Oct 13 - Final Thoughts on Rio
7:00pm: We landed at Dulles International Airport early this morning, where the rain was coming down hard. Maybe it was a sign that we were not in Rio anymore and our trip was over. We didn't see a raindrop or anything other than perfect weather during our four-day stay in southeast Brazil. But, the trip is over and now it's time to get back to work as the Wizards will practice at Verizon Center tomorrow at 11am.
The team came up just short of a win Saturday night, but I think that's the least of their concerns. Randy Wittman has often eluded that it's not about wins and losses in the preseason, but how the team plays. There were some good things we saw Saturday night, but also some areas the team still needs to work through so luckily there are still five more preseason games with the next coming Tuesday night vs. the Heat.
Overall, the trip was great and the team really enjoyed it. Everyone had nothing but positive things to say about the city and everything they did while there. It was tiring at times with such a busy schedule, but it was worth it to see another culture and experience a new country.
Thanks for following the blog all week!
Oct 12 - Gameday!
7:15pm: We've reached the half here in Rio, with the Wizards trailing the Bulls 44-35.
After a slow start (2/13 shooting), the Wizards made a nice little run at the end of the first quarter and into the start of the second, led by Martell Webster and his four-point plays. He converted one of them and had a chance for two, but failed to convert the free-throw. He leads the team with 11 points at the half. Bradley Beal was the other bright spot for the Wizards in the first half, he has nine points on 3/6 shooting. Nene has three points and five rebounds, while John Wall has been held without a field goal and has one point, three rebounds, and two assists.
As I mentioned earlier, we need to leave right after the game for a flight back to DC, so I'll head to get some postgame interviews and probably provide a recap of the game and the trip on Sunday from DC.
G-Man performing here in Rio at halftime
6:15pm: Checking in just behind one of the baskets at HSBC Arena as basketball is underway!
Here's a preview of the game from Dave and Glenn:
We're battling many technology issues down here, but I'll try and get a quick halftime update before we lose power. We have to jet out right after the game, so if I can't get a recap up, look for photos and postgame videos on WashingtonWizards.com & MonumentalNetwork.com.
I'll put a bow on this blog tomorrow when we get back to DC.
12:30pm: After a few days of practices, clinics, sightseeing, and taking in this beautiful city, the real reason we came was for tonight's preseason game vs. the Bulls.
Tip-off is set for 5pm ET and the game can be seen on NBATV (in the DC area as well, I know there was confusion on this issue Tuesday night.) You can also listen to Dave Johnson and Glenn Consor call the game on 1500 AM or online here.
The atmosphere should be a lot of fun as the fans here have been waiting for this game for a long time and this will be the first ever NBA game in Brazil.
We'll check back in from the arena later on this evening.
October 11th - Wizards Hold Practice, Then Take in Sights
11:30pm: The days are flying by here in Rio as we have now wrapped up three full days here in this beautiful city. The day was filled with more action, starting off with practice back at our Wednesday site at Flamengo's training grounds.
Check out some highlights from practice:
It was another high intensity practice with some physical play and a lot of 5x5 action. The coaches are making sure the guys know that even though we are here in Brazil, it's not a vacation and there is business to take care of. The players have responded well and seem to understand the mix of business and pleasure here in Rio.
After practice, Nene was swarmed by more media members but I guess we've gotten used to seeing it by now. He did take time to thank the security team that was on site, which was another nice gesture from the native Brazilian.
We heard from Randy Wittman, John Wall, Trevor Booker, and Al Harrington who all gave rave reviews about the trip up to this point. The only real news item from the day was on Book's knee, which sounded encouraging as both he and Witt seemed to think that if everything feels good on Saturday he could see some game-action for the first time this preseason.
After the media session was complete, the team split up into two groups, with one going with Nene to Favela Alemao & the other going to Christ the Redeemer. This means that our media crew out here split up as well to give you some coverage of both.
I went with Nene to the favela which was quite an experience.
Favela translates to "shanty town" in English and the village that we went to would certainly qualify. At first, Nene was joined by his teammates and some of the Wizards assistant coaches as they ran a clinic for the children of the favela.
They first split the kids into three stations where the players taught them fundamentals of basketball. Next, they setup a relay where the kids would dribble down the court and tag a Wizards player and then dribble back.
If you notice in the video with the kids running how some don't have any footwear. There were many kids without sneakers and others in flip-flops. That really demonstrated the economic backgrounds some of these kids were coming from.
Nene could not have handled the event any better as he was the center of attention throughout the day. The kids gravitated to him and he embraced it, from teaching them basketball drills, signing autographs, posing for pictures, and talking with them about life in their native Portuguese, he was outstanding.
I actually saw a piece from the event on ESPN Brasil tonight and saw one of the kids moved to tears while hugging him. I couldn't make out the Portuguese, but the point was made. It's just amazing to see the impact these players have on kids lives all around the world.
