PICKING APART THE PICKS

Looks like the Celts and the Thunder are facing a similar problem: how to guard against the picks.

Usually, teams have well-established defense systems when it comes to guarding against the pick and roll, per team. Some prefer to double the handler, some prefer to plain-switch, and some have their big men back off until the guard recovers. However, it’s a different animal in this year’s Western and Eastern Finals. The heat and spurs are so excellent because of the dynamism, speed, explosiveness and sheer unpredictability of the screener and ball handler. It’s a pick and roll, pick n pop, pick n pass – pick your poison. and the score isn’t usually after the first pass. it’s the defensive adjustment that HAS to cover up that catches the defense flat-footed.
What the Thunder did with some success towards the end of game 4 was to just switch when the screener arrives. But this necessitates that all five men on the floor can guard all the other five men of the opposing team. boston also did it to some success. But as it is usually the case in the NBA, it’s easier said than done. The Heat and Spurs have excellent spacing, and five guys who can nail the jumper and/or penetrate.

If they can adjust their defenses and get more active bodies and hands on their opponents, the celtics and thunder may still have some life and fight left in them.

That’s the way it’s played.

 

“Clinic” is usually the word we use when a team plays in the ideal way, and in effect, shows how it’s done to the hapless loser.

 

“Clinic” doesn’t begin to describe how the Spurs are playing now.  They’re turning basketball into the dance it can be. On the technical side, they’re spacing, passing, helping, screening, shooting, controlling tempo, adjusting  and pacing beautifully. On the intangibles, they trust each other, they love playing with one another (27 assists vs OKC’s 19), they have composure, they believe in their system. And everyone who’s learning to play or coach basketball should watch the way they’re playing now (20 straight wins!).

 

Key things a couch coach might see:

 

1. Parker is getting his way too much. A more active defense on him has to be placed. I’ve never guarded an all-star and Olympic athlete before, but I’m guessing it takes more than that.

 

2. switching. I think the Thunder discovered, too late in the game, that their best bet against all the screens, is their last lineup that can switch defenders at any point in the game.

 

3. this switching D, attack and be physical, with the Thunder’s attitude of never folding – PLUS the homecourt should re-energize the Thunder. we saw shades of it, i think, during the last quarter or so. and if that shade becomes the real thing in game 3, then we can have a series.

 

4. however, even if the thunder adjust, the spurs are just so versatile that they can play at any pace or style. and again, that makes them terrifying. at some point, you just have to hope they miss.

 

I remember when my pistons coached by larry brown, lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals. coach brown said, “here, we always talk about playing ‘the right way.’  Right over there, that’s a team that plays ‘the right way.’ ”

 

 

 

What the Thunder must remember

Coach Popovich told his team: “I want some nasty.” And it was embodied by Stephen Jackson.

 


They played physical and tough for the fourth quarter, chased the track stars from Oklahoma, and pummeled them when they could. It was like The Hulk shutting up The Flash ( I know I crossed universes there, ok?). And it was the right thing to do, too. The scoreboard showed it at the end. In Pinoy basketball parlance, “minama nila.”

 

But what OKC must remember is that they CAN play tough. They played aggressive and physical against Dallas. And all season long, they were always on the brink of a brawl against the Lakers. They just have to remember, that as has been the case all season long, the powers-that-be are not just going to roll over and give them the keys to a new era. They have to remember, as they have throughout the season, that they must fight for it. Harden knows what I’m talking about.

 

 

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

the long and winding line…

Free Comic Book day, a phenomenon imported from the US, and found its home in Fully Booked, was celebrated today, and both Stan Lee and the Simpsons’ Comic Book guy would have been proud. It was celebrated on epic-line levels, with up to 50% off on some graphic novels, 20% off on all other graphic novels, the opening of Comic Odysssey INSIDE Fully Booked (you read it right), other stores like Filbar’s trying to follow suit, Sketch Requests for Charity, and of course, the free comic book (one had Adventure Time with Jake and Finn back to back with Peanuts. Sweet.)

almost…there…

I was very happy to see that its success has not waned, and that Fully Booked takes this responsibility very seriously (after all, as the comic book character says, “with great power…”). I wasn’t happy just for the geeks (and closet geeks like myself), for the artists, the industry, or the fans who finally got to shed the mothballs and cobwebs out of their Batman and Flash costumes.

I’m happy not only because everyone turned out – the hardcore fans, the hardcore-but-trying-to-play-it-down, the costumed, the families, the ones who read a hundred, those who’ve read only one. Everyone turned out. After all – weren’t we all hooked or gripped by one of these characters in one way or another? Weren’t we who are artists influenced by a certain style or storyline one way or another? Weren’t we who claim to read boring lives desperate to at least emulate the Avengers with our lunch group?

I’m happy not only for the fact that it keeps all our inner children happy. I was glad because a lot of us still know the value of comic books in our society. And we aren’t about to give that up.

I’m happy because days like these, that many will count as mere frivolity in the height of impeachments and impending wars, remind us that we have not given up on the power of imagination. On the idea of superheroes. On the notion that we can call upon the best of who we are, and in some way, at the last frame, overcome evil.

sketch for charity

We all know that Superman might not swoop down today and solve EDSA’s traffic problems (thought I definitely wouldn’t mind that). But days like these give us hope. We all know the X-Men won’t show up in the Senate on Tuesday and shut them all up, but days like these give us endurance.

