Sports

Gary Washburn’s postcard from Istanbul

As the week progresses, you get accustomed to the culture and the lifestyle in Turkey. I get excited when I see an American movie on the hotel television, even though it’s in Azerbaijani and I have to try to remember what Danny Glover was saying to Joe Pesci in “Lethal Weapon II” so I can follow.

Soccer is the No. 1 sport in Turkey, and the television is filled with the dozens of games going on around Europe. A buzz is starting to generate for Friday’s Celtics matchup with Fenerbahce Ulker at the Ulker Sports Arena. The arena apparently is one of the best in the region, fitting for such an event.

The Celtics have practiced and stayed on the European side of Istanbul since arriving here, so the trip to the Asian side should be yet another experience on what has been an almost overwhelming trip.

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Thursday afternoon was about kids, as the Celtics took part in an NBA Cares event. And what we all realized during the session is that kids, regardless of location or culture, are essentially the same. They wanted to get close to KG, Pierce, and Rondo; they wanted to impress them with their basketball skills; they wanted pictures and autographs.
After a few minutes, there wasn’t much of a language barrier, especially when Doc Rivers played a “Simon Says”-type clapping game that enthralled the kids, who were aged 8-16.

KG and Rondo organized layup lines, while Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, and Jeff Green conducted dribbling drills. And as a testament to how much the Turks are improving at basketball, a teenager shook Christmas with a shoulder fake while dribbling, drawing major ribbing from Christmas’s teammates.

The visit here is winding down. The Celtics leave after the game Friday night for Milan. It seems the Celtics, like me, are beginning to get the hang of life in Istanbul, and it has been a pleasant exploration.

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