Why the 2013 Gilas PIlipinas FIBA Campaign Matters

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(or how to join the water-dispenser conversations, or how to explain to your non-basketball friends (do they exist?) why your blood pressure was so high these past 10 days. Or why your basketball-crazy officemate couldn’t stop talking about different countries but it wasn’t about Zero Fares)

There are 10 reasons. You can skip to the ones you think you like best.

 

1. First, The Philippines won an international tournament. 

 When people say they will fight for you, I think they at least deserve a “Thank you” and “good luck.” Well, said people just won for you, and I think we should at least congratulate them.

Rejoice. Be merry. It doesn’t matter if the Philippine team won in Tennis, Swimming, Archery, he Olympics, the Asian Games, or in Monopoly – our team won.

This is all the more important because we won in basketball. You might not be into basketball, but I guess, 9 and 3/4 out of 10 people are into it, have played it, or have relatives who have high blood pressure because of it.

The FIBA World Basketball Championship is set every two years. Yes, just like its more famous cousin, the FIFA World Cup (for football, yup!). For some reason, there are a certain number of slots allotted to different regions. And these regions compete for these slots. The FIBA Asia competition had three slots open. So the Philippines’ objective was to win one of these three – or, to at least finish third. We ended up second. And yes, that’s why everybody was still very happy despite losing to Iran in the finals. We get to go to Spain and play with the world’s best again.

I think the last time we busted into the World Stage, was before I was born (I’m 28, so you have an idea). So if you’re my age or thereabouts, our parents might have been longing for this moment even before they were longing for you and me to come into the world.

For a basketball crazy country, you think we’d get our act together sooner. However, as it happened, division and politicking got in the way. We made several different leagues. We argued about who to send to competitions. We didn’t even have a decent training pool. We finally got banned. We worked our way back into being legitimized, and now, we finally hosted the shebang, and got a ticket into the bigger stage.

2. Because of the Amazing Business it is, that it generated, and will continue to generate. 

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MVP did it again. He rescued a cause many believed to be too worn out by politics to cause the country any good. Of course he must have earned a lot of money by investing in this team, but the fact is – he invested in the dream everyone left behind (or everyone just fought over).

Events like these are the confluence of many sectors: Sports, Marketing, and Tourism. All of them pitched in. All of them earned.

Imagine all the teams flying over here. Imagine them telling their families what a greet place the Philippines is. Imagine how many of them actually return. Imagine how many rooms they got at the Dusit or wherever. Imagine how much food they bought.

Imagine all the people in the SM MOA Arena looking for something to eat. Imagine the parking costs. Imagine all the merchandise they bought to commemorate the event.

We haven’t even talked about the tickets yet.

So aside from making a great business out of the event, the Pangilinan Group also made the Philippines a great business for other countries to invest in.

3. Gary David 

If you’re not a basketball fan, you might still be interested in the stories of these next three guys who made me love the sport even more.

First up, is Gary David.

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Gary is a gunner. In basketball, that means he usually shoots from the three point area. Note, they don’t shoot exclusively from there. But when they get “hot” – no one could stop them. Some gunners you might have heard of are Allan Caidic and Ray Allen. In the eternal words of the Pringles guys, once they pop, they’re hard to stop.

The thing with gunners is that it’s as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Gary David was in a slump. Blame pressure. Blame mental toughness. Whatever. After the first game, he got called out by his coach – his percentage was nowhere near where the team needed it to be. It wasn’t there during the next game, either.

Then came the game where the crowd, instead of booing him, cheered him on still. Then all the trust of his coach his team mates and the crowd paid off when he exploded for 22 points one night when he was needed most.

Here’s a beautiful article by one of my favorite sports writers, Carlo Paminutan : http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/320773/sports/opinion/2013-fiba-asia-championship-how-the-crowd-saved-gary-david

4. Marcus Douthit 

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We were told in Grade School AP/Sibika/Hekasi, that Citizenship is acquired through two natural means: jus sanguini, and jus soil. Then there are other means, like naturalization. I learned, however, that there is another one: laying your body on the line for your teammates and the flag whose anthem you now rise to.

