Phoenix or Bust

The last and final day may have been the craziest, most chaotic day I’ve had in a long time! Upon waking up at around 8 a.m., packing up my room, and checking out, I headed up to a quick breakfast with the rookies (Alando and D.J.). LB was already down and we were just waiting on Steve.

Leandro Barbosa and Aaron Nelson. 

(Aaron Nelson/Suns Photos)

Read the Aaron Nelson Blog: Part Two

We had a bus departing at 10 a.m. for the grand opening of Yao Ming’s health club – California Fitness Yao Ming (sister company to 24 Hour Fitnress). As we walked out to the bus, Steve and LB signed autographs for several fans, some who drove over 1,500 miles just to get an autograph. A couple of the grils began crying because they were so excited to get the autographs – You might have thought it was the Beatles!

We arrived at a square downtown in which the introduction of the club would take place. We all met Jackie Chan and proceeded to an area with an outdoor stage and some chairs. About 100 media and supporters were present, while the nearby streets and shops were lined with thousands of fans trying to get a picture or autograph of some of the stars. Yao arrived and the opening ensued. As we were being escorted up to the club (video footage coming soon), the 10 or so security guards we had were no match for the rabid fans. People were pushing and fighting to get close to the players, some just to touch them. Security was hurling people out of the way without hesitation. I was just waiting to be one of the unlucky individuals to take a beating. I stayed close to Steve and Leandro, although I’m still not sure if that was a good or bad idea. I also had to push some people away from LB as they were getting out of control. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. OUT OF CONTROL!

Following good-byes with Yao, agent Bill Duffy, and BDA Sports’ Bill Sanders, we got back on our bus and headed to the airport. After waiting a little while, we boarded Bing’s plane and took off for Russia. The flight lasted about 5 ½ hours, but this time no one got off the plane. Everyone stayed where they were and slept. Steve and Baron Davis slept on the couches in the back of the plane and I took the same floor space I had on the way to China. Everyone else was passed out in their seats. After less than an hour of refueling, we headed off to Seattle – about a 6 ½ hour flight. We all continued to sleep until the last 4 minutes in which everyone started to wake up. We landed in Seattle and said our good-byes to Baron Davis, Amir Johnson and Paul Davis.

As I finish this blog, we are about 45 minutes from Phoenix. The only ones left are Steve, LB, Alando, D.J., Chuck Hayes, Bing, Jody, our flight attendant and our two pilots. Both to and from China, our flight attendant took very good care of all of us, trying to make sure we were always comfortable and well fed.

I hate to use the cliché, but this has been a whirlwind trip! It was an incredible experience for such a short time. Steve and Yao did something incredible for the underprivileged children in China with help from many of their NBA and Chinese friends, as well as their agencies. Bing Hu played a big part in the event and was generous enough to fly us over on his private plane so we would not have to make the trip commercially. They told us that the money from the event will help build about70 schools in China so that young children can now have the education that may have passed them by. You should all know the compassion and love Steve and Yao have for such a great cause. The players were grateful to be a part of such an event. Leandro is now looking at doing an event with Steve, similar to this one, to be held in Brazil. You don’t always get a chance to see what these players do to give back to the community, but I have been able to see first hand.

We are getting close to our descent into Phoenix and I cannot wait to see my wife and son! I hope to see many of you reading this at some Suns games as we make another run for the championship. Training camp starts in about two weeks and our first exhibition game is in about three weeks!

Go Suns!!! – and Steelers!

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A Great Experience and Spectacular Event

Our second day in Beijing consisted of breakfast at 8 a.m. followed by a 9:15 a.m. sightseeing� tour of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. We had a tour guide talk to us about all of the history. It was a great experience and everyone enjoyed the tour despite the continual rainfall.

Steve Nash poses for a picture with� Jackie Chan at a charity game in China. 

(Aaron Nelson/Suns Photos)

Read the Aaron Nelson Blog: Part One

A visit to the Great Wall was scheduled but had to be cancelled due to poor weather and a long ride (two hours each way). The tour lasted a couple of hours and we then returned to the hotel to grab lunch and get ready for practice.

We left for practice at 2 p.m. Our workouts were held at an academy for the Chinese National Teams (all sports). It would be similar to the USOC Training Centers in the US, but their athletes will come to live in the dorms (some at a very young age) to prepare themselves to win an Olympic medal. Practice lasted about two hours and consisted of stretching/warm-up, shooting drills, some offense strategies, and finally a one-on-one game among several of the players (video footage to come). Baron Davis and Steve had a great battle, with Carmelo jumping in at the end.

