Men Speaking Among Themselves

Readers sometimes inquire what my mates and I speak of during our off-hours. There are few surprises; as men, we bandy the expected topics:

Women. Fashion. Hair.

For an instance, spirits were aloft on the trip homeward from Minnesota. Topics bounced among my mates and coaches. Eventually , the discourse swerved to Timberwolves player Mike Miller. And his hair.

Listening to the flying jibes, it was clear that most thought his hairstyle to be somewhere between fanciful and unbecoming.

In protest, I called out, “No, no, European soccer players have worn Miller's styling for the decades. It is bueno!”

The moment of silence that followed taught me this was a shocking statement to those within earshots. (Excepting Sergio and Nic Batum.) But regrets, I have none. For I have personal understanding of the need to keep hair out of the orbs.


Mini-Bobblehead Schadenfreude

Just as teams fiercely compete between each other, so are their rivalries within each of them.

Yet fortune smiles upon the Trail Blazers, as none of my mates hoist bloated conceits about. But it is only normal to sometimes feel twinges of the envy, however illogical, for one's compatriots.

So it was with Brandon Roy’s mini-bobbleheaded replica. As stated (“Yo Estoy Bobbleheaded”), making a plastic replica of a person with an oversized head on a spring is a high honor for any Trail Blazer. So imagine the laurels available for the mini-bobbleheaded iPhone entity. With a shake of the iPhone device, Brandon Roy’s head bequeaths bobbles. It nods and shakes with enthusiasm!

When Jarryd Bayless came through the plane showing this marvel, I watched my associates for their reactions. There was no mistaking some envious glances, quickly averted. Those of us with existing three-dimensional bobbleheads felt diminished by this tiny Brandon Roy. (And those with no replica of any kind were perhaps entirely dwarfed?)

But Bayless’s iPhone suddenly seized up, and Roy’s mini-bobbling ceased. As Bayless retired to his seat and jabbed at his controls in consternation, the rest of us all perhaps felt some mini-bobblehead schadenfreude.

And as for the real, non-mini-bobbleheaded Brandon Roy? He napped through the entire episode!


The Knight of the Doleful Countenance

We are now tripping the road, and I must share that these tours are a disorder. A problem are the "down times." These are named as such for providing plentiful opportunities for someone to brood. And I am slumping in my shots! (I was 0-5 in my shot attemptings last night in San Antonio.)

On a plane or in the hotels, I take up dwelling in a hut built from unwelcome memories. Each of my missed shots provides new construction. My hut grows.

Nicolas Batum perceived my glumness on the plane, and he wordlessly came and sat next to me. With his laptopping, Nic revealed this image: A computer wallpaper of Sergio:
Seeing it, and glancing at Nic’s expectant smiling, a chuckle came from me. Sergio sensed our commotions and approached. He grinned at our revelry and then found MY wallpapers on Nic's laptopping. Oh, there was chortling until the eye juices flowed!
Truly, Sergio and the silent Frenchman are good mates! (For myself, I must be hanging toughly and remembering Basketball Rule #2).


The Cap of the Stone Giant

The modesty of our winning streak came to an end this evening at the hands of Yao Ming and his Houston cohorts.

It is a matter of tiresomeness to comment on Yao's gigantic nature, so let me only say this: If a patron filled Yao's cap with nickels and then donated it to you, a change in your tax bracket would loom.

(My own run of 33 games with a three-pointer was also brought to a resolution. Ah well. As Sergio says, "Easy come, and it also goes with ease.")


Dreams of the Boyhood

Seeing the children at Portland games is a reminding of my own dreams of youth. Did you know that as a boy, my thoughts sometimes turned to wearing an army uniform?

In Spain, a branch of armed service is the Ejército de Tierra. It helps protect Spanish islands, and on Majorca, I came to know of its soldiers. These Spanish men-at-arms were of fine quality, and their poise impressed me as emulation-worthy.

Of course, I also wished to be an astronaut. Children have fickleness!

Yet I still have wonderments of what life would possess if a basketball had not rolled into my path. These thinkings returned to me today when Sergio showed me this recruitment from the Ukrainian armed forces.

Sergio has some knowledge of the Ukrainian and he translates as follows. (This site does the concurring.)
Primera Girl: Would you take us for a ride on your BMW?
BMW Owner
: Even to the end of the world!

Soldier: Hey, I’d like to down some liquor, girls. 
Primera Girl: Just a second!
Segunda Girl: Where do you live?
: Right here— daytime at work, and at night in the clubs!

Primera Girl: Which work?
: Contract work, of course.
Girl 3: Contract? Marriage contract or what?
Girl: Army contract, foolish one!
BMW Owner
: Hey, don’t you wanna ride on my car?

