Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Brutta Partita

"Bruta partita." That was how our Technical Director described our game against Geneva on February 20. It means ugly match in English and I have to agree with him. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was blogging about how important it was to beat Geneva on the road? Yeah, well it was an important game but we kind of threw the win away when we played them in the friendly confines of Palamondo.

It is safe to say that if we would have beat the Geneva Devils we would be a lot closer to clinching a playoff spot. Unfortunately, it appears it will come down to the final games of the season for SAM Massagno now.

It is funny because we started the game out so well. We were clicking with our pick and roll and with the defense. Dan was scoring at will and we went into half-time with a 17 point advantage and only holding them to 31 points while we had 48.

It was definitely a tale of two halves. At half-time we could hear the opposing coach screaming at his team and telling them what they needed to do in the 2nd half. We could also hear the players respond to their coach with enthusiasm. Maybe we came out to cocky and thought we had the game in the bag, I don't know. I do know though that we came out AWFUL! We only scored 6 points in the 3rd quarter while Geneva scored 26. All of our shots were missing. It was like the stars had aligned for Geneva and it was going to be their game. I even missed a wide open lay-up. I haven't missed an open lay-up all year but apparently I was going to miss against Geneva. We also got away from the things we were doing so well in the first half like moving the ball and defense.

We played the 4th quarter even but the damage had already been done in the 3rd and we weren't able to recover. A friend of mine told me after the game that we can't win them all. He followed that up by saying that we can't lose them all either. I don't know how it applied but it at least made me laugh a little.

I think the worst part of the loss is that we don't have a game for another 2 weeks. It is always tough to practice with a bad taste in your mouth. I didn't sleep for two nights after the game. We could have enjoyed our time off but now in the back of our minds we are thinking about how we just blew the game to Geneva. With the loss we are only 1 game ahead of them in the standings.

I hope the loss will serve as a little bit of a wake up call to the team. Hopefully it will bring us back down to earth and realize what our faults are as a team. I am sure we will fix them with some good old fashioned hard work in the gym. We have to fix them or the rest of the season is going to be rough for us. I have confidence though. Nothing bad can come from hard work.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Oh geez! I do not even know how to start this post. Maybe I should do a little explaining. Carnevale is a festival that is held in Europe. All of the towns around here have their own festival but the big one is held in Bellinzona twenty minutes away. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced in America. I imagine that it is a mix between Halloween and Mardi Gras but I have never been to Mardi Gras so I don't know personally. Carnevale has Pagan origins. It was originally a Pagan festival where people were supposed to let themselves be free and have fun. It was also the final hurrah of winter before it became spring. From what I can tell, it is celebrated today by costumes and dancing.

My first Carnevale experience was 4 years ago with my teammates Edwin and Zay. We were extremely bored and had nothing to do on a Thursday night. Edwin had suggested going so we decided to give it a shot. Zay drove the 20 minutes from Lugano to Bellinzona and we were immediately impressed with the set up. The whole town was completely shut down. The castles were illuminated and dressed up. Tents were set up all around the city serving refreshments and food. There were also tents set up as mini clubs where you can go in and dance the night away. To top it all off, everyone was dressed up in costumes. The coolest part though was the marching bands that play in the streets. They play all kinds of fun songs and have really cool drum lines, but not nearly as good as Brighton High Schools. Though if it were Brighton High School you probably wouldn't be able to dance. Needless to say, the night was a complete blast and my first Carnevale experience was awesome!!!!!

My second Carnevale had a lot to live up to. Last year I was back in Ticino with SAM Massagno. When February rolled around I started looking forward to the annual festival. I told my American teammates, Brody and Noah, about it. They seemed skeptical at first but once they were there it was a blast. Brody also had some friends visiting to partake in the festivities. It is always nice to have visitors and they were awesome guys so it just added to the fun. The picture is Vinz, Brody myself and Noah. Apparently I was very excited to see a 6'4" grown man dressed up as a donkey.

