Observations From an 8 Day Road Trip

Observations From an 8 Day Road Trip
Feb 07, 2007, 12:32 am
One of the first things I heard about the D-League was “you don’t want to be a guy with any titles.” That means that at the end of the year, you want to be the D-League’s leading scorer. You don’t want to have been voted to 3 straight D-League All-Star games. You don’t want to be the D-League’s all-time leader in games played. Why? Because it’s the D-League, that’s why. If you’ve played MORE D-League games than anyone else, then that means you’ve played LESS NBA games than anyone else. Well, despite the warning about avoiding a title like the Oakland Raiders avoid the playoffs, I seem to have fallen in. I am the only D-Leaguer with a real blog – two blogs in fact. Hopefully, like every D-Leaguer, I hope that one day my title becomes “one of the only NBA players” with such credentials.

For now I’m just your everyday D-Leaguer (my game is anything but everyday) who observes a lot of things about this league and the lifestyle that comes along with it. I play for the Dakota Wizards (yes, North Dakota) and I used to play for the Austin Toro’s where I got out just in time to miss “Da Bull” getting a technical that almost cost them a game. As for the Wizards, we just got back from an 8-day-long road trip and man; there was a lot of action. For whatever reason I seem to notice things, a lot of things. I simply relay the things I notice to you…

As I walked up to the 1 terminal, 2 gate, Bismarck, North Dakota airport, I saw a lot of promise in our impending road trip. Not only was it a chance to play, but, more importantly, it was a chance to get out of the coldest weather I’ve ever endured in my life...ever (I’m from San Diego). It was only a 30 yard walk from the team van to the doors of the airport but in that time the -15 degree temperature plus whatever wind chill factor made my ears completely numb and my eyes water and tear – only to freeze up into little ice streaks on my face. It wouldn’t be so bad, but as a rookie, I’m forced to carry extra bags so the walk was slow. We were going to Texas where it had to be warmer than that.

Texas was definitely warmer, but J.J. Barea was ON FIRE when we played the Ft. Worth Flyers in the Ft. Worth convention center. We lost both games down there and I swear this guy must have had 35 pts a game against us. The kid is like a bowling ball with legs, yet, for some reason, I cant block his shot to save my life. I feel like every time he sees me underneath the basket, he says something to himself in Spanish like “¡este punky no podría pararme si le hicieron del ladrillo sólido!” then just does whatever he wants. He is a real talented kid, but dang…it really took a special performance from him to overcome my 14 pt., 10-rebound display haha. But seriously, there are a couple things besides the NBA Assigned players that make it really hard to play in Ft. Worth. For one, they have the best-looking dance team of all time. They are easily comparable to the Laker Girls, but, since we are in the D-League where games sometimes only have 17 people in the stands, those 12 dancers can really, really stand out. Another thing they have going for them is that they play their music real loud. It’s basically like a nightclub with a basketball team for extra entertainment. Not only that, but the DJ is pretty damn good and has an excellent play list.

We had an early flight out of Ft. Worth on our way to Albuquerque where it was snowing. Our van driver looked almost exactly like Tom Green, which I found funny and basically meant that I couldn’t look directly at him without laughing a little. We won our first game down there by a solid margin. Maurice Baker led us in basically every stat category that mattered. As for me? Foul trouble, which just makes me so mad. It was just one of those games where every call that could go against me, did. It left me real frustrated, but I knew I would bounce back the next game.