We arrived back at the hotel around 4:30 and had a 6 p.m. bus to the Yao/Nash Charity Gala. The Gala consisted of dinner (local cuisine), a variety of entertainment, a live auction, and introduction of the players from both teams. The event raised a couple million dollars (US) and with the actual game the next night, raised just about $3 million.

Several Chinese stars were in attendance, although no one I recognized beyond the players. It was really funny to see several of our players nodding off toward the end of the event, including myself. It wasn’t because of boredom, but rather a combination of things that left us somewhat sleep deprived.

Following the Gala, we all went back to the hotel and went to bed. No nightlife on this night because everyone finally hit the wall with the time change, no naps, and a late night the night prior.

The next morning, we had an 8 a.m. breakfast in which I met Steve and LB. We had a bus leaving at 9 a.m. for a joint shoot around/practice with the Chinese National Team. The practice lasted about an hour and we headed back to the hotel to shower and leave for a noon team lunch at one of the nicest restaurants in China called LAN. LAN is a $52 million dollar establishment with about 50,000 square feet. It consisted of various rooms with different themes. LAN was designed by a famous French designer, although I can’t recall his name. Lunch consisted of a 10-course meal and although I didn’t partake in every course, I was stuffed!

After lunch, we had about an hour and a half to get ready before our 5:30 p.m. bus to the game. You may have heard, but traffic in China is beyond ridiculous. I have seen LA, Houston, and New York traffic, but nothing like this! Even city buses were so crammed, it looked as though individuals barely had enough room to breathe. It took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach the venue. The game was scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. but obviously started much later since we arrived there at 7:15pm. I got everyone taped and off they went for the start of the game. Movie star Jackie Chan threw up the honorary jump ball. The game consisted of two 10-minute quarters between the two teams followed by a quarter in which Steve played for the Chinese team and one of their players, Sun, played for our team. The last quarter consisted of mixed squads from both teams. Needless to say, there was no real winner. The Nash All-Stars trailed by three points at the end of the two quarters, but we never played a regular second half.

Following the game, we jumped back on the bus which took us to a private post party hosted by the NBA for everyone from the event. That turned things into another long night, but we all had fun!

One more day and it is off to the USA!

Aaron Nelson Blog: Part Three | Photo Gallery

Beijing or Bust

I must begin with an apology for a summer-long neglect of blogging, but I am going to fall back on the excuse of being too busy. My wife and I welcomed the birth of our first child—a son we named Andrew. Believe me, an incredible experience that puts a whole new perspective on life.

Steve Nash, Bing Hu (center) and Leandro Barbosa on a flight to China. 

(Aaron Nelson/Suns Photos)

Shortly after his birth, I left for a week for summer league in Las Vegas. I made a couple of trips back and forth from Vegas to Phoenix to do some work with Grant Hill. After summer league, I was home for about a week and then traveled to Vancouver for a few days for Steve Nash’s Charity Event. It was at that point that I promised my wife I would be home for the next couple of months prior to leaving for the Sun’s training camp in October. She and I both knew better. I ended up going to Las Vegas for another week to work with the USA Select Team—a team of younger NBA players assembled to scrimmage against the USA National Team in preparation for the FIBA qualifying tournament. I had planned to do a blog about that whole experience (which was great), but I put it on the back burner and never got around to it. All of this brings me to the final (so I hope) trip of the summer prior to camp on October 1st, a trip to Beijing, China for the Steve Nash/Yao Ming Charity game. So, as I thank my wife and son for being so understanding, I will attempt to give everyone some idea of how this trip unfolds.