That’s how Marcus Douthit earned the trust, thanks, and even adoration of this basketball-crazy nation. Despite being injured, he played hobbled. Despite being hurt, he fought. And the beautiful thing about how Douthit handled his injury was that he tried his best not to show how it really hurt. The first time he fell, he did not allow himself to be carried off on a stretcher.

When he played again that same game to secure the win, a wince was the only window through which the world would see his pain.

When he played the next game, he played big and once again helped bail our shocked asses, this time from the Hong Kong surprise. Then he tried to do it against versus South Korea. Alas, his injury finally caught up with his body. He had to leave in the second quarter. But he still refused to be melodramatic. The way he left the court, the way he sat on the bench, you’d think it was business-as-usual, and he’d just get up and get back. He was a soldier who fought for the same country I would fight for.

5. Gabe Norwood

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Gabe Norwood is my personal choice as Gilas MVP.

Fine, he didn’t score the same number of points as Chan, Castro, Tenorio or Douthit. He didn’t explode like David. But he is the glue of that team. He is the perfect player that can play up to four positions, shoot and drive, and defend the best player on the opposing team. AND he doesn’t tire easily. He might be the one with the most number of minutes. I  would even dare say that Gilas’ wanting to run, attack, and be the most hardworking and athletic team is possible because they have Norwood. I would even venture saying that if Norwood weren’t there, the entire character of the team might change.

Theirs are only three stories among the rich collection this team must have. Stories that will not only make you love basketball, but even being a Filipino.

6. Because it proves that height is not necessarily might. 

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If there anything we proved, it’s that height is not everything.

OKAY, height is definitely something. Like in the game against Iran. Okay, it was because of Haddadi, that freakishly tall Iranian Center. However, signs pointed to the fact that given the right manpower, we could have taken him down (figuratively).

OKAY, basketball is a game for tall people, the object of the game being to put the ball in a basket 10 feet up in the air.

But look at the Gilas Team.

We were never the tallest team. But we made sure we were always the more hardworking, more passionate and more fired-up one.

Dennis Rodman wasn’t the tallest guy, but man could he rebound. So could Charles Barkley. Locally, we had Rudy Hatfield. And in international play, South Korea proves time and time again, that it’s not just about size, but speed, athleticism, skills and know-how. They slew the Chinese Dragon with it. Look at the US Team, too. There’s only one “true” Center on that team: Chandler.

And yes, in the end, Haddadi got the better of us. But i’m not so sure he’s unbeatable. Because there were flashes of strategy there where we thought we had him. Given more manpower and more time to study his game, this team of lilliputians can haul Gulliver’s ass.

So we’re finding out all over the world, and we proved it on our home soil: height is just one way to win in basketball. Heart is another matter altogether.

7. Because it gives younger players a bigger dream.

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Now, every varsity player in high school and college can actually dream beyond just the PBA. Hopefully, as my friend Aaron said in his status, that these kids get to appreciate these games this past week, and develop a desire to play for the Flag.

Now, every young guy or girl playing with a makeshift court in his backyard or subdivision can also dream big. They can believe that they too have what it takes to compete with the world’s best.

I hope coaches, trainers and scouts also get to see that they have a place in helping our country not only get better in basketball, but also represent the country themselves on the world stage.

8. Because it proves, once again, that our athletes and coaches, given proper training and funding, can compete with the world.

Imagine every sport, coach, team and athlete in our country given the same investment by Manny Pangilinan. I think you get the picture.

Some coaches and trainers today give free advice and sessions to deserving athletes who desire to compete. Some athletes brave competing in a sport and fighting for the flag even if they know that the compensation may not be good, or even passable. But there are too much of these martryrdoms. We have a long way to go from donations and gimmes to actually institutionalizing our sport funding. The Gilas Business Model might – emphasis on MIGHT – be a good way of doing things.

9. It unites us. 

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Basketball, for all the teamwork it preaches during MILO Best Training Camps and such, can also be quite divisive. There are various styles of playing. Various teams to root for. Various players to cheer for. And a lot of Coke Litro to fight for.

So if you’ve seen your fanatic friend go haywire over certain arguments, you know what I mean.

This GIlas Run, however, brought everyone together. Doubters and believers, blind lovers and rabid haters – everyone threw their support for the team.