The event did not end there, while Nene stayed back to sign autographs for every kid and conduct media interviews for every outlet, the rest of the team and the staff went on a walking tour through the favela.
What you normally would only see on TV or in movies was put into real life as we saw first-hand what life looks like in the favelas of Rio. The streets were narrow, the houses were stacked on top of one another, and many children walked barefoot. The players really took in the moment and were very observant of all the surroundings. As we continued on, children began to join our walking group and seemed to be in awe of the athletes.
NBA Entertainment should have some video from the walk and NBA Photos should also be coming soon.
The other group went to Christ the Redeemer and from all accounts really enjoyed that trip as well.
At the top of the blog you can see John Wall at this landmark of Rio talking about his experience up there.
After a full day, the NBA held a welcome reception for all of the NBA folks down here including all of the Wizards and Bulls players.
Stay tuned for some photos and video from that event as well.
Now we prepare for the main event, #WizBulls in Rio! We'll be back on Saturday for coverage from HSBC Arena.
11:30am: We are back at Flamengo's training grounds here in Rio for another Wizards practice, their last before tomorrow night's preseason game vs. the Bulls at HSBC Arena. There is a business-like feel to the trip now, everyone can sense that their is a game to be played tomorrow night and this isn't just a four day vacation. The players and coaches are showing even more intensity to show just that.
After practice, Nene is supposed to host another clinic in a more rural area of the country so we hope to have some coverage from that coming to you later in the day.
October 10th - Wizards Have Action-Packed Day at HSBC Arena
11:30pm: What an action-packed day we had today in Rio, which consisted of a practice, an NBA Cares event, a Skills Competition, a team dinner, a soccer match, and some long bus rides.
We last checked in just before the skills competition took place, but lets recap the day up until that part.
We took a bus ride over the HSBC Arena this morning to practice at the site where Saturday's #WizBulls game will be held. The arena was nice and filled with promotions for the big game Saturday night.
Today's practice was far more intense than yesterdays, as the team went live on some more 5x5 drills.
After a good hard practice, the arena was open to the media, where once again Nene was the center of attention. He did most of his interviews in Portuguese for local media, as you can see here:
Once he wrapped up all of his Portuguese interviews, he did also conduct an English version, where he spoke about what all of this has been like so far:
We also heard from John Wall who spoke more about the country of Brazil:
Then Kevin Seraphin organized a quick photo with some of his teammates:
After the media session was over, the team went to grab some lunch in a hospitality room that also had an XBox and ping pong tables set up.
While the team relaxed for a bit, some of the players were involved in an NBA Cares event on the main floor. Nene led the clinic for special needs children, instructing the kids in Portuguese and getting help from his teammates.
Here are some video clips from the event, with some more footage coming soon...
The event was a huge success and left everyone with smiles on their faces.
The smiles didn't end there, because right after the event more kids were invited into HSBC Arena for Fan Appreciation Day. This was another outstanding event and a real showcase featuring the two teams involved down here in Rio (Wizards & Bulls).
First G-Wiz & Benny the Bull came out to perform some antics at half-court, followed by a performance from the Wizard Girls.
Then the teams were introduced, anchored by Nene who drew the loudest ovation of the afternoon. The kids continued to chant his name as he waved to everyone on his way to the bench.
The event was broken down into three competitions; a three-point shooting contest, a skills challenge, and a half court competition. The cool part about the event was that they let kids participate in all three events with the players, making it a truly interactive experience for some of the audience members. Some of the kids even outperformed their NBA counterparts in a few events. The mood was loose and the guys were all having a great time with all of the activities. Stay tuned for video.
The funniest part may have been Martell Webster's impromptu dance with G-Man and a little kid at center court. We've come to know Webster is never one to shy away from these kind of moments.
After the skills challenge was over, the teams were sent off to loud cheers and then G-Man & the Secret Service Dunkers came out to cap off the event. The kids were just as loud for them as they were the NBA players.
It really was a great showcase of the NBA and based on the sounds from the audience, I think they were pleased.
We then left HSBC Arena and went back to the hotel. The team held a late dinner, but I made my way over to Maracana Stadium to watch Flamengo play Internacional. One of those "when in Rio" type events that we just couldn't pass up. Monumental Network's Jumoke Davis & Dave Johnson set up the trip and will have a very special version of Monumental FC coming soon. It was a crazy scene and I can't wait to see the footage on the show! Flamengo ended up winning 2-1, for those interested.
This picture serves a few purposes, most notably the great Dave Johnson in the foreground watching the match. But if you look closely you can see Derrick Rose in the background as he and most of the Chicago Bulls actually showed up to take in the match. Also notice that mass of red in the background where about 80% of the fans were sitting. This is where all of the noise came from, as the other side of the stadium was almost completely empty. For a stadium being about 25% full, the noise was deafening from these crazy fans.
That was it for day two of the trip, we have a lot planned for Friday so stay tuned for more coverage from Rio.