As good as the first two times were, I think that this year was the best. If you have been reading the blog, then you know that this has been a rough year for us filled with many ups and downs. We do not go out very often and this was a perfect time for us to just get away from basketball and enjoy ourselves. Kameron Gray (pg from Oakland, CA) played for Lugano last year so he knew what to expect but Ross Morin (pf from Yale) and Dan had no idea. About two weeks before the festival we started planning on what to wear. We knew we wanted to dress up but we didn't want to spend a lot of money. The easiest thing to do was to buy a mask and a silly looking hat to go along with it. It was a group thing so we all bought the same mask but the hats were up to each person. Liz even participated and got a mask herself!

Once we had the masks, all we had to do was wait for the right night to go. We headed out on the last night (Tuesday) because we figured the crowds would be smaller and it was the night that was farthest from a game. We hopped on the train and were ready to have some fun.

When we got there we immediately met up with some teammates. We play with some great guys and they are really fun to hang out with. The costumes they were wearing were also hilarious. One of our coaches was dressed up as a baby and the other was dressed up in some tight black pants with butterflies on them and wearing an afro.

We spent the night walking around, dancing and just taking everything in. It is such an awesome experience playing and living in Europe. Sometimes, you just have to step back and let yourself become a part of things.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shout out to Smooth Action

It goes without saying but the financial crisis has affected the whole world. All sectors of the economy have been hit and professional sports are not excluded. Many European professional sport franchises rely on sponsors and local businesses to fill the salaries for their players. That's why our jerseys are far from looking like NBA teams and closer resemble a billboard on a highway. When the crisis hit, the last thing that companies/businesses thought about doing was sponsoring the local basketball club. Because of this many successful basketball players have sat at home this year waiting for a call. Teams just have not had the budget to sign as many players as they had in previous seasons.

I was blessed to get a job quickly this year but unfortunately one of my best friends was not. Marcus Jackson and I developed a close relationship while at Marquette. We both played the same position and competed with each other for minutes but the battles that ensued on the court stayed there. Maybe it is because we were going through the exact same thing that bonded us together or maybe it is because Marcus is one of the nicest people I know but our friendship grew. Smooth Action (as far as I know this is a self appointed nick name, he claims otherwise) was a part of my wedding this summer and I had the pleasure of being in his as well.

Marcus was an excellent rebounder in college and he has continued that success in his professional career. He has dominated every league in rebounding. I remember looking up his stats last year and at one point he was averaging 15 rebounds per game in Holland while the guy in second only had 9.

That is why I was shocked to see Marcus at home for so long, but as my father always says, good things happen to good people. Marcus just signed a contract with Namika Lahti in Finland. One of his teammates is former Wisconsin Badger Ray Nixon but I'm not going to hold it against him. Only kidding.

I am really happy for Marcus and his family and wish him luck the rest of the way. He also has a blog that you can check out here. In his blog he writes about basketball and a new health beverage he is marketing. It is good stuff and is worth it to check it out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day Off

Days off are hard to come by here in Massagno. Because of the make up of our team we have completely random days off. Half of our team is made up of American professionals and the other half is made up of Swiss guys who have day jobs. The Swiss players will go to their 9-5 during the day and then go to practice at night. Some of them even drive 40 minutes each way every day. When we play on Sundays, the team will have Saturday off of practice because the Swiss guys would like a day off to themselves on the weekend. Just because the team will have the day off doesn't mean that I take the day off. I will either go and get some shots up or will go to the fitness center and do some conditioning.

Our schedule last week was pretty intense and I was pretty worn out. We played Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday with no days off in between and two of the games were against 2 of the top 3 teams in the league. Coach gave us Sunday off but he decided we needed another day off to make sure we are well rested for our game against Geneva on Saturday.

We definitely relaxed today. It was one of those days where I/we realized we are living the good life. My apartment has a great balcony overlooking the the Swiss Alps. Last year, my teammates and I would always sit on the balcony to eat, drink, surf the internet and just enjoy life. The weather has been a little cold for that this year but we decided today was a good day to re start the tradition. The sun was shining, the sky was blue and the birds were chirping. We might as well enjoy what Swizzy has to offer.