And you could see it in the way our different coaches came together, too. All the best minds in the country, at one point or another, came and helped Gilas. Yeng Guiao, Tim Cone, and Toroman came in to check on the team and shared their assessments with Coach Reyes. Jawo even came to inspire them. Norman Black, and Jong Uichico came to assist on the bench. Nash Racela and Ryan Gregorio filled the role of scouts and video boys. They all came together for the players and the country the players served.

The fans, too, came together, not just on social networks, but in their hopes and dreams.

So whether you cheered for Ateneo or La Salle, Crispa or Toyota, Ginebra or Alaska, (or even Miami or San Antonio), i think you shouted at the same time i did as the final buzzer sounded tonight. you, me, and everyone in the Philippines who grew up with a basketball in his hand and magic in his heart.

10. It makes us remember.

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Some Marxist-leaning scholars, social commentators or even taxi drivers can tell us that religion, entertainment and sports are actually instruments of existing hierarchies to make the masses forget the things that matter.

Okay… granted. Sports does lift us on a plane equal to some sort of Shrooms. Everytime Pacquiao fights, for example, we forget everything else.

However, sports also has the capability to remind us of our capacity as a citizenry. Sports can remind us of who we are as a people. Sports can push our spines against walls and from catastrophe, discover our character.

We learned from the Gilas experience that the Pinoy fights. Whether we’re down by 10, or we end up losing by 10. Whether we’re faced with a sprightly offense that runs like clockwork, or we’re being bombed by threes, or we’re being literally overshadowed by giants from the Middle East, we fight.

Because the players reminded us of our fighting spirit and unrelenting heart, we must be able to use that which is in our national DNA to fight different battles: against poverty, against corruption, against apathy. We must fight against those who pocket millions, from the millions who are battling for life. And like Gilas did every night they stepped on the court we must give our heart, soul, sinew and yes, pockets into the fights that need fighting.

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Why they must win THIS YEAR

OK, here are the stats. But you can throw these out the window. It’s the Finals! (Stats from https://www.facebook.com/getblued.ateneo)

It makes me a bit woozy to say it, but next year is an asterisk year for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

For the uninitiated, the “Asterisk” is something sports-people (regardless of ball, club, gear, goal or field) put on records or years to indicate that something happened that year that has to be explained. The “Asterisk,” I guess was meant to prompt the record-gazers to put the numbers in a special context (or for the older/geekier one to start telling the story).

The most famous (or infamous) was the 61* homerun record of Yankee Roger Maris. He beat Babe Ruth’s homerun record. However, some “experts” claimed that this was only because the season was extended. What the Babe would have done with more games! After some decades, they finally yielded that a season was a season, and that a great feat is a great feat, but that was one of the most debated Asterisk moments in sports. For a more cinematic experience, watch “61” directed by Billy Crystal.

Bill Simmons elaborated on this concept (and how!) in a Grantland article(www.grantland.com). He applied this to NBA championships. He started with the 2012 edition. He said it could be considered such because Derrick Rose got injured in the first round of the playoffs. (Oh how different the playoffs would have been!) Then he went on through the different years – how championship stories could have been rewritten, how playoff fortunes could have shifted – and why they merited an asterisk. Then he conceded that okay, asterisks are reasons given usually by losing teams (sourgrapes), and that these setbacks and game-changers are the adversities that come with winning a championship.

That said, I say next year is an Asterisk Year for the Blue Eagles. True, their core remains intact. But the performance of their upcoming rookie is what makes me question next year: Bo Perasol (the most crucial rookie for next year, probably). He is very qualified, I’m sure. But he is no Norman Black. And let’s face it: I have never seen anyone excited about getting Bo Perasol. He also faces a lot of expectations (many of them probably unfairly) from a community that has been spoiled rotten by Black’s winning ways.

It will also take time for him to gel with his wards, probably like a foster father trying to talk to his new son. The voice of the coach in College Basketball is a lot more important than in the Pros. That’s why the NCAA coaches in the US are famed and beheld: Bob Knight, Coach K, Dean Smith. They embody their program. And they not only coach basketball, they coach their players’ lives. They are educators, too – an extension of the school’s classrooms.

Next year will have a lot of question marks hanging on the Eagles’ jerseys. Next year’s championship will be more up for grabs than this one.