Girls: Forget it, take yourself for a ride!
: It’s about time for new heroes. With contract-based service in Ukrainian armed forces!
It is too much— this recruitment ad has inoculated me against my boyhood dream! But enough of the entertainments. Focusing on our road games in Texas is now a priority. (A Final Thought: Is Texas viewed as more or less rustic than the Ukraine?)


A Razor's Edge

Cristina (mi compañera) made the call today and a question arose.

“How is the stubble?” she asked.

Yes, Cristina insists on the stubble. But the truth is that since my earliest ages I also have considered its status.

After years now, I instinctively wield a razor between basketball matches. Only a matter of timing insures that a cosmopolitan ruggedness emerges by contest time.

Yet Cristina's question struck deeply: How IS the stubble?

I am far from home. For months, I lack the normality of urbane Spanish influences. Where are my sources for the comparison? Do I sport mere scruff today or are these the bristles of old growth?

Un momento,” I tell Cristina.

I look to the framed touchstone I keep hanging on the wall. Then I glance mirror-wards. The comparison is favorable. My face is sporting a balance between the suave and masculine dimensions.

With the confidence, I tell Cristina my stubbling is perfect. She is pleased, and we speak of other matters.

But in reserve, I keep a further truth from her: I wish a machisto new look if my mates and I can reach the playoffs!

Adición: Informants inform that I may soon be "rocking the 'stache." So be it. The English word "bigot" is most unfavorable, yet in Español, Banderas shows us the coolness of el bigote (aka, el mostacho). ¡Voy a mover el bigote!

Posdata final: It was a testimony to the stubble that I crossed a feared barrier in our match against the Clippers: Yes, I have broken the pressure of the reviled chalupa!
This may have opened floodgates elsewhere: Felicidades to Penelope Cruz and Steve Blake. (One won the Oscar. The other broke a record for assists in a match.)


Opposites Detract

Plentiful aspects of the American cultures are boggle-worthy. This is no complaint! Por ejemplo, Sergio twists the knife regarding spectator responses to my game insertions.

“You merely take the court and exhale carbon dioxide,” Sergio says, “and lusty cheering has already begun.” Embarrassed, I must say he is on the marks. But Greg Oden and Brandon Roy also garner the speedy applause, and ALL of my mates are viewed in a friendly way by Portlandians.

This non-conditioned enthusiasm is pleasing, yet it puzzles. And how does one explain its opposite? Choirs of curses and boos broke out during our match against the Memphis Grizzlies. I spun my head to see the reasons. Had Marc Gasol shaved? No. The boos and calling to the cats were directed at the appearance of Darius Miles (top).

This was to my consternation. Darius Miles was our fellow mate— a Trail Blazer —this very year! Yet perhaps there is logic in this. The great lavishing of love for a Trail Blazer undergoes a phase change if the player departs the team. Even as the Blazer exchanges jerseys, so do the fans exchange sentiments. Love becomes hate.

It is the alchemy of basketball emoción.

Basing on last night’s volumes, Darius Miles was greatly beloved when he was in a Trail Blazer uniform. He must be a specimen of impressive humanitarianism! (As for me, I never wish to leave Portland. I have no stomach for the subsequent abusing.)


¡Hemos Hecho!

Smiles blossom on all of the faces... The deadly line has passed!


Deadly Lines Approach

The last deadly lines to trade players are here. Secrets are not existing that Sergio could be swapped for another player. This makes me swallow hard. My mock outrage at Sergio’s vacationing on All Star weekend is now forgotten. I wish him Portland permanency! It is my luck to have a countryman and my best friend as a mate.

But will that luck survive?

For anxiety reducing, I launched online. My enjoyment is in the outdoors, so I went to a site named Field & Stream. At first, I was of the thinking that these were fellow enthusiasts who enjoyed a natural setting.

My surprise inflated on learning that the Field & Stream staff is bloodthirsty. This is most misleading. Would a site named Meadow & Brook approve slaughtering the wilderness? The site even has a “Gun Nut” department. “It must be a joke,” I consider. Then I read the Gun Nut. No joke! Their appetite for carnage is great.

But after reading the Gun Nut piece called “The Rules of Gunfighting,” I lightened my moods with its conversion to my Rules of Basketball.
The Rules of Basketball
1. In ten years, nobody will remember the details of score, assists, or rebounds. They will only remember who won them a chalupa.

2. Any shot worth shooting is worth shooting twice.

3. When not shooting on offense, you should be communicating, passing, and running. Also, yell “Foul!” repeatedly. Why? How can officials summon help if you yell “Good D!” or “Our opponents are superior!”?

