Some of this I've tweeted about, some I haven't. But all of it bears mentioning in this blog.
So here we go:
• Spoke with Semih Erden of the Boston Celtics the other night at the Prudential Center in Newark, where I've been keeping an eye on the Nets and an ear to the maneuverings surrounding Carmelo Anthony -- the subject of today's column, an open letter to 'Melo. Erden told me that each of the players on the Turkish National Team that won the silver medal at last month's World Championship received a bonus of 1 million Turkish Lira (about $700,000) along with a free villa/apartment, courtesy of a wealthy Turkish real estate mogul who wanted to reward them for their success. The members of the gold-medal winning Team USA were paid $25,000 apiece, Andre Iguodala said.
• Spoke with referee Bill Kennedy 2 1/2 weeks ago at a media seminar in Jersey City at which NBA officials explained this year's rules changes and points of emphasis, and he told me a couple interesting things: Kennedy paid for his own plane ticket from Phoenix to Istanbul, because the ticket sent to him by FIBA was coach class and could not be upgraded. Also, Kennedy had no air conditioning at his hotel in the city of Kayseri, where he worked the preliminary round, and he said there was only one instance when he called a traveling violation under the stricter FIBA interpretation, whereby a player must begin his dribble before taking a step. I also caught up with referee David Jones, who worked the 2008 Olympics but said he is ineligible to continue as a FIBA ref because he has reached the age of 50. Saw Joey Crawford and asked if he had called any balls and strikes over the summer. "Only about a million," Crawford said.
• Dropped off a package of "Rondo" cookies in the Celtics locker room, giving them to Rajon Rondo, who I had last seen in Athens on the day he withdrew from Team USA. "Rondo" is a brand of Turkish cookies, packages of which were laid out for the media's consumption in Istanbul. Missing from the Boston locker room that night was Tony Gaffney, who was given his release so he could sign with Turk Telecom in Ankara, Turkey.
• Spent some time today speaking with Nets rookie Derrick Favors, who will be travelling to Asia for the first time in his life as the Nets fly there to play exhibition games against the Houston Rockets in Beijing and Guangzhou. Favors has been to Africa, travelling to Senegal and Mali with a Reebok team three years ago. "Makes you thankful for everything you’ve got over here," Favors said, "just how hard they work over there. One man I met said he walked to work 5 to 6 miles a day, each way, every day."
• Also ran into NBA executive Kim Bohuny, who runs the Basketball Without Borders program and will be with the Nets and Rockets in China next week, and who I had last seen in Athens when I ran into her having dinner with a group that included former NBA guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, who spent last season with Panathinaikos in Athens. Jasikevicius told a story of how one night when the "Greens" played at the gym of archrival Olympiacos, three knives were hurled at them as they ran through the tunnel onto the court prior to the game. He also said fans tore apart bathroom fixtures and threw the porcelain pieces at the Panathinaikos bench, along with baseball-ball sized chunks of concrete stripped from the damaged bathroom walls. (For a sampling of the video from that game, click here and jump to the 2:50 mark, which is shortly before the fireworks begin. Literally.)
• One more FIBA note, since people have been asking me in e-mails. The United States is the only team that has qualified for the 2012 Olympics, although it's a safe bet that Great Britain will be awarded a spot as the host nation. That leaves only 10 spots open in the 12-team field, and they will be allotted thusly: The top two teams in the 2011 Eurobasket, to be held in Lithuania; the top two teams from the Tournament of the Americas, to be held in Mar Del Plata, Argentina; one team from the FIBA-Africa championship, to be held in Ivory Coast; one team from the FIBA-Asia championship, to be held in Lebanon; one team (Australia or New Zealand) from FIBA-Oceania; and four teams (three if G.B. makes it) from a 12-team qualifying tournament (comprised of four teams from Europe, three from the Americas, two each from Africa and Asia and one from Oceania) to be held in July, 2012.