That is why UST has to win it this year. If I’m a Tiger, I want to win it this year – when everyone else seemed to think Ateneo was headed for a fifth championship. I want to win it this year, against Norman Black. Against the Eagles at the height of their flight. I want to win it this year, when Ateneo can’t make any excuses. I want to win it this year, when our best will shine more brightly because the opponent was more legendary.

Which is also why Ateneo has to win it this year. They have one important member of the team graduating: Norman Black.

Sportscasters and analysts usually talk about Championship Windows. The Sacramento Kings of the Webber-Bibby-Divac-Christie-Stojakovic era tried to go through it, but failed. And it closed. Never to be opened again. The “window question” also always crops up when you talk about the Spurs and the Celtics. Is it still open for the aging Garnett and Duncan? Ateneo’s championship window is now in question.

The Drive for Five is also another reason. No other school in more recent history has achieved the phenomenal fifth. It may be hard to imagine today, but UE actually won seven straight titles from 1965 to 1971.  In more recent memory, UST won four straight. Then La Salle. Then Ateneo. (for more info: http://www.pba-online.net/basketball/uaap/Eagles-chasing-UAAP-history-versus-Tigers/15694/)

Will the Tigers be immortalized as the Giant Slayers? Or will the Eagles be immortalized for the Five-Peat?

The window for immortality is closing. Only one team can get through.

ATENEO vs. UST: THE FITTING FINALS

The Golden Fiesta finally exploded. The yellow confetti rained down from the rafters. The UAAP was now going to crown its new king: The UST Growling Tigers. Led by their inspired and inspiring mentor, Pido Jarencio, they had won the championship for the Royal Pontifical University. That was 2006. Game 3 of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Finals. I was there. My heart, along with the thousands of others, was broken. I watched my Eagles fall in the third game that wasn’t even supposed to happen.

Barely a week and a half ago, UST was destroyed in Game 1 by a last second inbound play by Ateneo. Multi-titled (we say that when we’ve lost count) mentor coach Norman Black drew up a play and the Eagles executed perfectly. Doug Kramer got the ball where he was supposed to, shot the ball like he was supposed to. And Ateneo won like they were supposed to.

But Game 3, the game that wasn’t supposed to happen, happened.

Fast forward to six years later. Norman Black and the Ateneo Blue Eagles had been reaping the successes of a well-funded and well-run Basketball Program. Year after year after year, they would find good players and run the system well. And year after year after year, they would have a trophy and a celebratory bonfire to show for it. They had established dominance over the UAAP over the last four years with four straight championships. Arguably, a Dynasty.

2012. They seek their fifth straight championship. A feat that no other team has done in recent years (La Salle and UST were able to do “only” 4-peats). Norman Black had announced at the beginning of the season that it would be his last. Of course his players (especially the seniors) want to send him off with the grandest possible gift.

Just yesterday, the tournament studded with technicality and rulebook-throwing arguments finally ended its regular season and its Final Four. As the rubble and smoke cleared, Norman Black would look to the distance and find his former tormentor: Pido Jarencio and his army of gold.

Shakespeare probably couldn’t have written it better.

Apart from announcing 2012 would be his last season, Black had also declared that UST is the team he is most watching out for this year. Many predicted that NU would be Ateneo’s top contender. Or even FEU. But no, Black had his sights on UST, saying that they are the team that can match up best with his guys. Abdul cancels out Slaughter. The guards play exceptionally well. Pido Jarencio matches his Xs and Os and discipline with raw guts and rawer chutzpah. True enough, the Eaglres lost their first round battle against UST. The second round battle saw Ateneo winning, but only by a slim margin.

That is why this is the Finals that should be.

Norman Black also said once that basketball is a game of match-ups. Rankings (like 1st in defense, or 3rd in turnovers forced) are meaningless because what you have to look at are the numbers when the teams go head-to-head. And in this case, when the ABS-CBN Sports Guys finally break it down for us, I would think the numbers will tell us we’re in for a hell of a ride.

That is why this is the Finals that should be.

After Ateneo won the 2nd round battle, UST had the audacity to protest the game. The protest was denied. UST will be out to prove that they should have won. Ateneo will be out to prove that they actually did. Before, you could say that there was no rivalry between these two schools. Now, there is just too much unfinished business dating from six years back that need to be wrapped up.

That is why this is the Finals that should be.