We had a day off the next day so both teams hit the town. I found myself in a humongous super-club where half was a “cowboy” themed club and everyone was wearing their cowboy hats and boots. Just when I least expected it, a big time square dance broke out and I had to hit the sidelines. Right then this guy, whose name I never knew, came up to me. His breath basically smelled like he brushed his teeth with hops and barely and washed his mouth out with fermented potatoes. He just kept ranting on and on about how I should “just go grab one of them.” “Them” referred to one of the square-dancing girls. I decided that this was my cue to go back to the other half of the club where they were playing hip-hop. That same guy with the bad breath found me again somehow. He started telling me about how I could get with any of the girls in the bar if I “just tell them that (I) (am) in the NBA.” He continued, “I dunno man make up a team, these people don’t care. You play for the Wizards? Now it’s the Washington Wizards.” Its funny but I guess in some ways its true. So what if I don’t exactly say which Wizards I play for. I mean, I am 6’10”…who would argue? Sadly, I didn’t oblige, the real number zero of the Wizards is a little too well known for me to pull that off. Of course the only 300 lb girl in the building comes right up to me and asks me to dance. I say no (I have a history of big girls asking me to dance for some reason). She persists and persists. She then flashes a smile. I am not joking when I say that from her front tooth on through the left side of her face, there were no other teeth. It actually scared me enough to make me kind of jump back. I realized that just because I had a day off, it didn’t mean that I needed to try to party, so I waited until everyone was ready and I left. She followed me to the cab asking for tickets. I told her that we didn’t get any tickets (obviously because I didn’t need her waving to me from the stands the next day). She knew her stuff though. She said “Oh you don’t? Well Michael Cooper makes sure his players get tickets!” That’s when I hit her with the “Huh, what?” I repeated the “huh, what?” method over and over again as I walked towards the cab and she really thought I couldn’t hear her. Nice, smooth get away.

The next game was on the final day of the road trip. Right off the bat I got 2 quick fouls. I felt like there was nothing I could do. It was actually funny because it was a female ref who called the fouls. Nothing wrong with female refs whatsoever, but before the game, when I was stretching, I saw her walk out in her jacket and I thought “you know what, female refs get a bad rep for calling the game too tight. I think that’s a myth, really. I mean, I think people just give them a hard time because they’re female.” I had been in for all of 45 seconds and had two fouls and a defensive 3 in the key, all called by her. I was so frustrated you could see it on my face. Since there were only so many people in the Albuquerque rodeo house (or whatever this place is called), it was easy to hear the fans. One of the fans I guess saw how frustrated I looked and decided to let me have it a little bit. “Hey Benson! Benson,” he yelled, “You need to put some meat on them bones Benson!” I turned and looked at this guy and I distinctly remember thinking to myself “Wow guy, you need 20 years back, some Rogaine, and a shirt without a ‘Spaghetti O’s’ stain on it.” I calmed myself down and got back to the game, which we lost. Dijon Thompson played really well, as did Cedric Bozeman. We got down 30-10 and it was tough to come back after that.

We had to get back to Bismarck for a game against Tulsa the next day. I realized that even though its so cold that you sometimes consider turning your oven on “BROIL” and jumping inside like Hansel and Gretel, at the end of the day, nothing beats home cookin’. There’s the guy behind the bench with his “Benson Boards ‘Em” sign. There’s the girl sitting right next to the bench who winks at me and says “See you at bar later right?” as I pretend not to hear. There’s the ball kids who I swear are like 10 years old but who can consistently be heard giving relationship advice to one another. “I’m telling you man, she broke up with you, yea, but it had nothing to do with you. She has to do her own thing right now,” one of them says to another. I’m trying to warm up but I cant help but realize that this kid could give me some advice. Anyways we lost at home to the 66ers – our 5th loss in 6 games. Denham Brown and Desmond Farmer were unbelievable. It was probably my best game yet (20 pts. 8 rbs. 3 ast.) but we trailed the entire game and could never get a lead.

We play the LA D-Fenders tomorrow and I’m hoping to continue to play well offensively, but in this league, consistency is everything so it takes more than a couple games to get it all together. So I’ll wrap up my first entry into the too much Rod Benson blog until next time…. Who knows, maybe sooner than later I’ll have another title: “10th Player Called Up This Season – with a blog”. You can find EVEN MORE Rod Benson at

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