4. If legitimately called for a foul, say, “A good call!” (Do this no more than once a game.)

5. When in possession of the ball, have a plan. Further, have a back-up plan, because the first plan won't work (unless you are Brandon Roy).

6. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. (Both Oden and Pryzbilla provide these in abundance.)

7. Ignore words and direct your eyesight to the ball. (Opposing Cleveland, LeBron James told me he would pull up for a jumper. I advanced upon him. Then James drove baseline with great speed. Both of my ankles gave way!)

8. The faster you begin an opponent’s blow-out, the more shots everyone will get.

9. Be polite and professional to everyone you play against. Then destroy them, for they wish to defeat you.

10. Practice shooting in a dimly-lit practice area with someone shouting unflattering threats at you. (I found this useful in Europe, where partial power outages were not uncommon.)

11. You may feel sad about snapping another team’s back with a clinch alley-oop or a clutching 3-pointer. But sadness is preferred to losing. And the winning will then bring happiness.

12. Purple is not my color. (It may not be anyone’s color.)
Now I must discover new distractions. (The quits to trading can not arrive too punctually.)


Angel Pigs

As earlier revealed (“Jose Brought Us Ham!”), fellow Spaniard Jose Calderon is part-owner of a pig ranch in Villanueva de la Serrena. And as for the ham that derives from his ranch— if pigs lived in heaven, these angel pigs would have hams of a similar quality. As Jose reveals, his pigs only eat walnuts and acorns! This leads to uncanny deliciousness.

Not all NBA players enjoy ham. Kevin Garnett is opposed to it, which has led to bitter words between he and Jose. But some of my mates like Travis Outlaw and Steve Blake enjoy eating of the pigs. So when Jose gave me some of his special pata negra ham upon the Raptors' visit here, and I gave samplings of it to both of them.

Upon tasting Calderon’s cured pork, Travis cried out, “Mercy sakes!”

That is its testament.

Adición: I am sometimes asked if our French player, Nicolas Batum, ever speaks. True, he does keep himself to his own thoughts. But Nic was attending to AllStar Weekend... there he was a commentator for French television!

Next Year, the Triples Competition

With my current exhaustions, I realize the mental power that individual athletes who play sports. They have no mates to diffuse the attentions of the media. This makes Rafa Nadal the best Spanish sportsmen of all time, if not the best of ALL sportsmen.

(Sergio, you are not even running in this competition!)

A few dregs are in my mind regarding the slam dunk contest. As to the first, I think I deserved more dunk points from judges, but what pleases me most is that other players have stated the same thing (like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook).

The American press has also opined in the same direction and everyone who crossed me in the street congratulated me and made support offers.

And now, I will give you a scoop: Yesterday, I submitted to the Commissars of Competition that if I have good field goal percentage rates next season I have a wish to participate in the Triple Point Contest!
Anuncio original (en español) aquí.


Fernando Está Aquí

The whirling winds are finally dying down for a moment. First, three basketball games in three days at three different cities. Then, the dunk contest.

Now weariness is catching up with me; even at parties, I'm lacking freshness.

But I wish to acknowledge the many ideas given to me for dunking. Among them was this image from Victor Vicente Garcia Querol. He suggested a tribute to pop star Rodolfo Chikilicuatre: A dunk with dance moves!
(If you are not familiar with Rodolfo, be viewing the following.)

Also, honoring Fernando Martín (mar-TEEN) with my retro "10" jersey was a source of pride. Martín joined the Portland Trail Blazers in 1986 as the pioneering Spaniard in the NBA. Fernando also played for Real Madrid, from 1981-1986 and 1987-89. Martín got a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics with the Spanish National Team.

Martín returned to Spain before his tragic death in twenty years ago. Honoring my countryman was my honor as well. Highlights of Martín's follow.

As stated, I am a George Karl appreciator. (He puts me in mind of the knife-fighting fisherman of Majorca!) Karl was coaching Real Madrid the year that Fernando Martín died. This 2001 article explains what Karl saw:
Martín hadn't only been the best Spanish player ever. He was also a charismatic figure. "He was like James Dean," Karl recalls. The next evening the body was placed in the arena, and the fans trooped by, late into the night, viewing it...

Real Madrid had a game... At the arena Martín's jersey was draped over his chair. Roses were everywhere. Near the top of the stands... sat the dead man's mother, weeping. Martín's kid brother, Antonio, another player on the team, showed up minutes before tip-off and tearfully assured Karl that he was ready to play. Real Madrid—coach and players and fans [were] shivering with sorrow. The team played abysmally.

