The NBA lockout is nearly over, which means Deron Williams will be returning to New Jersey very soon. For now, though, the Nets point guard, who just launched a new website, is wrapping up his overseas play in Turkey. Here's his fifth diary entry with ESPNNewYork.com, where he talks about Besiktas finally hitting its stride, the team finally defeating a longtime rival and his family celebrating Thanksgiving in Turkey.
IN THE GROOVE
The performance of our team is just night and day from where we were a month or two months ago, and I think that’s just a product of getting comfortable with each other. I just think we needed some time. That first month for me was difficult, just trying to get settled. I had to adjust to the time change, get my kids in school and find a house. It was exhausting, mentally and physically, and I was just dead tired. But after we got all that taken care of, personally, I started feeling better.
I think around the same time, the team started feeling better as well. We’re a brand-new team, so we’re just getting used to each other. We had the bad game in Belgium, losing 74-63 to Dexia Mons-Hainaut in October, which cost us our chance at the EuroCup. We all wish we had that back because if we were playing like we are now, there’s no way we would have lost that game.
But that’s one of the differences between European basketball and the NBA. In the NBA, you can have a bad game early in the season and it doesn’t cost you anything. Here, that game meant a lot to us, and it meant that we didn’t qualify for the EuroCup. But we’ve bounced back and have won a bunch of games in a row. We’re playing a lot better as a team. We’ve had a lot more practices, a lot more games, and we have a lot better understanding of how to run the offense and defense.
For me, playing well was just a matter of getting confidence back in my shot. The last year and a half for me was tough because of my wrist. Fighting through that kind of pain in my shooting wrist every day, in practice and in games, took a toll on my confidence. With any injury, when you come back it takes a while to get your rhythm back. I think that was the case with my shooting. I wasn’t making the shots that I’m used to making and it was an adjustment for me to play with the injury.
Now I’m able to get in the gym and shoot pain-free. It’s helped me with my 3-point shooting. It all just comes with repetition. I have more practice time under my belt and I have my confidence back, so my shot is just starting to feel a lot better.
Right now, we’re playing two games per week -- one in the Turkish League on the weekend and one in the Euro Challenge during the week. There are some good teams in the Euro Challenge that we won’t take for granted, but we wish we had qualified for the EuroCup. The competition would have been much better for us there. I think if we play like we have been and don’t let anybody sneak up on us or have any letdowns, we should win the Euro Challenge.
MOVIN’ ON UP
The level of competition is a lot higher in the Turkish League from game to game. We have some tough competition for the TBL title, and we have plenty of season left to play, so we’ll see how that goes. This is as well as Besiktas has ever done in the Turkish League. From what I’ve been told, the team is usually in the top four to six, and Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Anadolu Efes lead the league. Hopefully we can change that.
We had our biggest win to date earlier this month against Fenerbahce. That was for our fans. It was really great to beat them. From the time I got here, people have been telling us about the rivalries with Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. Those are the two big ones. When you are talking to people who are true Besiktas fans, they could care less how the rest of the season goes, as long as we beat those two teams.
So when we played Fenerbahce, it was a really strange setup. We played in their home gym, but it was a home game for us and their fans weren’t allowed in the gym. So we had 11,000 of our fans in there cheering us on. It was the most fans ever at a Besiktas game by like 9,000 people. It wasn’t even close. The atmosphere was great, and the fans were amazing and incredibly supportive. They made us feel it because they wanted that game really bad.
When we were playing against Fenerbahce, the fans were chanting something I couldn’t understand. I was a little curious about what they were saying, so I asked around. Let’s just say I can’t share that content in this forum. What’s funny is even when we’re not playing Fenerbahce, you can hear a lot of chants directed at them. That’s how big the rivalry is.
We’re talking about fútbol fans for the most part, so they cheer, and they cheer loudly for the whole game. That’s how you do it at a fútbol game. It was definitely an adjustment because they’re cheering no matter what you’re doing. You can be shooting free throws, playing defense, setting up a play, and they’re just constantly cheering and chanting. But at this point, I’ve adjusted and it’s normal to me.
I will say that the chanting doesn’t have the same effect on your psyche as an NBA crowd because the fans here are up all of the time. In the NBA, when a team goes on a run and the crowd just erupts, that has a bigger effect on a player’s psyche.
Before I go, I just wanted to wish everybody back home a Happy Thanksgiving, even though it's a few days late. There's a lot to be thankful for this year. It's a great time to reflect on that, and I hope you have a good time with your family and friends. I left Thursday morning for a road trip to Izmir, so we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving here as a family until Saturday.
We got a turkey before I left and the stores here sell all of the side dishes and stuff we need for us to have normal Thanksgiving just a few days from now. We might have a few other people over, but it will be pretty much just the six of us and our nanny. Even though they don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Turkey, there are several American families in the area where we live that we know. My daughters go to school with their children. One of the families invited my wife and the kids over for Thanksgiving, so I'm glad they got to do that while I'm gone.
We're kind of used to having to adjust to my travel and everything because I'm usually playing games in the NBA right now. One year, I played on Thanksgiving and other years we've been in the middle of a road trip, so that makes it kind of hard to have traditions. We just keep it simple with all the normal stuff that you would expect: turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes.
There is only one thing that I absolutely need to have on my plate, and that's a turkey leg. I love turkey legs. When we go to the fair or anything like that, I have to get a turkey leg. So on Thanksgiving, that's a must. Put some mac and cheese on the side, and I'm pretty much set. For dessert, I like sweet potato pie and apple pie. You can't go wrong with either of those. Peach cobbler is another favorite of mine.
As long as I'm home for the cooking, I help out a little bit. In the past, when we've had Thanksgiving in Utah, either my family or my wife's family (sometimes both) came to town. When that happens, either my mom or my wife's mom takes over the kitchen and I get to take it easy. I do have one job, and that's to cut the turkey. Back home I have an electric carving knife, but since I couldn't bring that with me, I had to do it the old fashioned way on Saturday.
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