Welcome to Bobby’s World, my all-purpose, thought-provoking blog where I write whatever crazy topic comes to my mind. It’s been awhile since my last post, but I have a pretty good reason: I’ve been preoccupied and investing all my energy into a couple of passion projects, principally promoting and shopping my movie around and finishing a book. Ill get to those more later; let’s hop right into it this entry.
We are a little over the midway point of my 6th season playing overseas. I finally decided to take some time out and talk about the first half of the season - update you regarding how my team has been performing and how I’m doing individually.
Here we go again…
Of my last 3 seasons in Italy, I have never been on a top-5 budget team and also not expected to make the playoffs. But for those last 3 seasons, my teams have always made the playoffs and have advanced either to the semi-finals (once) or made the finals (twice). So to begin the 2014-15 season, the Italian newspapers, websites, and all the basketball “experts” projected my team -- Virtus Roma -- to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season. Something I wasn’t really too surprised to hear, nonetheless I was still a little disappointed.
You see the formula these “experts” use in the preseason to rank the supposedly playoff-bound teams is a very predictable one: They look at the teams’ budgets. From that starting point, they then rank each team’s potential. It isn’t a totally bad strategy but at the same time it’s a little flawed, predictable, and just plain lazy. Instead I would think they would actually analyze each team in greater, assessing each player, each coach, each team style and system. Somehow they neglect to identify that some guys are just winners (like me) and no matter what, they always seem to find a way to lead their teams to the playoffs. But hey what do I know? I’m just a guy who has played on virtually every credible level of the basketball in world. I’m not going to lie -- this will probably be the most challenging season to make the playoffs because our team is so young and inexperienced. Regardless, I’m pretty confident in my team and positive that we will make the playoffs and prove all the naysayers wrong yet again… for the 4th time.
My role on the team
We have two guys on our team this season who are only a year removed from college and another who is just two years out. Everyone else on the team (other than me) is between the ages of 23 and 27. So that means for the first time in my basketball career, I’m the oldest player on the team. I thought I had another season or two to prepare for this day but it just wasn’t in the cards I suppose. Honestly I knew this day would come if I kept playing long enough, but then again no basketball player wants to be the oldest dude on the team. I mean I’m still trying to deal with these gray hairs that keep popping up in my beard and whether or not to pull them out or just begin to age gracefully and prepare myself for my inevitable “silver fox” phase. What’s also funny is that guys on the team sometimes call me “OG” (Original Gangster). It’s someone who has been around, old school gangster. Obviously I’m not a gangster so just take away the first part of the definition. At first I wasn’t sure I liked the nickname, but it has grown on me. I take it in a positive way now – a sign of respect.
The other things that comes along with being “the oldest” which of course means “the wisest” are a set of responsibilities that I’ve never had take on or worry about when I was a younger. For instance, ordinarily I’m not a huge talker/motivational speaker. I now have to be the guy who’s looked upon to inspire the team everyday at practice and in tight games. For most of my basketball career, I was able to just let my play on the court speak for itself. I worked hard to be the spark plug/inspiration, hoping that my teammates would then follow suit. I’ve always found it annoying to be the vocal guy always talking and trying to coach, correct and call people out when they weren’t putting their best foot forward. It just has never been in my personality. I do understand now that I have tons of basketball knowledge and experience that the younger guys would greatly benefit from and so I started to do just that. It’s still a process for me, however, to try to do something I’ve never really embraced before.
How I’m playing
I’m probably having my best season since moving overseas, which in a way sucks because I really do want to retire so badly. I’m at the point of my career where after each season concludes and I’m back in the states for my off-season, I start to reevaluate my life very closely and decide what is best for my daughter and me. Do I really need another season to save up more $$$ while at the same time beginning to work on my transition into my 2nd career back in the states? I must have a concrete plan to leave the game that has given me so much. I guess you can say I’m having my mid-life crisis a little bit earlier than expected. Basketball is all I have known so far in my life and I know that in the end it will make up only about a small portion of my entire life. But right now, it’s still the majority so it’s hard just coming to grips with that. Had to vent a little bit. Now that that’s over, let’s get back to my season.
If you watched or played basketball long enough, you should know that there are a couple of variables you need to have in your favor to thrive on the court. First, you have to have a coach who lets you play to your strengths and has great faith in you. Second, which kinds of piggybacks off the first, you have to be in the right system. Third, if given the opportunity to do your thing, now it’s up to you to perform and win. This season I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of the main options on offense for our team, but that still doesn’t mean I’m shooting the ball a lot because that has never been my game. What it means is that I can control the game better and manage what our team needs throughout the game. I can be more aggressive in certain areas of the game when my team needs me and be more of a distributor on the offensive end. The last time I was able to do that was 3 years ago when I played in Pistoia and we went all the way to the finals with a team nobody expected to make the playoffs.