This is the Finals Norman Black wants to win before he goes out into the sunset, with freshly-cut basketball nets draped around his neck, and lifted on the shoulders of the players who respect and love him.

COUCH COACHING FINALE: OKC POST-MORTEM (or the rantings of a sore loser)

I really thought Oklahoma could win it all this year.

I thought OKC could do it because they had the tools necessary to breakMiamidown.

Miami’s weaknesses, at least according to this couch scout-cum coach, are the Point Guard Spot, The Size, and the Bench.

Well, the point guard pretty much negated his advantage my making decisions more awful than Rebecca Black’s Friday. The Bigs were slow-dancing in their rotation, and were hapless against the Wade-James Fastbreak Freight Train of Death. The bench was also outplayed and outhustled by Mike Miller and Shane Battier. (Notice how I mentioned them before I did Bosh)

Of course, one likes cheering for Kevin Durant. The guy seems like an honest-to-goodness nice guy, and he trusts Westbrook even though deep in his basketball-bouncing heart (where a heartbeat should be thumping), he and not Russell should be getting those shots.

Bringing down the Mighty Spurs was no small feat, either. Down 2-0, the Thunder dug deep and ran the Spurs out of the Alamo. I thought the Spurs were the only team that could beat the Thunder. So with the Spurs out of the way, I thought OKC could charge through.

I also had good imaginary money on a Chicago-Oklahoma Finals. If that really happened, I couldn’t have cared who won. It was just going to be some great, amazing, intergalactic basketball. With Chicago gone and with Lebron to cheer against, that left me with only one choice.

For the Thunder, next year looks awfully bright. In the few years prior to reaching the finals, they had to lose to the eventual champions, and get beaten at the spot they were going to surpass the year after. So if their pattern holds and the planets are aligned, they should win it all next year. Get an honest-to-goodness point guard so Westbrook can be the Jericho Weapon he can be, or send the man to a retreat or seminar on generosity.

For Miami– Of course you won. Wasn’t one championship the bare minimum? And mind you, it came a year LATE. Will it happen again next year? I don’t think so. Is Bosh hungry enough? Can the cheaply-paid bench continue to thrive? Is the chip on Lebron’s shoulder big enough for another run at it? Will Rose be healthy enough to stop them?

Don’t forget,Miami, and your white horde – Rose was out. I know you deserve the championship, parade in Florida, Lebron now looks nice with a nice ring on his finger, He’s now matured into a yada-yada-whatever… et cetera et cetera, but you know what – you did it all with Rose watching from his house.

Which nicely sets up next year’s storyline. And the last time Miami won it all, they came back the year after for one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

THE CAPTAIN

Nawalan na ako ng pag-asa.

 

Hindi biro habulin ang 30 points. Kahit pa sa NBA 2k12.

 

Halos isang dekada bago pa maimbento at ma-abuso ng libu-libong bata (at isip-bata) ang 2k12, isang gabi sa bahay namin sa San Juan, nagchi-cheer ako para sa Purefoods TJ Hotdogs laban sa Sta. Lucia Realtors.

 

Wala namang malalim na dahilan kung bakit ako kumakampi para sa kanila.  Hindi naman ako labis na enjoy sa produkto nila, o labis na galit sa mga gumagawa ng bahay, pero bumagsak ang puso nang maging trenta ang lamang ng Sta. Lucia.

 

Pero hindi siya natinag.

O kung natinag man siya, hindi ko nakita, o hindi yun ang naalala ko.

 

 

Ang naalala ko ay kung paano binuhat ni Alvin Patrimonio ang team niya para habulin ang lamang ng Sta. Lucia. Siguro, expected na yun dahil kapitan siya ng team niya. Expected man, ang nakapamamangha, ay kung paano niya isinabuhay ang pagiging “kapitan.”

 

Sunod-sunod na kombinasyon ng foul-counted at three point shots ang ginawa niya.  Walang alintana sa ga-bundok na score na kinailangang akyatin, halos mag-isa siyang lumusob paakyat. Di nagtagal, sumunod din sina Dindo Pumaren, Rey Evangelista, at Jerry Codinera sa biyahe paakyat.

 

Pero nagkulang.

 

Anak ng hotdog. Nagkulang.