Early in the second half, Real Madrid trailed by 19 points. Suddenly Karl's players came alive...In seven minutes they turned the game around... from 19 down to 19 up. Real Madrid coasted from there.

Señora Martín was waving from on high, like Evita from the balcony at the Casa Rosada. In unison the stands cried, "Fernando está aquí." Fernando is here. When the buzzer sounded, Karl collapsed in his seat as the players dashed through the crowd to embrace their dead teammate's mother. "Fernando está aquí. Fernando está aquí." Karl cried. "It was an incredible moment," he says. "There has been nothing like it in my life except the births of my children."

He is sitting in his [Milwaukee] office... Peering out, he seems instead to be looking back to that court in Madrid. Listening. "Fernando está aquí" Karl says softly, shaking his head, marveling at the memory.
A last thing: I played with Fernando's son, Jan, who now plays for the Illescas LEB Oro. (He is a year older than me.) I have his father's jersey with me in Portland and I would like to send it to his family to have this memory of mine.


Of Tim Duncan's Outrage and a Hidden El Conquistador

Many thoughts jump through my mind after taking part in the slam dunk contest. Primary among them is this: El Conquistador was never revealed!

I had reserved my masterpiece of dunking for the final round. This was mistake-prone, as I was not able to ascend to the finals. Perhaps there will be opportunism for it next year?

If you have interests in seeing my efforts, they exist below.

Perhaps there are lessons for me here. But which contain the validity? Here are some recommendations others have offered.

1.) American judges do not comprehend Spanish stylings. My first dunk was a smooth operator (behind-my-back pass bounces off the backboard before a one-handed dunking), but I received the lowest of scores!

Did my Fernando Martín jersey cloud the judges eyes with confusion? Did efficiency make the dunk happen too quickly? Did the judges understand the ascending sequential nature of the numbers 1-10?

(Seeing the replays, announcer Kenny Smith's skepticisms were most unbecoming. Ricky Martin jokes? Meanwhile Reggie Miller was opining that I lost because of "the amateurism of Spain.")

The crowd booed the scorings. I love the crowd. And Tim Duncan had infuriations! He cried out that the fixings had been put into the competition. (He may have been right. Once I understand what he said, I will know better.)

2.) Never trust a Laker. Pau Gasol is a fellow Spaniard. But his passes on my second dunk were variable. Some came from behind Pau’s back! Other passes of his may have worked, so the blame is laid out at my feet. But I trust Pau. His sabotage of my routine was not purposeful.

3.) Sergio cost me, and he must pay. This is a horse I have beaten on before, but for the reiteration: my best friend, fellow Spaniard, and mate Sergio Rodriguez stayed on the sidelines for vacationing instead of on court with me.

Revenge will be plentiful.

My post-dunk video interview is here.


The Day Has Arrived...

...when I unveil El Conquistador!

My hope is that this dunk will be of impeccable execution. If it is not, it is only a missed dunking opportunity.

But if El Conquistador goes hitchless, it could restore Spain to its former glory. You think I go too far? Perhaps. If only I could couple it with the Spinning Majorcan Condor Dunk! (But that has been forbidden.)

A file of audio with my commenting about this event in Spanish and English is here. And here is a walking interview after a slam dunk meeting where I give my confession: "I have a little nervous. Is normal."


Tomorrow, We Dunk

Be wishing me luck, for tomorrow, we dunk.

The hugeness of my challenge looms. I refer to the weather. I come from a warm climate, but there is no preparation for the diabolical heat of Phoenix.

Stepping from our plane, my mate Brandon Roy proclaimed, “Phoenix: It’s dehyd-rific!” Without Sergio here, I will rely on Brandon for quips of this nature. And without Sergio's passing, I shall need the assistance of a non-Blazer tomorrow. Although his touch with the ball is good, the Spaniard I refer to may not be as sympatico to my feeding needs as I would wish.

P.S. Sergio, I would not need his help if you were here. Have amusement while vacationing in San Francisco. ¡Tendrá que pagar!

Posdata final: Tonight, Greg Oden and myself will partake in our third game in as many days: The Rookie Challenge!


Shooting the Records and a Petit Mal

Sergio is a good-humored man, yet it is a rarity to see him having "lost it." But that was the eventuality when he saw this image of Joel Pryzbilla taking a charge last night.

I saw Sergio's shoulders shaking from behind. My belief was that he was having a petit mal. Concerned, I came and saw tears on his face. Amazed, I saw his infection of laughter! When asked what was so funny, he could only point to the photo. It is amusing, yet Sergio's chuckles now bordered on the hysteria.

After my thinking was that he had regained his senses, I asked what all the comedy was about. This only set him off again! Go on and figure it.

