Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Matchplay in Bora

For those who love the summer, an annual pilgrimage to the mecca of sand and sun in the Philippines is part of one's yearly ritual.  Boracay is the place to see and be seen during the months of heat as celebrities, socialites, personalities, and everyone else flock to the island with the whitest of sands in the world.

The Solar Sports crew joined the pilgrimage as it held its Matchplay event to celebrate this year's biggest sporting events, the Olympic Games, the Eurocup Championships and of course, Manny Pacquiao's fights.  We flew in the sales and marketing group along with some sponsors last weekend to kick off the exciting rest of the year for the #1 sports network.  There was volleyball and soccer with a little bit of ultimate frisbee and flag football along with a seemingly unlimited supply of food and drinks throughout the whole weekend.  

Tim Tayag was the host entertainer by day and at night, Conrad Alampay did some street magic and even Manolet Dario mixed some tunes at the Beachcomber Bar in station 1 of the famous beach.  Many thanks to the Solar crew who organized the event and despite a heavy downpour Saturday night, the attendance was still good and the party continued on.  There was even fireworks at the stroke of midnight that got everyone their second wind for the rest of the evening/morning.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Erik the Great

So a Filipino finally made it to the NBA!  Not as a player but we'll take one as a coach for now.  Erik Spoelstra, just got promoted as the head coach of the Miami Heat after being an assistant for 13 years or so.  His mom is a Filipina named Fe Celino, so he's a bona fide Fil-Am.

To tell you the truth, I first heard about Erik Spoelstra through the marketing books of his dad Jon Spoelstra.  Jon used to talk about his son's passion for coaching growing up while he was a top executive with the Portland Trailblazers and then the New Jersey Nets.  In fact there was already a Philippine connection as Jon spoke highly of Billy Ray Bates (who many consider the best PBA import of all time) as a positive influence on the Blazers team.  "Ice to the Eskimos" and "Marketing Outrageously" are two must reads if you're into marketing and Jon writes it in such a simple practical manner.

As mentioned in a previous entry, I got to spend time with Wayne Simien who played under Erick (with Pat Riley as head coach) as a rookie when the Heat won the championship.  He did say that Erik was so talented as a coach that he should be the next in line after Riley.  I don't think he expected it to happen a month later but it's a great opportunity for all of us to finally witness his talent at the forefront.  Of course being an assistant is different from being the head but Erik's seems like he's had the training for what he's about to undertake.  Good luck coach Spoelstra and I hope we can meet someday.  I'm a big fan of your dad's.  

I found a very encouraging quote from Erick while he was still an assistant earlier this year from an article by Nick Vicera of Filipinas magazine:  

"But there is one thing that I am definitely interest in doing in the future, and that is helping develop basketball in the Philippines. I have been talking recently with the NBA about me putting together basketball clinics in my mother's home country, hopefully in one of these next couple of off-seasons. It will be a wonderful chance to see some of my family over there and reconnected with my roots," he grins.

We're all rooting for you Erik.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Customized Kicks

In going along with the spirit of individuality and finding your own identity in this world, Adidas embarked on empowering their customers by coming up with the Mi (pronounced like "my") Adidas program last year.  It's basically a way for users to personalize their shoe with their own colors, graphics and logos to add character to the relationship between person and footwear.

For those who know me, my "mi adidas" shoe turned out to be mildly predictable.  First off, my favorite sport is basketball so choosing the Pro Model was a no brainer.  I feel most comfortable playing in black so it was the most dominant color.  Since I did live in Chicago for 12 years, placing a Bulls logo and using red as the complimentary color seemed like the most basic thing to do.  And yes, the number 23 is there in honor of his airness, Michael Jordan.  I did think about adding a little purple since I grew into liking it as the school colors of my alma mater but the color didn't seem to have a place anywhere in the shoe.

I debated whether to place my name or "kaboom", a term, it seems many people associate me with from sports broadcasting.  The picture answers the choice that won the internal debate.  After adding a few more touches here and there, I got myself a nice personalized Pro Model kicks!  Only the Trinoma branch offers this kind of customization and certainly worth a shot for all who value their individuality and the power of choice.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Has the Sun set on Phoenix?

The Spurs have their game stuck on automatic.  Duncan is playing like...  well ... Tim Duncan, Parker is shooting lights out and Ginobili is living up to his 6th man of the year award.  But call me crazy but from what i saw in the first two games, I still think the Suns will advance to meet the Hornets.  Of course in a few days, if the Suns lose game 3, this entry will be proof that I don't know what I'm talking about.

Phoenix had one "hiccup" quarter in the 2nd game.  They played pretty well in the other 7 quarters of the first 2 games so far.  Phoenix was retooled to specifically beat the Spurs.  Missed easy shots by Amare and company and better than normal perimeter shooting from the San Antonio guards did the trick for the defending champions.  I definitely think it'll be a different story in Phoenix the next 2 games.  Call me crazy but it's not out of the question Phoenix goes on to win the next 4 straight.  Ok, we'll see what happens before I get committed to an insane asylum by super Spurs fan and BTV marketing guy Rely San Agustin.  

