What better way to start writing my closure blog concluding my second season in Italy than on a six-hour bus ride in route to our last game. As I try to sit comfortably with my two pillows (one underneath me and the other against my back separating me from the bus window), my neck pillow and earphones on listening to my ipod. This would be the perfect time to look back and reflect on everything (good and bad) that has transpired over the last 7 months. One thing I haven’t done this time around compared to my first season in Italy was keeping everybody up to date with the progression of my season. Well allow me to take care of that in the next couple paragraphs.
A lot of people didn’t know this but for the last two months I’ve been playing on a different team here in Italy. I was caught off guard when I received the news that Montegranaro was going to release me. Obviously I wasn’t too pleased about that and I decided to wait until now to give my opinion on the situation because I didn’t want my initial reaction of resentment towards them to make me say something I didn’t truly mean at heart. Prior to the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the head coach (Palistrini) wanted me to surrendered and take a lesser role on the team. Believing at the end of the season it would be beneficial and worth the sacrificed for the team and me, I accepted it. But when the team reached a difficult stretch of the season, I was release because the coach felt I didn’t fit the system all of a sudden now. What I felt he was trying to do was use me as a distraction from the real problem the team was having. And that problem was the failure of the coaching staff to execute and make adjustments as the season progressed. I admit my performance was up and down at times, but everybody on the team was too. I’m not the type of player top point fingers, but when the coach isn’t playing you enough minutes and constantly not using you to your strength every game, then inconsistency will starts to occur. If you know my game or seen me play before, you know I am not a selfish basketball player on the court. Sometime to a fault, I put the team ahead of myself too much. More than not it works out for the good, but then when it doesn’t I’m left thinking I should of just been selfish like other players are. Soon I will come to find out they did me a huge favor.
So with Montegranaro releasing me I was left with two choices: 1) Go back home to the states or 2) Go play for another team (that’s if somebody wanted to sign me). Believe me, the first option was very, very, very enticing. Think about it, I could have gone home to America and started my off-season two months earlier; more time my friends, family and daughter. Can’t beat that right? But with some heavy convincing from various people, I decided to suck it up (no homo) and stay in Italy and play for a team in the second division. I pictured it like this, I didn’t want people last memory of me in Italy to be that I cut from Montegranaro (regardless if it was deserving or not). When trying to find a new team to play with next year, teams would see right next to my name when looking at my body of work last season that it will say released. Most teams would assume that I must have been doing something wrong to get cut. So that was the main reason why I stayed, I had to go out there and vindicate my name and prove my worth again.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and I was very fortunate that I was able to go to a team that was willing to let me play freely in every way possible. MarcoPoloShop.it Forli (my latest team) wasn’t in the best shape prior to me arriving there. They were dead last in the league and were on a 10 game losing streak. Let me remind you that teams here only play one game a week, so the losing streak spanned over two months. In a way you could say that I went to a worse situation than where I just came from. With only nine games remaining in the season, my main objective was to help save the team from getting sent down (In Italy the last 2 teams in every division gets sent down while the top 2 teams move up) to the 3rd division. A challenged I was willing to accept and use to my advantage. And in those 9 games we went 8-1, beating the best team (record wise) in the league and many other teams that are in the top 8 of the standings as well. We jumped four spots (16th to 12th) and missed the playoffs by only two games. We were arguably the best team in the league.
Just in case you were wondering what happen with Montegranaro after I left, the losing continued (2-9) which inevitably lead to the dismissal of the head coach Stefano Palistrini with three games remaining in the season. I guess him system just wasn’t fit for the team it seems. When I heard the news of his firing, you better believe I celebrating just like most Americans were when they heard Osama died. I don’t know if he had the final say so on pulling the plug on me there, but he’s the head coach and controlled how much I was involved on the court. I wasn’t surprised that they kept losing; changing the color of the car isn’t going to fix the engine will it? Now looking back, the switch ended up being the best thing that could of happened for me. I ended up getting a coach that understood and let me do what I want to help the team win in every possible way. So there was somewhat of a happy ending to this season after all. I’m proud in myself that I stayed and toughed it out here in Italy when I could of easily folded. I helped save a team season but at the same time validate and prove that I help teams win not lose. And now this will be the last thing they remember here in Italy about me; mission accomplished.
After three flights totaling 16 hours in the air, I am now finally home. The next three and a half months I’m going to have to make the most out of, I have so many things to do with so little time. I’ve been through a lot here mentally and physically. Since September 2009 I spent the next 18 out of 21 months in Italy. I already know what some you all are thinking, “Your seeing the world and doing something you love”. True, but at what sacrificed? Being separated from every single person in your life that you care about. This isn’t a vacation for me either; we would be lucky to get 2 days off in a row during the season. There’s really no time for sight seeing and traveling all over Europe like you would think. On another note, I still haven’t picked up on the Italian language; I was being lazy once again. I do know about 20-30 words and phrases but that’s it. I do hope the third time is the charm for me, we shall see what happens. And for the second year in a row I have made many good friends in Montegranaro, Forli and all over Italy this year. I have made some great memories in Italy that I will never forget. Regardless if I met you at the beginning or towards the end of my stay here in Italy, I am very pleased to have met you all. What’s next up for me? My annual road trip (2 or 3 days) from LA to Seattle, I convinced some friends of mines to make the drive with me so it should be fun. Don’t miss me too much Italy. As bad as I need a break from you, I know you need a break from me too. Until next time…