In more sensible news, our friend, Jose Calderon, recently missed his first free throw after 87 consecutive makes. This was only 10 short of the all-time NBA record. ¡Felicidades!

As for me, my sinking of a 3-pointer in 29 straight games has made a match of the rookie record for these shots. (This locks me in a tie with Chicago's Kirk Hinrich back in 2003-04.)

Adición: The news of the good is that I did break the rookie record last night in our match against the Warriors. The news of the unfortunate is that we lost the game.

A Final Observation: Despite his stalwart appearance, Corey Maggette apparently has hollow bones! There is no other explanation for how dramatically he plummets to the ground after the lightest of touches. Without calcium supplements, a compounded fracture is in his near future.


No More Matador Ideas, Por Favor

There has been a multitude of dunk suggestions, and while I am in appreciation, please: No more matador outfits.

Another notion that has furrowed my Iberian brow is in the Willamette Week. It contains three illustrated vignettes by Casey Jarman and Jonathan Hill. This particular one is an exercise in perplexity:

Five gorgeous female fans are lined along Rudy’s path to the hoop.

He makes out with the first girl as his body splits in two.

Ghost-Rudy perfects a 540-degree no-look dunk while the physical Rudy continues smooching.

The universe implodes.

First, Cristina Fernandez (my girlfriend) frowns on this for reasons of obviousness. Her disapproval of Ghost-Rudy is well known.

Second, why are five girls congregated when my contact is with only one? This is not the sustainable practice Portland is known for.

Finally, Sergio points out that the implosion of all matter should be delayed until after determinations of the dunking contest winner.

Other than that, I like it. (But Ghost-Rudy I can not speak for.)


Contested Changes

There is changing in the line-up for the slam dunk competitiveness. Rudy Gay is mostly injured and cannot participate. So J.R. Smith of the Denver Nuggets is doing the replacing.

No acquaintance has been made between the new dunker and myself. But my mate Jerryd Bayless gave a gasp when he heard this news. He had a reminiscence of J.R. Smith from an earlier NBA slam dunk competition.

"I remember seeing J.R. jump, wrap the ball around his body and he switched hands twice before slamming!" Jerryd enthused.

This is not helpfulness.

I remind Jerryd that his new nickname is "Turtle." This stops his J.R. Smith exultation. 

As for me, while I have seen more intimidating things than Jerryd's description, they are not plentiful.

Yogurt and the Internet

Sergio and I practice together. We call plays together. (Although not always the same one!) And now, we also are Ceremonial Masters together.

Last night, Sergio and myself presented honorifics at the Oregon Sports Awards. From the podium, we named provincial athletes and they came forward to applause.

Sergio is most natural in this role of the Ceremonial Master. He joked, teased me, and told tales of his homeland in the Canary Islands. Many Americans have odd views of this archipelago. Sergio explained that his home is named for its dogs, the islands' canines, not for little birds.

The raptness of his listeners led Sergio to his joking ways. He said that yogurt and the Internet were invented in the Canary Islands. (I know this not to be true, as both come from Wallachia.)

But the provincial audience seemed to enjoy his chat. If we are invited back next year, perhaps I can be informing them of the wonders of my home in Majorca. There, all children can easily dance the Flamenco, the Merengue, the Salsa, the Mambo, the Cha-cha-cha, and the Rumba.

If a child is not proficient in these, we exile him to the Canary Islands.

Oh, a zinger for Sergio!


Sergio and the Monks

Making mockery of Sergio's hair is an enjoyable activity. This is not cruel! He is my best friend. But some people never seem to have a good haircut. And Sergio is one of these.

But the NBA has worse examples of the hair. Joel Pryzbilla calls Drew Gooden of the Bulls "Recede Wallace." I do not know what he calls the beard. (Greg Oden says that Gooden "has the face of a satirical rogue.")

Gooden came by his hairlessness naturally, unlike the five Monks. You know the Monks? They donned black monk robes and formed a band in the 1960s. They were so popular in Germany and Spain, I heard them on the radio in Majorca. Here, these Monks display "tonsures." That is the word for a haircut where only the top is shaved. This is a haircut I now enthusiastically encourage Sergio to try.

If you are not familiar with the Monks, it is fixable. Each Trail Blazer gets to select music for home games. My turn awaits. Soon, when my mates take the floor at the Rose Garden, the Monks will blare. It will be their song, “Monk Time." It is from their album, Black Monk Time. First, there is the sound of feedback and a banjo. Then. the words:

All right, my name's Gary.
Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's Monk time now!

It is my hope that the Monks will inspire our victory. It is also my hope that Sergio will have a tonsure for this celebration.