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Luck of the Irish

Ok, it might be a few days late to make predictions considering most of the first round series have already started in the NBA playoffs.  But I did join some fantasy brackets so there is proof that my picks were done before the NBA's 2nd season started.

Let's cut to the chase, I did pick the Boston Celtics to win it all this year.  They have just been so dominant during the season and I can't see any weaknesses at all.  The addition of some veterans late in the season solidified their chances and this is a trophy for them to lose right now.  

I picked Phoenix to beat the Spurs and go all the way to the Conference Finals.  This is the best 1st round matchup in the history of the league and game 1's double overtime is just the beginning.  GM Steve Kerr traded for Shaq precisely to be able to advance in the playoffs and he should win front office man of the year if they do get past San Antonio.  I thought the Spurs were the team to beat all season long because of their experience but some injuries and their performance late in the season leads me to conclude they are not peaking at the right time.  They're also a team who historically hasn't won back to back titles.

I had the Lakers going all the way to the finals mainly because of Phil Jackson's track record in the playoffs when given the proper material.  He has got to be the best coach in adjusting from game to game so it'll be very difficult to beat his team 4 out of 7 times.  

The rest of my picks had the Jazz breezing through the Rockets, the Pistons barely beating the Sixers, the Cavs courtesy of Lebron edging out the Wizards, the Hornets continuing the Dallas slide in the playoffs and the Raptors giving little resistance to the Magic.  But all of this comes from a guy who thought the Bulls would challenge for the Eastern Conference Championship.

This the best time of the year for hoops fans.  BTV and C/S is set to telecast most of the games so it's time to sit back and watch amazing happen for the next 10 weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

MVP: My Pick

This year's MVP race is not clear cut.  Many always debate which criteria should be used in determining who should be called the best basketball player on the planet that year.  Stats, leadership, team performance, and value to a team should always be considered.  I think one more criteria should be if people look back  at any given season, who had the most impact on the league in general that year.

Lebron James can make a case having the most all round statistics all season.  The guy just didn't show any weaknesses all season long and proved he can lead and carry a team to victory.  He was also the star of stars during the Allstar game.  The problem is that his team wouldn't even make the playoffs if they were in the Western Conference.

Kevin Garnett came in and orchestrated the best turnaround in NBA history for any team leading the Boston Celtics back to glory.  His numbers were down from previous years but high enough to still be a fantasy stud.  Being the best player on the best team merits consideration.  But he missed double digit games due to an abdominal injury.

Chris Paul actually fits the bill to a tee.  He is the clear leader of the Hornets.  He led the league in assists and steals and only Jose Calderon had a better assist to turnover ratio.  His team also made a run for the best conference record.  He is no doubt the best point guard on the planet right now.

But my pick would be Kobe Bryant.  I think he equalled Paul in all criteria except that he made more of an impact on the league.  From his preseason antics to his hand injury to leading his Lakers to the 2nd best record in the NBA, his name was always at the forefront this season.  In a league where amazing does happen, Kobe lived up to the league's slogan night in and night out answering every challenge given him.  I can't imagine ever looking back in NBA history and reminiscing how Bryant never won an MVP especially after already winning 3 championships.  Nowitszki, Nash, Garnett, Iverson, Barkley and Malone have all won the award and yet no rings.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good Luck Mr. Gregorio

I met Pato Gregorio 4 years ago in Cebu while he was president of the Waterfront Hotel in Lahug.  We were working on putting together an "All Star Week" in Cebu as he was very much into pushing sports tourism as something to spur travel in the country.  The Cebu Allstars was a huge success and a lot of fun and it was partly because of his vision.

Now that he has resigned as the executive director of the BAP-SBP (I'm not sure why "BAP" is still part of the name cuz it's really redundant).  I do wish him well.  He has a lot of ideas with a lot of doubters and critics.  He does have some basketball pedigree as his two brothers are coaches in the PBA (Ryan) and PBL (Allan) who are also good friends.  I can only speak from experience but Pato did as well a job as could be done considering all the opposition he got from the many who wanted the new basketball organization to fail.  His ideas needed the support and backing of all sectors which he never got.  Women's basketball, college basketball, referee and coaches training are just a few of the things that have really improved with the new organization.

The true colors of BAP have once again surfaced.  Villafuerte?  Pichay?  Jingoy?  Lina?  They go through leaders like our former first lady goes through shoes.  It would have been nice if any of the shoes actually fit.  All politicians who never invested their lives in helping basketball.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kansas Konnection

I reluctantly joined a March Madness pool this year since I knew very little of the U.S. NCAA teams for the tournament.  Going through the brackets, I probably saw 4-5 teams at most in action through BTV or ESPN.  The pool was started by Carlo Singson, the Senior Marketing Manger for NBA Asia, a fellow alumnus of Northwestern University.

