But before Patrick Williams gets there, he decided he better learn a little bit about the place, his first time in a foreign country.
“I was in Canada,” Williams said. “Does that count?”
No, it doesn’t. So Williams decided he better learn a little bit about France, at least the difference between Napoleon the military dictator and napoleon the pastry, before getting there with the Bulls Monday for the Thursday January 19th game against the Detroit Pistons. So when the Bulls quietly returned home to Chicago from the disappointing loss in Washington Wednesday, Williams turned to a movie about France.
The Bulls visit next week is the continuation of the NBA’s outreach around the world with regular season games previously overseas in Japan, England and France occasionally over the last 30 years. This is the Bulls first regular season game outside North America.
“I was just this week googling history and World War II to watch a movie and see what I was stepping into there,” said Williams. “It would be a shame or waste to go and not see what we’re stepping into. Something I’m looking forward to and will get to share with teammates and family. My brother Eddie is going. They (Bulls) asked us about a month ago if we want to have team events or guys have personal time to explore. Guys said a mixture. So we’re having a couple of team dinners and guys are bringing family members or friends for personal time.
“Obviously, I’m a big eater so I want to see how the food is,” Williams said.
“Foodie or quantity,” I wondered.
“A little bit of both,” he said.
“These are moments we’ll treasure for a lifetime,” Williams said. “Not many people are able to travel as much as we do and see as much as we do, so it’s something you won’t forget. And it’s always good to have the memories you can share with your family and teammates. For me, they have some cool museums there; see those and obviously the shopping.”
No surprise, but it’s the first time either out of the country or to Europe for most of the Bulls young players. Several have traveled to basketball tournaments, though not to Europe.
Coby White said he’s been to the Dominican Republic, but not Europe.
“Looking forward to trying the food,” White said. “See the Eiffel Tower, obviously. It’s a blessing to be able to go to a place like that. Not many people from the states get that chance. So I’m excited, and especially to be there with my teammates. They say how beautiful Paris is and how good a city. I don’t ask too much; I like to experience things on my own and make the judgment. That’s just how I am. When I get older after basketball I want to travel and actually go sightseeing and take in the opportunities to spend time and see more things.”
Rookie Dalen Terry said he was in China for a high school tournament when he attended Hillcrest Prep in Phoenix along with Deandre Ayton.
“Obviously see the Eiffel Tower,” he said, the nominal favorite of most of the players. “I don’t know much about it, so I’ll lean on Vooch (Nikola Vučević) and G (Goran Dragic). My big interest is fashion and clothes. A lot of people have asked me about modeling some clothes there, so I’m looking forward to seeing the fashion stores and the differences.”
The NBA is all about scouting, so that was left to Alex Caruso to be the advance party for the team last summer.
“Was there about 48 hours (in September) and then the queen died (cutting short the trip),” Caruso related. “Just went around Paris, tourist spots, my first time there, did some interviews for the game. It was enjoyable seeing the places I’ve only seen in pictures, the culture. Everything seems so much more laid back; really enjoyed the food and restaurants.”
Surprisingly, neither Vučević nor Dragić ever played games in France, though Dragic played professionally in Slovenia and Spain.
“An awesome city, unbelievably beautiful,” said Dragić. “The architecture, a lot of history. And then you have so many things to do if it’s Fashion Week. I’ve been there for Fashion Week, which is unbelievable. Really liked Versailles (the palace for kings). Unbelievable to see that in person, the gardens, the mirrors.”
Vučević, though he never played in France, is familiar with the culture and fluent in French. He lived for a time in nearby Belgium where his father was a professional player.
“Have traveled there many times,” said Vučević. “I love Paris, the history, the monuments. It’s a wonderful place for just walking around. I’m a history student and always have been curious about the French kings. It’s important to know the history of the world and how we got to where we are. We learned a lot about that in school. I’ve been there for Fashion Week and often go to the museums. My favorite is Versailles. Obviously, the kings knew how to live.”
And next week the Bulls get to live like kings for a week in La Ville Lumièr, the city of romance, culture, the Enlightenment, the city everyone talks about from Audrey Hepburn, who said, “Paris is always a good idea,” to Ernest Hemingway, who rhapsodized, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you.”
And, oh right, the basketball.
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