing some magic tricks and relief work for the effort in Haiti. If you haven’t done something, please do something; anything to help.
And of course, we couldn’t resist the chance to stop in to see Rupert of David Letterman fame, for a sandwich at the “Hello Deli”. Rupert is a huge sports fan and we had a great conversation with him about the Knicks as well as the Jets chances this weekend in the NFL playoffs.
Under the category of give ‘em an inch and they take a mile, and after the last installment, suddenly I get a lot of questions about the team travel. I’ll hang on to some of them for a later date but I don’t want to disclose too much. The privileged members of the broadcast crew that get to travel with the team have to sometimes take the Sergeant Schultz outlook, the way the portly prison guard did in the old sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. The credo being “I see nothing, I know nothing” lest we get booted off the charter.
Hi Paul, in you last blog you mentioned that the plane is pretty quiet. Are there no pranksters or jokers on the team?
Rob T. Sudbury
There are jokesters and funny guys on the team.
Once you get to know him, Rasho Nesterovic is one of the funniest guys around and Hedo is pretty good with his jabs too. The young guns can always find something to amuse themselves and poke fun at when it comes to people on or around the team.
Here is something funny that happens on the plane and this will have to do for a while. The most humourous part of this season’s flights has become Antoine Wright’s custom as the plane is leaving the ground. It’s something he took from former teammate Darrell Armstrong. Just as the plane starts its ascent, seconds after it leaves the ground, Wright hollers from his seat near the back of the plane, “get up bird! Get up bird!”
The first couple of times I was asking myself, “What the heck is that?” But since then, it’s become expected by all on the flight, whether it annoys them or not. In fact, on the flight back to Toronto from Detroit after the last game before Christmas when Wright was not present; he was leaving to spend time with family, one of the international-born players, just to keep things light and provide all with a good laugh took to bellowing, “get up bird! Get up bird!” as the plane left the ground in Detroit.
When Wright’s sore throat nixed his urging on the way to Indiana just a few days ago, everyone was wondering if he was feeling OK. “I said it,” smiled Wright, “but you just couldn’t hear it.”
Somehow I imagine if he’s feeling better, we’ll hear it prominently on flights the rest of the year.