I am proof of the theory that anyone can win that pool whether you know your stuff or not.  The week before the start of the tournament, I covered a game with Wayne Simien, the 1st round draft pick of the Miami Heat in 2006 when they won the championship.  He was visiting to help out in the Nike Elite Camp.  He played his college ball in Kansas.  Naturally, when I picked my teams, I had the Jayhawks ringing through my head.  So when I finished my bracket, Kansas was the National Champ.  When the tournament finished 3 weeks later, Kansas was the National Champ.  I'm sure Wayne is very happy right now that his alma mater got another trophy.  

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Advantage ABS-CBN?

The bidding process (or lack thereof) for the PBA television rights was very advantageous to ABS-CBN.  The giant network asked for a one month window of exclusive presentations and negotiations before any other network was allowed to even tender a proposal.  The PBA and ABS-CBN met at least 5 times negotiating back and forth so most of the original terms proposed by ABS already had comments and changes that made the proposal better for the league.  

Normally, terms of reference are sent out to all who are interested to bid for the rights.  Then based on those terms, each network tenders a bid on their capabilities.  So for a network to get an exclusive window is a tremendous advantage because they are able to get feedback and improve their proposal along the way.  It seems that ABS-CBN's first bid was unsatisfactory or even the 2nd presentation since they had to go to a 3rd, 4th and 5th meeting.  Only when ABS was able to fine tune their proposal did the PBA invite the other networks to come in.

Solar was given 2 days to prepare a presentation.  ABS was given about 2 months.  ABC5 was accorded the same 2 day timeframe which they declined citing lack of time and change in programming direction.  We'll see how the PBA decides on this.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Best College Preseason Ever

Through the years, the preseason of college basketball had teams using the tournaments as a tryout for the upcoming season.  The Fr. Martin Cup was the most popular where schools would send the fringe players to see if they're good enough to make the team or not.  You rarely see the blue chippers play in these games as they are either still in the PBL or coaches are not ready to show their cards yet.  The venues are also empty with family and friends of players as the only spectators.

Last year, the Flying V/Fil Oil group, under the leadership of 

Raffy Villavicencio started a preseason tournament that changed all that.  Most of the teams (UAAP & NCAA teams) sent their "A" players and it payed dividends.  Instead of tryouts, the coaches started to find out which players can play under pressure with the bands playing, crowds cheering and cameras focused on all the action.  The finals last year was between San Beda and La Salle.  Both teams ended up winning their respective leagues.  

The chemistry of the team is just as important as the level of talent.  These tournaments can now be used to gel earlier instead of using the first round the of the actual tournament.  Only UE and PCU from the two leagues are not included.  UE pulled out for another league organized by ABS-CBN (which has been cancelled) and PCU because of NCAA sanctions.  This tournament is the start of the road to the Philippine Collegiate Championships in October/November.  So mark you calendars as the tournament starts April 13.  The big games will be on BTV and IBC13.  All teams (7 UAAP, 7 NCAA) committed their "Team A" for this one.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bye Bye Isaiah

As a Chicago Bulls fan, I am sad to see Isaiah Thomas leave New York.  He has been the best thing that could have happened to the Knicks if you're rooting for their competitors.  He has single handedly wasted the team's money on overpaid over the hill players and really questionable draft choices.  We (The Bulls fans) have him to thank for Joekim Noah and Tyrus Thomas although they haven't really fully developed into something that would make Thomas leaving New York even sadder.

He has brought embarrassment to the Knicks as a general manager with his bad choices and his sexual harassment case.  He brought embarrassment to himself as a coach who seems to not know discipline and direction for the team.  Walsh, his replacement, is a much more competent person but finding somebody more competent than Isaiah isn't that difficult.

So gone are the days of not having to worry about the Knicks as contenders in the East.  Some good things might actually happen there now that Thomas is gone.

Friday, April 4, 2008

MVP vs Villafuerte

You knew it had to happen sooner or later.  Now that there has been some semblance of leadership and progress, both in the grassroots level and the national team level, those searching for relevance are indeed predictably putting their self interests ahead of the country's.  Congressman Villafuerte wrote a very strong letter to Manny Pangilinan outlining his gripes about how the BAP-SBP was run.  The two gentlemen are the chairman and president of the current NSA.  Strong words were used and a lot of misguided accusations about mishandling of funds and ignoring stature.  But in the end, it all sounded like a spoiled brat yelling and screaming because they were not getting what they wanted despite the overall good being accomplished.

The BAP or Pilipinas Basketball (PB) both should have ceased to exist after FIBA agreed to the new group SBP.  But the BAP continues to elect officers, conduct coaching clinics, and organize tournaments.  FIBA has already rebuffed BAP after world body found out about the tournaments BAP was organizing outside of the new organization.  

I respect Manny Pangilinan for being willing to use his resources to advance the cause of Philippine basketball.  I think he's earned the respect with all the things he's done to help out.  The other(s) who are trying to enter the picture haven't done anything to merit respect for the sport yet in my eyes.  The BAP, with their failures in the past two decades wants to regain power.  The power to screw things up once again.