3:45pm: Still at HSBC as the day full of festivities continue on. We just wrapped up an NBA Cares event, where John Wall, Bradley Beal, Al Harrington, Martell Webster, & Otto Porter joined Nene to help teach special needs children the fundamentals of basketball. Nene had the mic and led drills in Portuguese while the English speaking players did their best to follow along. Some words translate easy and they were able to demonstrate a few of the drills to get over the language barrier.
Now the fans have been let into the building for a special skills challenge which will feature players from both the Wizards and the Bulls. Should be a lot of fun and hope to have some video of it later on tonight.
Stay tuned for more...
11:30am: We're back for day two of the Brazil trip. We just arrived at HSBC Arena, which will be the site of the #WizBulls game on Saturday night. My first impression of the place is pretty nice, it's not Verizon Center but it has a nice feel to it and there is signage all over the arena and court promoting this game. I forgot to mention this yesterday, but while watching the local sports channels last night I must have seen 50 commercials promoting this event. It really feels like this is a huge deal down here, which is great for the NBA.
The players are watching film and should be coming out to practice any minute from now, we'll have more from the arena later on.
October 9th - Wizards Arrive in Rio, Nene Causes Media Frenzy
11:00pm: We've been in Rio for about 12 hours now and have already experienced so much. Check out these sweet photos from our team photographer Ned Dishman for proof!
With last night's game taking us into overtime and a lengthy bus ride to the hotel, we were on a tight schedule today. We had just enough time to check in, eat, change, and head to the team photo with a picturesque backdrop of Sugarloaf Mountain.
From the team photo, we went straight to practice at the home of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo. Hundreds of media members were awaiting our arrival and once entering the facility they swarmed the most wanted man in the country; Nene.
Watching the media scramble to Nene's final landing spot was humorous, but if you've been waiting years to get an interview with the country's most famous NBA star it's not surprising to see the excitement from the local press.
It actually was great to see Nene back in his home country and being treated with such high respect.
As Bradley Beal put it, "It was like a God walked through the gym" referring to Nene's entrance.
Nene answered most of the questions in his first language of Portuguese, which had to be a nice change of pace for the Brazilian. Being that I'm still trying to learn "hello" and "thank you" in the language, I can't tell you everything he said, but if it was like his English answers then it probably was along the lines of how happy he is to be back in Brazil and how he is grateful for this opportunity.
There was definitely a glow on his face at practice and you could tell that he really was moved by all of the attention from the media and then the fans waiting for him outside.
As for practice itself, not too much to report on from that front. It was a very light practice that would be considered a "non-contact" session. A lot of shooting drills, some fundamentals, and three-man weave type drills. After an overtime game and a ten hour flight, it's understandable to see a lighter practice. We'll see what's in store for Thursday's session, which is supposed to be at HSBC Arena, where the Wizards will play the Bulls on Saturday.
After practice, we returned to the hotel, had some dinner, and caught some of the Cardinals-Pirates game on ESPN Brasil, which is of course in Portuguese. Still was entertaining to watch.
We have a practice, clinics, and some more behind-the-scenes stuff scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday) so stay tuned for more coverage throughout the day and a recap tomorrow night. Also be sure to check out Press Row right here on Monumental Network on Thursday at 3pm for a report from Rio with Dave Johnson, Glenn Consor, Casey Phillips, and I.
4:10pm: Just checking in from the practice court here at the home of Clube de Regatas do Flamengo. Media availability was held prior to practice and what a crazy scene that was. Hundreds of media members are here to cover the Wizards, with the emphasis obviously on Nene. He was swarmed by reporters, cameras, and cell phones as he sat underneath one of the hoops to take questions.
The rest of the team had to take their fair share of a media blitz as well, but nothing compared to the Nene scene.
Prior to coming to practice, the team made a stop right in front of Sugarloaf Mountain for a team photo. A picturesque setting made for a great team photo
We'll have plenty of more photos and video from the day later, but for now the team continues to practice in this new setting.
Wizards arrive at practice:
2:15pm: We've made it! We just checked in at our hotel and grabbed a quick lunch with practice scheduled for 3pm (Rio time, 1 hour ahead of DC). Check out some shots from the Wizards Instagram below to see how the trip unfolded up to this point.
The ride from the airport to the hotel was lengthy, but a good portion of it was scenic and there were some interesting things I took note of. Most notably the people who stand in the middle of the highway selling some kind of snacks to the vehicles passing by. I've seen people sell goods at traffic lights or at intersections in the states, but never just in the middle of the highway. They are able to do this because of all the traffic. Most of the cars never really get over 25mph so although it looked a little dangerous, it wouldn't be like standing in the middle of the beltway.
Here's a picture of one of the vendors:
I'll be back later tonight with an update from practice and should have a team photo from the venue. Be sure to check out Daily Wizdom for more coverage from Brazil from the Wizards radio team of Dave Johnson and Glenn Consor!
12:45am: We are on board and ready to take off for Rio!
I'll be providing daily updates from Brazil so stay tuned for plenty of coverage right here on Monumental Network!