So this is how it often goes in the Vegas Summer League, and probably the Orlando Summer League, too: Guy clanks three or four off the rim; guy gets dunked on, or guy doesn’t get back on defense, or guy throws a lob pass into the media section when guy should have thrown a chest pass.
After scattering, people in the media section write on Twitter they hope guy enjoys Istanbul.
Istanbul is a massive city in Turkey, with tons of history that people from all over the world come to experience. Domes and arches abound in Istanbul, some dating to the fourth century. There’s also a pro basketball league based there, where guys who clank shots off rims during summertime often wind up.
So though the Turkish Basketball League was ranked No. 5 a couple of years ago among the top alternative pro hoops circuits — and Kobe was talking about playing there during the 2011 lockout — people in the media section still poke fun at it.
Playing pro ball in Turkey has become the punchline of a joke. It’s sort of like singing or playing the guitar in Branson, Mo., or at the Star of the Desert Arena out at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm. Only the guys who clank shots are much younger than, say, Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx.
Remember Wink Adams, the former UNLV shooting star with the toothy grin? A couple of years ago, the Winkster played (very little) summer ball with the Knicks. So he went to Turkey and averaged 11.4 points for Oyak Renault in the industrialized city of Bursa.
When we last talked, the Winkster was parking cars at Findlay Toyota.
“They expect every American to play like LeBron and Kobe,” he said. “They expect you to score.”
Wink said he saw young Turks in the streets when he was over there. Some were touting rifles. He felt pressure not to clank shots, for whatever reason.
This past season, Game 7 of the TBL finals between the soccer-centric sides of Galatasaray and Fenerbahce was never played. Galatasaray forfeited. Team officials apparently were upset that Fenerbahce was fined only 40,000 Turkish Liras for something that had transpired at the end of Game 5 (Turkish news accounts were sketchy.) Apparently, they wanted Fenerbahce banned altogether for the something that had transpired.
All of this was revealed at short notice, after a big crowd already had filed through the turnstiles at Fenerbahce’s modern 13,800-seat arena.
The Galatasaray chairman accused Turkish Basketball Federation officials of “being the puppets of dark circles.” Which is what fans in Cleveland used to say about LeBron.
On Monday, while the Summer League Knicks and Bobcats were clanking shots off rims, I met the Fenerbahce general manager on the Cox Pavilion concourse. He didn’t come off as a puppet in a dark circle. He came off as a nice man who wears glasses and speaks with an Italian accent.
Maurizio Gherardini was once a star in Italy’s pro league, and an assistant GM (or similar) with the Bobcats, Raptors and Thunder. In 2003 he interviewed for the Charlotte GM job that went to Bernie Bickerstaff.
So now Gherardini is in Istanbul, and yes, he’s enjoying it. Even if there are forfeits during the finals.
“It’s the league with the most potential, the most resources and probably the biggest names in (overseas) basketball today,” he said. “Things are changing. A lot of different clubs are investing in basketball. Turkey is one of the top leagues by far.”
Guys who play ball in Turkey can make north of $15,000 a month — way north, Gherardini said — and have apartments and cars paid for. At least when the team is winning.
There are many reports about guys not getting paid when the team isn’t winning. But Gherardini said those, like clanked shots, are getting fewer.
“I think more and more the organizations are getting structured in a professional way,” he said.
Guys who play for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA D-League do not make north of $15,000, even when the team is winning and selling out the armory. They often sleep two to a room at the Best Western on the edge of town, and a lot of times the Coke machine only accepts correct change.
On the positive side, if you get stuck clanking shots in the Dakotas and don’t have change for a dollar, there’s only the slimmest of chances you will witness the coach chopping off the head of a goat when the team is mired in a losing streak.
In 2011, Sports Illustrated told about a former Rhode Island star named Jimmy Baron, whose Turkish coach promised heads would roll if the team didn’t end its losing streak. And then a head did roll, a goat’s head, and the Turkish players anointed themselves with the blood, at least according to Jimmy Baron.
Baron said he was unnerved by these ancient Turkish customs, but I suppose it all depends on from which direction you’re coming.
Say, for instance, the Turkish import Hedo Turkoglu took a wrong turn leaving Staples Center one night, or United Center in Chicago. He easily could find himself in neighborhoods where the sacrificing of goat heads would seem entirely less frightening.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski