Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on Game 1

I had a very nice seat right behind the Ateneo bench so I had a decent vantage point for the game.
Game 1 of this year's UAAP finals proved how DLSU needs a awesome game from their star JV Casio to win while ADMU can afford off nights from theirs, Chris Tiu.  
The Archers' full court press has been well documented and it actually produced better results in game 1 compared to their 2 losses to the Eagles in the eliminations.   
DLSU needs to have a really good shooting night if they want to win because the interior defense of ADMU will just frustrate their inside game.  So Casio, needs help from Malabes, Mangahas, Barua, etc., from the perimeter.
Al Hussaini is no doubt the league's MVP.  The UAAP has gotten this award wrong before but I hope they get it right this year.  You can see the desire in Rabeh's eyes.  He combines his physical gifts with the intensity and maturity on the court to be the most valuable player indeed for Ateneo.  He is also no doubt the most improved player.
All of Casio's shots were difficult.  Whether he made them or missed them, hats off to Jai Reyes and Yuri Escueta for making JV work hard for every point (and non points).
I thought Ateneo controlled the game from start to finish.  Except for a few minutes in the first half, they led from the opening tip to the final buzzer.  Unlike in previous ADMU/DLSU games, there was no time when I felt the Eagles were in trouble.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008


The sad part about Philippine Basketball is that the leaders who are involved in the mess we’re in all seem to think they are doing the right thing.  History has proven that those who sacrificed self for the greater good leave a lasting legacy for future generations to be grateful for and benefit from.  Unfortunately in some cases, the greater good is not enough to merit the sacrifice from those involved.

It is so frustrating to us outsiders to observe how simple sacrifice would have advanced the cause of our basketball program this past decade or so.  The Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) has been unsuccessful in tapping the best talents to at least give our country a semblance of respectability. 

Although I disagreed with the reasons and even the process of kicking out the BAP from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) which led to our eventual suspension from FIBA, it was obvious that something had to be done to improve our performance in international tournaments.  Pilipinas Basketball (PB), a group created to supposedly replace the BAP in the POC was not recognized by FIBA which complicated things.  Only after an initial breakthrough in Bankok where representatives from all groups (PB and BAP including FIBA) decided to put selfishness aside for the good of the country did FIBA lift the suspension.

The new group formed, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) had a lot of promise.  It had the resources and clout to get the best players.  It had the support of the most influential basketball organizations like the PBA, PBL, and the UAAP.   And it seemed to have an adequate network of coaches and officials to implement grassroots programs nationwide.  It was supposed to be a triumph in human cooperation where two opposing groups put their pride and differences aside and work toward a common goal.

The SBP actually got a lot of people excited about basketball again.  Manny Pangilinan, a respected and successful business person and a known supporter of sports, was elected president as FIBA required someone who was neutral from bothPB and BAP to head the new organization.  The PBA gave its full support by adjusting their calendar and lending its resources.  The PBL followed suit lending players for qualifying tournaments within the region.  The youth program got financial backing while the women’s team started overachieving in tournaments abroad.  Progress was actually noticeable.

So why, despite the steps forward, is there still division and efforts to derail all that has been achieved.  Just like the POC, politicians are leading the charge for the BAP, which should have ceased to exist if the Bankok agreement was to be followed.  The group started to disregard the efforts of the SBP.  They began organizing their own tournaments and electing their own officers in blatant defiance of the latter.  The SBP on their part, armed with written letters of support from the POC and FIBA, discouraged participation in the BAP tourneys.

Now the BAP has found a judge named Antonio Eugenio to go along with their cause and declared the SBP elections null and void while affirming their own.  I reckon the SBP will appeal the decision and more legal mumbo jumbo will happen.  But why is a judge even involved in the first place?  The court stated that it was not impressed by the presence of the POC and the recognition by FIBA during the SBP elections.  Is there just too much pride to go around that a judge with no stake in the matter deems practically irrelevant the governing bodies who have the most authority on the subject? 

All of us just want Philippine international basketball to flourish once again.  I’m sure there have been some feelings hurt with exclusions from certain processes and even moves that might have made the other “marginal”.  Great men work past wounded pride and continue to journey toward the greatest good. 

In basketball, the winners are the ones who are willing to do whatever it takes for the good of the team.  Those who are willing to give up individual glory and focus on team victory.  Those who know his teammates’ strengths and weaknesses and compliment them with his own.  Those who step up in crucial moments of the game and deliver when needed.

With this new development from branch 24 of the Manila Regional Trial Court, we are once again at a crossroads.  Our country is at risk of suspension if FIBA decides that we really cannot function as one.

Are we going to be bitter or better?  Are we going to be winners or whiners?  Can Philippine Basketball deliver in the clutch?  Let’s hope all the fumbles and turnovers can be overcome in the endgame.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Random Draft Thoughts

The PBA Annual Draft has come a long way from being done in private among the member teams back in the 80’s.  It is now a public spectacle watched by thousands live and broadcast nationwide.

This year’s version, done in Market! Market! In Taguig had its share of excitement but most of the picks were expected as 19 of the 45 players were picked to play in the upcoming season.

The clear winner in my book was Talk ‘N Text.  I don’t think I’m alone in saying that the Phone Pals pretty much got what they wanted.  Certainly, coach Chot Reyes would have preferred the acquisition of Gabe Norwood, a player he coached on the National Team during the FIBA Asia Championships, and I reckon he made attempts to get that number one pick of Rain or Shine, but his team still got both quality and quality when all was said and done.

Norwood (#1) was by far the best player on the list and he is a superstar waiting to happen in the PBA.  He has the combination of athletic ability, unselfishness and winning attitude that guarantees prolonged success in the league.  He will make the youngest PBA team a lot better.  Solomon Mercado (#5) (from Alaska for Joe Devance) and Ty Tang (#12) makes Rain or Shine a much faster team and we will see if the change in philosophy helps the Elasto Painters.

I haven’t seen enough of Jared Dilinger (#2) to have a good opinion but I have seen a lot of Jason Castro (#3) to be sure that he is going to be a great player.   The Phone Pals gave up Jay Washington for the 3rd overall pick which became Castro.  The former PBL Most Valuable Player was signed by the Singapore Slingers of the Australian League but with the team leaving the NBL, it seems inevitable that Jason will be playing back in his homeland sooner than later.  Castro is explosive as a guard.  He has a good outside jumper, can attack the basket better than anyone in the draft, is strong enough to defend even bigger guards, and is a proven winner.  His NCAA and PBL championships are more telling than his stats which has garnered him the MVP honors.  Note that Jason won his PBL MVP’s with Norwood playing in the same conference.  He and Gabe will be battling it out for Rookie of the Year this coming season.   Rob Reyes (#4) and Pong Escobal (#11) will also make the lineup although not as much impact as the other two.

It’s hard to fault San Miguel for foregoing Castro at number three and in effect getting Washington instead.  The Beermen needed some insurance in the power forward spot with the injuries to Ildefonso and Seigle.  They also already had Mike Cortez to take over from Olsen Racela which made picking another point guard redundant.  SMB in recent history has not had great drafts and this year is no exception.

As far as Alaska is concerned, they got the players they were hoping for to plug some holes in their lineup.  Joe Devance (from Rain or Shine for Laure and Sol Mercado) plugs a big hole in the middle where only Sonny Thoss was a true center.  Kelvin Dela Pena (#15) , an NCAA MVP also gives adequate support for Willie Miller

Red Bull got Larry Rodriguez (#9) late in the first round, then Jeff Chan and Mark Cuevas in the second.  None of them seem to be good enough to be stars in the league but I said the same thing about Junthy Valenzuela, Lordy Tugade, and Cyrus Baguio until Yeng Guiao’s system proved otherwise. 

After great picks the last couple of years with Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes, Sta. Lucia picked dead last in both rounds because of their championship trophy in the Philippine Cup.  Kelvin Gregorio (#10) will contribute some but he is in no way someone who will take over from Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino as interior powerhouses.  Chito Jaime (#14) and Christian Cabatu (#20) won’t be contending for Rookie of the Year as well but at least one of them should still make the squad come opening day.

Mark Borboran (#6) and Cholo Villanueva (#13) in the second round were picked by the Air 21 Express seemingly following the philosophy of getting the best possible talent available.  Mark will be a solid contributor while Cholo might plug a need at the point guard position.

While Air 21 took the best player available, Purefoods picked according to their biggest need, a banger inside.  Beau Belga  (#7) is a wide body who will take up some space for coach Ryan Gregorio.  Jonathan Fernandez (#16) is the best shooter in the draft but will have to play behind Peter Simon and James Yap.

Coke and Ginebra didn’t have picks because of previous trades.  Coke needs to find some playing time for Kenneth Duremdes and John Arigo while Ginebra just has to get healthy to compete at the championship level.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Lineup

Only Three (3) didn't show up. Norman Black and Jason Webb were in Pampanga for the MyMVP shoot for TV5, and there was a miscommunication with Dominic Uy. The commentator's orientation was requested by the commissioner and I'm glad we did it. I introduced the new philosophy of the coverage while Solar COO Peter Chanliong, PBA Commissioner Sonny Barrios, and Chairman Joaqui Trillo gave short talks. Andy Jao was the guest speaker touching on his over 25 years of sports broadcasting experience in the Philippines.

Andy's talk was very refreshing and he had a lot of insights and stories that was very relevant to all of us.

After a lot of discussion and review with the production team and the PBA commissioner's office the main list of on cam commentators who have been invited to join are:

1. Mico Halili
2. Vitto Lazatin
3. Ed Picson
4. Paolo Trillo
5. Jude Turcuato

1. Norman Black
2. Danny Francisco
3. Quinito Henson
4. Vince Hizon
5. Jason Webb

1. Richard Del Rosario
2. Patricia Hizon
3. Eric Reyes
4. Anthony Suntay
5. Dominic Uy

1. Peaches Aberin
2. Reema Chanco
3. Lia Cruz
4. Ceska Litton
5. Marga Vargas

There are others who will be part of the roster but this is the initial list approved by the PBA and Solar. I hope all will accept the invitation and be part of the coverage.