 

Isa siguro sa mga first time kong maburat bilang tao.

 

Doon ko nakita na minsan, sumisilip mula sa kaniyang pagkakapiring si Bb. Hustisya. Lalo na pagdating sa basketball. Kinapos ng ilang puntos ang Purefoods. At naalala ko pa ang pagkamuhi ko na hindi naging player of the game si Kapitan. Ang player of the game – taga Sta. Lucia, dahil lang birthday niya. Kahit wala pa sa kalingkinan ni Patrimonio ang stats niya.

 

Pero doon ko rin natutunan na minsan, may mga pagkakataong hindi final score ang nagsasabi ng kuwento ng laro. Na may mga bagay na mas mahalaga kaysa sa pagkapanalo. Tulad ng apoy sa puso at angas ng determinasyon, anuman ang score.

 

 

Maraming taon ang lumipas. Nagkapalit-palit na ng team names at mukha sa PBA. Nagka fil-ams, fil-shams. Trades, kunwaring nagpapa-trade. Nag-retire si Alvin nang may apat na MVP awards. Tabla sila ni El Presidente, Ramon Fernandez.  At naging manager na siya ng BMEG. Purefoods din yun, para sa mga di nakasubaybay. Isa na namang pagpapalit-anyo ng mga koponan sa PBA alang-alang sa corporate marketing. Napanood ko sa TV. Nasa bench siya nung Game 7 laban sa Talk N’ Txt. Inakala ko, tulad marahil ng marami, na mananalo ang Talk N’ Txt. Subali’t gumawa ng paraan ang import ng BMEG, at naitsa sa overtime ang laro. At sunod-sunod ang pagsasa-bayani ang import. Parang alamat. Parang di tao. Parang si Alvin nung laro sa Sta. Lucia, na parang ilang libong taon na ang nakaraan.

 

At marahil nakita nga niya ang parehong pusong nag-aalab. At kaniyang inakap ang import nang mahigpit.Parasiyang player ulit. Walang nagbago. Pusong-kapitan pa rin.

 

may mga apoy talagang hindi mapapatay ng pagdaan ng taon

 

Alam ko meron akong picture na kasama ko si Alvin Patrimonio.Sanamahanap ko para mai-upload ko. Atsaka para maalala ko kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng “kapitan.”

 

Maraming taon nga ang lumipas, at aaminin kong naantig ako nang makita ko si Patrimonio nung gabing iyon. Marami na rin akong nasalihang team – basketball teams, group work sa school, team sa trabaho, theater group, dance group, pamilya, at iba pa. At may mga pagkakataong ako ang naging “kapitan” ng grupo. At ngayong napapaisip ako, isa pala sa malaking naging impluwensiya sa akin, ay si Patrimonio.

 

Sa kaniya ko natutunan na walang kalamangang hindi dapat harapin. Maaaring hindi ka manalo, pero nasa pagtugon sa hamon ang panalo. Na pag ikaw ang kapitan, ikaw ang titingnan ng lahat kung saan patutungo. At kahit ikaw man, di mo pa batid, hahanap ka ng paraan. Na ikaw ang puso ng team. Na kailangan mong paniwalain ang mga kakampi mong magaling sila – dahil totoo. Na walang magmamahal sa ginagawa mo kung hindi ikaw.

 

 

Alam ko, marami na ang nagsulat, (astig nga etong sinulat ng kaibigan kong si Carlo Pamintuan http://micohaliliblogs.blogspot.com/2012/05/from-purefoods-to-b-meg-from-fathers-to.html?m=1) , nag-upload ng picture, at nagbiro tungkol sa tila pag-atras ni Cap sa mga kamay ng oras. Subali’t para kong tinalikuran ang isang idolo at bahagi ng aking pagkabata kung hindi ko ito ginawa.

 

At ano ba naman ang isang blog entry, para sa isa sa mga nagturo sa yo (kahit di niya alam) kung paano maging kapitan.

 

Na walang ibang paraang maglaro ng basketbol kung hindi yung halos naibuga mo na ang lahat ng dugo sa puso mo.

 

PS: Sa Google Search po lumabas ang mga picture… Salamat sa mga nag-upload ng mga letratong ito, lalo na nung vintage Alvin na bumabangga sa Ginebra.

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.’ ”