"You can't heal without getting injured. You can't find resilience if you don't know what exists in the first place. On a regular day, you don't need that extra mile, that sixth gear, that burst of energy to blow past your competition. Until you fall, that next step isn't even a second thought. But when adversity hits, then doubt lingers. When your thoughts start racing, you'll even question your own desire. Family, friends, fans and teammates have all got your back, but by yourself, that's the biggest battle you'll ever face. And you've got the same skills that brought you here. You're anchored by the same foundation that held you down from day one. But now there's new challenges, new goals, new horizons. A new beginning and a fresh start...."
Episode 2 of Open Gym gave viewers a healthy dose of Lou Williams, one of Masai Ujiri's big gets over the offseason.
Producer Jeff Landicho and the crew followed Williams and his family around the city as they searched for a place to live.
Joined by his girlfriend Ashley and daughters Jada and Zoe, the 28-year-old wanted to find housing where they could be comfortable over the course of a long regular season.
He talked about this being his first "real NBA move," considering he played seven years for the Philadelphia 76ers before signing with his hometown Atlanta Hawks. Having to move his children to an environment they're unfamiliar with shows the trials and tribulations professional athletes endure while transitioning to new teams.
It's a humanistic approach that I hope Open Gym explores more in the future. Watching Williams interact with his girls, specially around the water fountain with Jada teasing that she wanted a Minnie Mouse birthday cake, makes fans appreciate the man behind the buzzer beater even more.
With the season opener being against Atlanta, it provided opportunities to grab interviews with some of his former teammates. Dennis Schroder mentioned how he took him under his wing during his rookie year, showing the German guard the ropes and guiding him around the city.
One of the more fascinating segments came in the form of a retrospective on Williams' ACL injury he suffered in a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
"The only thing I was thinking about was trying to get to the tunnel so no one could take a picture and put it on Instagram."
It was an enlightening experience because it showed Williams who his true friends were and who was simply mooching off his success for free tickets. It toughened him and proved that he could overcome adversity in grand fashion.
My girlfriend and I were spectators when the Hawks and Raptors locked horns at the Air Canada Centre on Oct. 29. One of the high points of the evening was the reaction Kyle Lowry got before tip-off when he addressed the 20,000 fans in attendance. I can tell you that the noise level in that building was deafening. The live broadcast and Open Gym footage doesn't do that moment justice. That's not a shot against the show, though. Just an interesting note.
With episodes moving back to half the running time, we can get right to the nitty-gritty of what the die-hards enjoy seeing the most: practice footage and locker room reactions.
We saw the players decked out in sweaters and sweat pants at the Amway Center in Orlando for practice because the building had yet to heat up, something Williams poked fun at. Showing Casey's post-game speech following the win over Atlanta deserves a tip of the cap as well.
Bell users can catch a special After Show on Bell Local 1217 following each airing. Host Kat Stefankiewicz ran a very knowledgeable panel that included Akil Augustine, Rez Raida and David Hurley. Kat and Akil will be regulars, while those remaining two spots will feature new faces week to week.
Rather than merely breaking down each segment of the show, Kat and the guys branched off and discussed subject matter stemming off key moments (ex. how can social media impact an athlete?). They keep your attention because it's obvious that they know what they're talking about.
Closing with Mr. Landicho answering questions through the hashtag #OpenGym is a fantastic way to promote fan interaction and get the show trending on Twitter. I'll be submitting some of my own in the near future.
I need his camera. Christmas present?
Your opinion of this episode will depend greatly on whether you're a fan of Lou Williams. I'm sure there will be those who were turned off when the show steered off into a House Hunters rerun, but that's not enough of a reason to condemn what was an otherwise gratifying follow-up to a fantastic season premiere.
Final Score: 9.0/10
+ Lou Williams and his family
+ Interviews with his former teammates
+ A compelling look at his ACL injury
+ Show openings continue to give me goosebumps
- Would have liked to have seen more locker room footage from the first loss of the year against Miami, especially considering DeMar DeRozan's history in losing to the defending Eastern Conference Champions.