September 11th, 202007
6 a.m. – Alarm goes off but actually get an extra hour of sleep (usually get up at 5 a.m.). I proceed to eat breakfast, shower, and wait for my son to wake up so I can spend an hour with him and my wife before the car comes to pick me up and takes me to Scottsdale Airpark.
7:45 a.m. – Car arrives, I kiss my wife and son good-bye and I realize how much traveling makes me miss them.
9 a.m. - Arrive at Scottsdale Airpark to board our private plane (Falcon 900) owned by Bing Hu. Bing is a good friend of Steve Nash and actually flew my staff and I up to Steve’s charity game in Vancouver on the same plane. Bing is Chinese and will help us around Beijing, which will make things a lot easier. The Nash/Yao Charity game was an idea spawned between Bing and Steve to help the poor children in China. Steve approached Yao after a game between the Suns and Rockets and the whole event was quickly put together.
9:45 a.m. – Flight departs and we head to Las Vegas to pick up some auction items for the charity event. On the flight is Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, Alando Tucker, DJ Strawberry, Bing Hu, Jody Evans (assistant within BDA Sports), our flight attendant, and myself.
11 a.m. - Load auction items and depart Las Vegas for Seattle to pick up the rest of the players.
1:30 p.m. - Land in Seattle and pick up Baron Davis, Chuck Hayes, Amir Johnson, and Paul Davis. Carmello Anthony will meet us in Beijing.

Now the time becomes a little foggy and we pass through many time zones. We make stops in Anchorage, Alaska and Petropavlosk-Kamcatsig, Russia to refuel. Steve and Leandro stay sleeping on the plane during our Russian refueling stop while the rest of us get out to stretch our legs on the tarmac. Once we have the plane serviced, we fly across the Okhotsk Sea to China. We land in Beijing around 6:30 p.m. local time the following day(Beijing is 15 hours ahead of Phoenix time).

We have a bus pick us up and take us to our hotel – The Regent Beijing. It is an awesome hotel, but the service was somewhat suspect. It began by them not having a key ready for my room which was the last thing I wanted to hear after traveling for ¾ of a day! We all went to a press conference in the hotel in which Steve and Yao were introduced to a room full of media. The rest of the players were also in attendance and received and answered questions for about an hour. After the press meeting, I was able to get into my room with my bags, but still had to wait for them to bring me my key. Eventually, I was all set and the boys and I headed off to a night of karaoke (very popular in China). Steve and Baron had the microphone most of the night which was beyond entertaining. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time!

Aaron Nelson Blog: Part Two | Photo Gallery

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead

I don’t know about everyone else, but this season has flown by very quickly! We are already two games and two wins into the 202007 NBA Playoffs and potentially only a couple of months away from a NBA championship. Now is a good time to reflect on some of the key moments of the season.

  • September began with informal workouts, including extra workout sessions with our Sports Medicine staff trying to keep up with Nash(Camelback, parking garage, etc.).

 

  • We travel with the team, staff, family, owners, administration, and NBA personnel to Italy and Germany for a very memorable training camp.

 

  • I found out after coming home from a preseason road game that my wife is pregnant with our first child. Several weeks later I found out we’re having a boy!

 

  • The regular season started out slow, but ended up with 61 wins(3rd best in Suns history), including win streaks of 17 and 15 games!

 

  • Ben Roethlisberger came to a shootaround and participated in the entire workout(including the film session). Steeler Nation, baby!

 

  • Jerome Bettis attends the Suns/Pistons game and come back to the training room for a visit. Did I say Steeler Nation baby?!

 

  • Cal Ripken Jr. made a tour through the locker room before a game. Not part of Steeler Nation, but not a bad athlete to put in with a couple of Super Bowl Champs!

 

  • Amaré plays in all 82 games after 2 knee surgeries last season—unbelievable accomplishment.

 

  • We end up with the 2nd best record in the NBA!

 

  • Leandro Barbosa wins 6th Man of the Year! I still think he should have received all of the votes!

Those were only a few of the highlights of another great season. Of course there have been ups and downs, but we seem to be hitting our stride again at the right time.

Now, we need to look ahead. We have 2 wins under our belts and need 14 more to win a NBA Championship.

First, we need to win this series as we travel to LA for games 3 and 4. Los Angeles can be a hostile territory during the playoffs as family and friends can attest from last years playoffs against the Lakers and the Clippers.

As long as we keep building momentum and playing hard, great things will probably follow. We have a group of guys that are starving for a shot at the title, but everyone knows that the West is a difficult conference.

All of us (players, coaches, and staff) have friends working or playing for the other playoff teams, so there are calls, texts, and emails almost daily between everyone. The anxious anticipation builds daily as we get closer to meeting those individuals in a playoff series.

Friendships can become tense, but that is the nature of the game. I will assure all Suns fans that our team is ready to dig in deep and make a run to what we all want to see—the championship trophy hoisted high above our heads!