Yes, one free comic book at a time.


SECOND ROUND: How the West will be won, and the shadow of a big-ass asterisk looming over the East

The WEST

 

As of press time (naks.), the Oklahoma Thunder are pulverizing the LA Lakers, to the tune of 92-63, with a little over a minute to go in the 3rd. Pending an epic, thunderous letdown, or an equally epic Kobe-powered comeback, the Thunder are running away with the first game.

 

For the West, it boils down, as corny as this may sound, to a question of Character. The teams that will come away with the wins will be the teams that know who they are, and impress this upon their opponents.

 

 

The Oklahoma Thunder, especially this season, are coming into their own. They know who they are, what kind of pace they want to play at, the selflessness required, the roles they are expected to play, and the work that’s cut out for them. They’re like a team of track-stars and high-jumpers in perfect sync. And that’s from the starters down to the bench.

 

The Lakers, in contrast, are, as Phil Jackson put it before, “a team in search of its soul.” Sure, the Lakers are talent-laden, and anybody with the Black Mamba in its arsenal can not be counted out. But this is a team game, and the better team is out there running down their opponents. They have won, and will continue to win games with their talent. If they still want to win, the rest of the Purple and Gold have to proverbially step it up. Gasol and Bynum have to do much of the damage since the guards and forwards cancel each other out. If Gasol and Bynum can dominate in the paint, and exert their wills over Ibaka, Perkins and Collison, then the Lakers have a chance.

 

The Spurs, on the other hand, are the epitome of knowing who they are, playing to their strength, and using these efficiently. They have also found a way to pace themselves throughout the season, and thus have a healthy Manu, Tony and Duncan. Their bench is also young, dynamic, and have that extra kick the veterans need. The Clippers are, in contrast, still looking for who they are. They’ve got Paul and Griffin to lead the charge, but when San Antonio suddenly exerts its towering and imposing presence upon these young guys, it won’t be pretty for the Clips. The Spurs have gone through so many wars (lost and won) together, and they’ve got one of the best minds running the show, too – Pop.

 

I guess you can say I’m predicting a Spurs-Thunder Western Finals. I’m rooting for the Thunder to go all the way, but if they do fall, it will be because the Spurs have exerted their familiar imposing presence on them.

 

The Western team that can find itself, use it to its advantage, and exert it over their opponents can win their Conference. Emphasis on Western TEAM. Not individual.

 

The EAST

 

As for the East, a big-ass asterisk still looms over them.

The fall of Rose still puts a big question mark on the Sixers win. Then it puts a big question mark on the winner of the Celtics-76ers match. And it puts a big on whoever wins the East, as everyone will forever wonder: could they still have won it if Rose played?

 

But shit like that happens, right? And I think it’s a toss-up between the Heat and the Celtics. Both are playing with newfound passion, desire and just downright anger. It’s going to be a fistfight.

 

 

 

 

GLOVES OFF: IT’S THE PLAYOFFS

 

 

 

Say your “pasintabi po” and your “bato bato sa langit.” It’s that wonderful time of the year: coaches come from couches, friendships are tested, inuman sessions become bloody (second only to My Way videoke sessions), NBA 2k12 playtimes become occasions for revenge, prophecies and predictions are made on Facebook, and statisticians are anybody who can count.

 

To our readers who will be looking for the running posts, don’t worry. This is temporary madness. To the rest – don’t worry, I’m a good sport. Two years ago, I got it right about LA. Hey, I was magnanimous in triumph. A year ago, I was so wrong about my predictions (damn mavericks), but I was humble (ehem) in my defeat.

 

It’s that wonderful time of the year. It’s win or go home. It’s when sports fans exercise democracy to the fullest. It’s when people thousands of miles away from the game venue get so affected by each shot, foul, panting and scream of triumph. It’s the NBA Playoffs.

 

 


Just finished this inspiring book…

I saw it in a mini-library. I tried reading the first few pages, and it was love at first-chapter.

I got my own copy several months later, and Christopher McDougall didn’t just sustain the high you get at the start of the book. But like a runner, his book had endurance and even sprinted toward the finish line.

Instead of waxing on and on about why I think you should get the book (and thus give you regurgitated meat), here’s an excerpt. You’ll see why I think this book should be required reading, not just for runners and athletes, but for human beings.

“How do you flip the internal switch that changes us all back into the Natural Born Runners we once were? Not just in history, but in our own lifetimes. Remember? Back when you were a kid and you had to be yelled at to slow down? Every game you played, you played at top speed, sprinting like crazy as you kicked cans, freed all, and attacked jungle outposts in your neighbors’ backyards. Half the fun of doing anything was doing it at record pace, making it probably the last time in your life you’d ever be hassled for going too fast.

“That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally din make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle – behold, the Running Man.

“Distance running was revered because it was indispensable; it was the way we thrived and survived and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else. And like everything else we love – everything we sentimentally call our “passions” and “desires” – it’s really an encoded ancestral necessity. We were born to run; we were born because we run. We’re all Running People, as the Tarahumara have always known.”

600++ pesos at your favorite bookstore.