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 Wednesday, he chatted with Star Tribune beat writer Jerry Zgoda by telephone about a rare one-practice day and some time spent with some impressionable young Turkish basketball fans, among other things.
The coaches let us have a break here in the middle of training camp and gave us the rest of the day off after practice Wednesday morning. In the afternoon, Theo Ratliff, Fred Hoiberg and I dedicated a new outdoor basketball court at an Istanbul school. B.J. Armstrong, who used to play in the league, was there representing the NBA, too.
We felt like rock stars because the kids were so excited to be around NBA players. They didn't want your autograph. They just wanted to high-five you and they wanted to be around you. The people here know Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur (Turkish players in the NBA), but they're not used to seeing NBA players every day, face to face.
There were about 100 kids ages 10 to 12 -- and maybe another 100 or more watched from the other side of a fence ---I think they were just thrilled to see NBA players on the same grounds that they are each and every day. They were so happy; it's nice as an NBA player to be able to [inspire] so many smiles on faces just by being there. They asked our names and we asked for theirs.
Some of the kids looked at me and called me a giant. They think I'm tall. I told them there are players much, much taller than me. They should meet Yao Ming.
It was my first time really being out in Turkey and experiencing the environment a little bit. Maybe Friday we'll be able to get out and do a little more sightseeing. Some of the guys brought camcorders and digital cameras with them and are shooting video out of the window of our bus when we stop in traffic in front of a great, old building or something. I just have the camera in my cell phone and all these memories left in my head for the years to come.
camp update By JERRY ZGODA
Wolves coach Randy Wittman on his decision to practice only once -- for two hours and 45 minutes -- on Wednesday: "You can tell we're reaching a point of soreness and fatigue setting in. Their effort has been wonderful. Now, it's a matter of keeping fatigue out of our minds."
Guard Rashad McCants returned to practice Wednesday morning after missing Tuesday's evening workout and participated in warmups and drills but did not scrimmage with his teammates because of continued soreness in his hamstring. "We don't want to let it become a strain or a nagging injury," Wittman said.
Veteran center Theo Ratliff, returning from January back surgery, practiced fully Wednesday after missing Tuesday's evening practice because of a stiff back.
The Wolves had moved Tuesday to a practice facility closer to their luxury hotel -- a former Ottoman palace -- on the Bosphorus River to save themselves a one-way, hour commute, but battled traffic again on Wednesday after rookie Chris Richard tore down a rim Tuesday evening. Now that it's fixed, the Wolves likely will save themselves some time and return to the other gym for today's second practice.
Wittman has praised newly acquired Greg Buckner's leadership already, but at 31 the defensive specialist mostly is feeling old after four days of camp in Turkey. "Bad, very bad," he said when asked how he felt. "No matter how much you work out in the summer, you never come in and get ready for training camp. They always kill you."
Buckner also is taking a wait-and-see approach before lauding the remade Timberwolves' talent. "You never know until you play against somebody else," he said after Wednesday's morning practice. "Right now, we all know each other's plays and we cheat on the plays. We won't know until the middle of October when we get back to the States and play some teams."
Wittman chatted with new forward Al Jefferson on Tuesday about being more aggressive in practice. "Al was much better about that today," Wittman said Wednesday night from Istanbul.
Saturday's exhibition opener against the Turkish team Efes Pilsen Istanbul will be shown tape delayed at 4:30 p.m. on NBA TV. Wednesday's game against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics in London will be shown live by ESPN2 at 1:30 p.m.