After lunch, Ross and Kam came up to the room and we just sat on the balcony and hung out. We talked about a lot of things but we never once talked about basketball. The season is long and sometimes it is just nice to get away from it. I think we need that every now and then. It felt nice to enjoy a Coke (I have a serious pop addiction right now, I need help) and sit back and relax.

As we were sitting out there, Liz took the picture of us. I think it is pretty awesome and you can even get a glimpse of the sweet team Kappa jacket I am rocking. Good times here in Massagno.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Adventures at the Doctor and Physical Therapist

After 4 years of playing in Switzerland I have come to accept the medicine here. I was very skeptical at first because of the whole unfamiliarity of it all. From the language barrier to different practices it took awhile to get used to the whole thing. I am completely comfortable with it now but every time I get a medical or physical therapy treatment it is quite the experience.

At the beginning of this year I had a calf problem. After around 15 minutes of playing/practicing, I would feel an intense pain in my leg. Sometimes it was so bad that I had to stop playing. Something needed to be done so I asked the training staff if I could see a doctor to figure out what was wrong. The team doctor here is an extremely nice guy but his english is not that great. After explaining to him my problem, I expected him to tell me that I strained my calf somehow or maybe tore something. Instead he told me that my muscle is "tired" and said I needed some physical therapy for it. I don't know what he wanted to say but I am pretty sure my doctor from back home would not tell me my leg was just tired.

It is very frustrating when words get lost in translation. The word "sore" for example. I was talking to the team massage therapist and I told him that my back was really sore. He did not know what I meant and wanted me to try and explain this to him. I told him it is like something hurting but it doesn't hurt. He still did not understand so I just told him my back hurt and then got a massage. Sometimes I just have to take little defeats here and there.

It seems like the most popular treatment here is just a simple massage. A couple years ago I rolled my ankle in practice and the next day I went to the physical therapist. I was expecting to ice and maybe get some electric stim on my ankle. Instead I got a painful massage on my ankle for 20 minutes. I would expect to get massage on my thigh or back but I have never heard of massaging an ankle. I am not saying I disagree with it, I am just saying I have never heard of it.

The massages tend to be painful too. When I had a little tendinitis in my knee the physical therapist was poking around and moving my knee every which way. I think they like inflicting pain on me so they do it any way they can. They even have a little tool to make it more painful. It looks kind of like a hook and they use it to dig deep into the muscle. Not much fun for me.

Another strange treatment I can only describe as acupuncture. It involves moving a needle in and out of the muscle. If it sounded like a sprained ankle massage hurt, then this hurts 100 times more. I have had this procedure done twice, once when I pulled my hamstring and one time this year for my calf. The physical therapist picked out where I pulled my hamstring and then put the needle right in. Even though there was a lot of pain, my hamstring felt better a couple of days later. I wish I could say the same thing for my calf. When he stuck the needle in my calf my whole foot felt like it was on fire and I told him to stop immediately. Even though it only worked once for me, I would still endorse this treatment because I have seen it work many times. The whole key is just to open your mind to the procedure.

Four years ago I had another procedure involving needles. I was experiencing back spasms when I played for Lugano. I went to get weekly massages to try and loosen the muscles up. When those didn't work, the physical therapist pricked my back with a syringe filled with medicine. After 20 pricks he would be done and then cover my back with a bandage. I had this done maybe 5 times. I have no idea if it worked or not but I would be open to trying it again.

I am sure that my adventures with the doctor and physical therapist aren't over but I just have to keep an open mind to them all and take everything in stride.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Game vs Meyrin Round 3

Every time SAM Massagno takes the court, two former Marquette alums (myself and Dan Fitzgerald) are playing. The bonds formed between teammates are strong and lifelong friendships are formed. Playing with Dan has been a great and special opportunity for me. I was only able to play with Dan for 2 years in college and one of those years he was a redshirt transfer. In those 2 years we developed a great friendship and Dan was actually one of the best men at my wedding this past summer. I never dreamed that I would have the opportunity to play with him again. This season has had its fair share of highs and lows and I am glad that I have a friend to share it with.

