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Wolves: A taste of culture where Europe meets Asia

  • October 2, 2007 - 1:25 AM

New Timberwolves forward Ryan Gomes, a third-year forward acquired from Boston in the Kevin Garnett trade, will offer a daily diary during the team's 10-day training camp trip to Istanbul and London. On Monday, he chatted with Star Tribune beat writer Jerry Zgoda by telephone about the 12-hour overnight flight from Minneapolis on Saturday, the four practices the Wolves have held in Istanbul so far and the team's five-star digs at the Ciragan Palace Hotel, a restored Ottoman palace on the Bosporus, a strait that separates Europe from Asia.

"Our hotel is like staying in a castle. It reminds me of reading about the ancient times of Western civilization back when I was in school. You can see the river from our rooms, and you can sit out on the balcony and watch all the boats going back and forth [from one continent to the other].

"We haven't had any time to do any sightseeing yet, but you see so much just from our bus when we go to practice twice a day. It took us an hour to get to the arena this morning because there was a car turned upside down in one lane of a two-lane highway. Istanbul traffic is even worse than Boston traffic is."

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"We haven't met too many of the Turkish people yet, but it's Ramadan here and in the morning you can hear the call to prayers. It just echoes. It's nothing like anything I've ever heard before."

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"This place is pretty amazing, but we're here on business first. We flew here all night, and nobody really felt like practicing, but we did when we arrived here on Sunday and it was a good way to deal with the jet lag. I'm feeling good now. You just ice up your knees and drink a lot of fluids.

"You can already see we're going to be very athletic and very up-tempo. We've got some bigs who can score down low, and we've got some defensive bigs -- Juwan [Howard] and Theo [Ratliff] -- who can protect around the basket. People around the league are going to be surprised. We have a lot of quality players on this team."

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"This trip might be good for us. We've got so many people who are new to each other, and we're seeing each other each and every day. It's not like we're in Minnesota and everybody just goes home after practice. We're going to get to know each other a little bit quicker than we would have otherwise. We're spending all day together, eating three meals a day together.

"And it's good food, too: Fresh fruit, grilled chicken, fish, pasta. I think it gets two thumbs up compared to what we might have expected."

Camp update

• Second-year forward Craig Smith is no longer wearing a boot to protect an ankle sprained during workouts last week. He worked on the side with team trainers during Monday's two practices. Wolves coach Randy Wittman said Smith is making "good progress" and might be able to participate in team conditioning when the Wolves reach London next week.

• Istanbul is a new experience for every Timberwolf except Randy Foye, who played there in the World University Games when he was at Villanova. "I think we practiced in this gym before," he said. "The guys joked that it's why my jump shot was falling."

JERRY ZGODA

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