Here’s the most important thing: I have always known my worth as a basketball player to a team, even when others didn’t. I realized a looooong time ago that even if I didn’t shoot the ball one time in a game, I could still have a huge impact on the game and still give my team a chance to win. That’s a gift only a selected few basketball players in the entire world possess. If you just watch basketball but don’t have a high enough basketball IQ, you will never truly understand what I’m talking about, but that’s ok – I’ve still got love for you regardless. In past seasons, I would defer to other players (even when they didn’t deserve it) because their strengths were one-dimensional and they needed plays ran for them in order to help the team. I knew I could score and get my points without having plays ran for me just through the flow of the game. That’s also a talent few people appreciate. That’s what you call being a team player. Perhaps I could have been looking out for myself more but that’s never been my style. Throughout my basketball career, I have seen the positive and negative effects of having to forego personal glory by taking a backseat because it was best for the team. Sometimes I wonder if I had been more selfish while in the NBA, perhaps I would have stayed longer in the league. On the other hand, I also understood that the reason I got drafted to NBA in the first place was because of my intangibles and because I worked so hard and so unselfishly.
My perimeter shooting over the last 3 years has undoubtedly been the best and most consistent of my career. While I never thought I was a horrible shooter, I have been hitting more 3’s with greater regularity. I have had 4 games this season where I have knocked down four 3-pointers and another 5 games where I have knocked down three 3-pointers in a game. Those are numbers I have never put up before so from that standpoint my long-distance shooting has opened my game to where teams have to look at me as a serious 3-point threat on scouting reports. Of course, I’m still dunking too. I’ve had more dunks already this season than my last two seasons combined. I think part of that has to do with me eating better and giving more energy on the court. Other seasons I would have opportunities to dunk but I was either too lethargic or dealing with tendonitis in my knees. I have also had games where I have dished out 5, 6 or 7 assists in a game. My rebounding and steals are up as well, so now you can see why I said I’m having an overall good season thus far.
The Italian League
The first half of the season has been up and down to say the least. Since we are such a young team I knew it would take time for our chemistry to emerge. We have had flashes of brilliance to where we looked like a high playoff-caliber teams. We have also had other moments where we just didn’t play so well, lost focus, and dropped some games to teams we should have beaten. A lot of our guys are still trying to adapt to the overseas playing style, referees, and to some of the other typical growing pains like the ones I endured my first couple of years overseas (and still deal with today to be honest). As of late I think we are enjoying a good spell and are progressing nicely to be ready to make a great push for the last part of the season. We did lose 2 consecutive tough games (1 in the Italian league and the other in Eurocup) by 1 point where we definitely deserved to win, but I truly believe in the last 2 months we will be at our most dangerous. This is the same pattern I experience during my last 3 seasons. I’d rather start off slow and finish strong than the other way around. Right now we are in 12th place but only 2 games out of the 8th and 3 games out of 6th. We are definitely still in the hunt. Realistically, I didn’t expect my team to finish in the top 5 but as long as we make the playoffs, that’s all that matters. As with the NBA, the playoffs are a new season and anything can happen when given the right matchups.
Eurocup basketball is the second-tier level trans-national professional basketball competition league in Europe. Behind Euroleague, it’s the 2nd most popular league in Europe. Teams qualify for this competition based on their performance in their national league and cup competitions, as well as through invitations and wild cards. Since last season in Rome, we advanced to the semi-finals in the playoffs that made us eligible for Eurocup again this season.
During my first two stints in Eurocup (Teramo in 2009), my teams have had very poor showings in our group and finished near the bottom. I guess I can say third time is the charm for me because my team was finally able to advance out of our group (six teams) with a first-place record of 6-3. The top four teams out of each group (there are six groups) advance to the next stage. The second stage started five weeks ago, this also means a new group (four groups now) but this time there are only 4 teams in each group and the top 2 advances to the last 16 (playoffs). Right now we are 3-2 and in 2nd place in our group and have clinched a berth to the playoffs. This has been the furthest I have ever gone in Eurocup competition and it has been a great experience because for one I get to play 2 games a week instead of one (less practice). The other perk is that I get to travel to countries that I haven’t been to, which means I get to sightsee. If you follow me on Instagram (basketballjones84) you would have seen my many collages of Bobby’s adventures. It also offers more exposure to other teams in others countries, and that may help you get better/higher-paying jobs in the future hopefully. So far I have visited Spain, Germany, Croatia, Russia, Belgium and France.
My book entitled, “Basketball Jones: 5 NBA teams in 1 season and how I set a single-season NBA record” will be ready by the summer but with no specific date yet. It will chronicle my 2007-2008 season in the NBA when I played for the Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzles, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. I will reflect on my experience at each stop as I made my rounds as a NBA journeyman. This book shares stories about my teammates, coaches, the cities, and everything you ever wanted to know about being a basketball player in the NBA, it was a crazy ride.
Unless some “great” turn of events changes the outlook of my film, “Basketball Jones: The Overseas Journey” will be released (to rent or buy) in July of this summer on Vimeo. If you know anybody (or somebody who knows somebody) who is in involved in network television, movie studios, cable/sports networks, magazine publications (basically anybody involved in the entertainment and media industries) please notify me via email, Facebook, etc. I am still looking for distributors, sponsors, and others to help get the word out. I would obviously love to bring my film to television, theaters or film festivals. How many people can say they put out a movie and book in the same year? I’m glad to say that I did on my own dime as well.
To get updates on my film or watch the film’s original music videos, visit Basketballjonesthefilm.com or follow me on twitter @bobbysworld84.