Karon Bradley is another guy I played with in college who happens to be playing in Switzerland. We played at Marquette together for 2 years. KB was/is a stand up guy and someone that I connected with immediately, even if he is from Texas. In those 2 years we had a lot of great times highlighted by the Final Four trip in 2003 as well as a trip to Italy to play for the Nacel All Stars. Unfortunately, Karon transferred to Wichita State after our sophomore year but our friendship has continued on. The transfer worked out well for him as he enjoyed conference championships and NCAA tournament success with the Shockers.

On February 10, three former Marquette players took the court and played against each other for the 3rd time this season. Dan and myself for SAM Massagno and Karon for Meyrin Grand Sacconex. The season series was split at 1-1 with each team owning a win on the road and bragging rights were on the line this time. While it is awesome playing with former teammates it is weird playing against them. I wanted Karon to do well but I also wanted to wipe the floor with his team.

Karon is still the same old guy. He is a killer on the court (one of the top scorers in the Swiss league) and extremely nice off of it. We had trouble containing him on defense because of his exceptional athletic ability. KB ended the game with 15 points and 8 assists. Unfortunately for him, SAM came away with the win 104-94.

The meeting was most likely the last time we will play against each other this year. After the game we had a chance to catch up with Karon. It was great to see him again and I am really happy for him and the success he has had. We had another chance to get a picture together because the one from back in November did not turn out so good.

This one is a whole lot better even though we probably could have gotten a better background. Just 3 guys doing what they love to do.

Until next time.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On the Road

I used to love road trips in college. What wasn't there to like? We had a charter flight and flew on the Milwaukee Bucks plane. On that plane we got to eat chicken fingers with every kind of dipping sauce imaginable, a ton of snacks and all the pop (I'm from Michigan, get over it) you could drink and that was only the appetizers. For our meal we enjoyed a steak dinner and a few times the steak was from Outback. When we got off the plane we took a bus to a 5 star hotel with heavenly beds. In my 4 years at Marquette I had the opportunity to stay in the heart of Times Square, the Waldorf Astoria and Monte Leon in New Orleans.

Once we were all settled in the hotel we either got pizzas or went out to eat. The favorite place was TGI Fridays and if we were lucky Coach Crean let us have milk shakes for desert. These are all great but the best part about being on the road was not having to get up early in the morning and not going to class. This was huge for me because in my 4 years of college I only skipped 2 classes and they were on the same day.

It was also awesome to go into other arenas and win. There is no better feeling than hearing 20,000 fans in Freedom Hall silent at the end of the game or to play at Notre Dame and come out with a victory. Oh, how things have changed.

Life in Switzerland is a lot different. I am playing professional basketball but sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it. I am sure it is not the same experience as my old teammates that are in the NBA have. On January 30th we took our longest trip of the season to Geneva. There were no planes, no 5 star hotels, no chicken wings, no steaks, not even a milk shake. Just a bus.

If you look at the map of Switzerland above you will notice that it is a small country and the distance between any two cities is not that far. What the map doesn't show though is the mountains that Switzerland is famous for. In fact, 70% of the country is covered in them and you have to drive around them and not over them. This is what makes road trips so hard and long.

So, at 8:50 am on January 30th we left Massagno (by Bellinzona on the map) and took off for Geneva on a 6 and a half hour road trip. It was a little rough. Thankfully though my designated seat on the bus is the back seat. For those unfamiliar with European buses the back seats are 5 across which means I can lay on all the seats in somewhat of a bed. I like the back seat and I was able to sleep the first 2 and a half hours.

About midway through the trip we stopped off in a little Swiss German town for our pre game meal. This must be standard all over the world because we had the same thing we used to have at Marquette. Our meal consisted of salad, pasta and chicken. The only thing missing was ranch sauce. I don't know how this has not made its way over to Europe. The Euros are really missing out. For desert they gave us apple pie. I now know why there is a saying called as American as apple pie. This was no American apple pie. I don't even know what to call it.

Anyways, we left the restaurant and had about 2 hours left in the trip. Now, you may be thinking that Geneva is a big city so they probably have a big arena with crazy screaming fans. The Geneva Devils moved to a new arena this year and it is terrible. They play in an indoor bike racing track that is around the court. The actual basketball court feels more like the infield at a track meet than a court. It also doesn't help that the lines are taped on either. I swear, I can not make this stuff up. The only regret I have is that I didn't bring a camera.

After the long trip our legs were a little tired so we started slow. Thankfully the 54 people in the crowd weren't really into the game so the Devils didn't have much of a home court advantage. It definitely wasn't pretty but after our slow start we controlled the rest of the game easily.

The importance of the game wasn't lost on us either. If we lost we went from 7th place all the way down to 9th. Thankfully we won 88-78 and held on to our position.

This was important too because the 3rd round of games are determined by the teams position in the standings. Since we finished in 7th place we play the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 1st place teams at home. As long as we beat the lower teams and take care of business at home then we should make the playoffs.

The long trip home feels so better after a win. Everybody was in such a good mood that we stopped at McDonalds for dinner and we even watched a movie in English. It made it go by so much faster.

Now it is on to the next one!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Buzz Williams

I feel like I have been doing a good job of blogging in 2010. In my opinion I have had a lot of good stuff to blog about in the new year. I have some more good stuff coming too but I have to post this because we are in the middle of the college basketball season. Also because my team is coming off a HUGE win at UCONN. For those that don't know Buzz Williams is the current coach at Marquette University. I did not have the pleasure of playing for Buzz but I wish I did. Coach Crean did such a great job of creating a Marquette Basketball family. When Buzz took over after Coach Crean left in 2008 I was a little concerned about how my former teammates and myself would be connected to our alma mater.

On my first trip back to Milwaukee after returning from Switzerland in May of 2008, I made a visit to the men's basketball offices at the Al McGuire Center. Everything looked the same. I walked right in and was stopped by one of the office girls and was asked who I was. Hmmm, it had only been 2 years since I left and there was a picture of me on the wall directly to my right but ok. I said that I am Chris Grimm and I wanted to see Barb (Buzz's assistant.) The office girl kindly told me to wait right there and Barb would come right back. Ok, this was new to me but I can deal with it.

Instead of Barb coming out, Coach Buzz Williams came down the hall and introduced himself to me. He asked me the normal questions of where I was from, when did I play, and what am I doing with myself now. Then he invited me back to his office to just get to know me. One thing that really struck me was him thanking me for being a part of the University and for making the program what it is today. Buzz asked if I wanted to work camp and gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him anytime I needed him. He also asked me to come and play pick up with the guys in the summer. Needless to say, my first time meeting Buzz Williams was pretty nice and he made a great first impression.

Over the last 2 summers I have had the opportunity to know Coach Buzz a little better through different functions and working basketball camps. What you see is what you get in a good way. Coach always introduces himself and has a genuine interest in everyone. I was at the basketball banquet with my wife and he came up from behind her and said, "Excuse me, I haven't met you yet. I'm Buzz Williams." That is why I really enjoyed reading this article. Buzz always talks about how God is important in his life and from the looks of it he practices what he preaches. It was this line though that really stood out to me. It is in response to how he deals with the close losses Marquette has had this season.

The only thing you can do to fight back is to work. Make sure that you’re accountable in your work and efficient in your work. Make sure the things you’re working on are things you can utilize to not get your tails kicked. That’s all I know.

I love great quotes and I love this because this is how I have been taught to live my life. When I am going through a tough time in basketball I just make my way into the gym and work harder. If my shot isn't falling I shoot extra. If I am not getting rebounds, I go to the weight room and lift harder. It is so simple. Just hard work.

From what I know of Coach Buzz, this is why he is successful and will continue to be successful. I would have loved to have played for him. Unfortunately I don't think the way I play fits the offense he runs but I can still dream.

I support Coach Buzz and will continue to support him. Not just for the amount of games he wins but for what he is and what he is about. Also because the sweet baby blue jacket (see photo above) he wore last week. That was/is awesome and I think needs to be worn again.