Basketball Galore Part 2: Smart Gilas Pilipinas and the Detour on the Road to Wuhan

Posted On June 28, 2011

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Medyo late na rin itong post na ito, pero sabi nga nila, “huli man daw at magaling, maihahabol din”. Katatapos lamang ng 2010 Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship, kung saan nagtagumpay ang Smart Gilas-Pilipinas sa kabila ng injuries sa ilang manlalaro, kabilang na sina JV Casio, Japeth Aguilar at Marcio Lassiter, at ang “unavailability” ng mga PBA reinforcements na sina Asi Taulava, Dondon Hontiveros, Jimmy Alapag at Kelly Williams. Bago nito, naging 4th place naman ang pambansang koponan sa FIBA-Asia Champions Cup, kung saan pinakaba muna nila ang Mahram-Iran bago matalo sa semifinals, 77-80.

Dahilan sa mga injuries na nabanggit kanina, minabuti na ni Coach Rajko Toroman na kanselahin na ang planong mga tune-up matches sa Turkey at Portugal at sa halip ay magdaos na lamang ng isang “pocket tournament” dito sa Pilipinas na kasama ang isang NBA selection na kinabibilangan nina two-time NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant, 2010-11 NBA MVP Derrick Rose, 2010-11 NBA Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin. Kabilang din umano sina Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, Philadelphia Sixers forward Andre Iguodala at Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans, pero hindi pa kumpirmado ang mga ito. Ito ay pinaplanong ganapin bago ang William Jones Cup sa Taiwan sa Agosto 6-14.

As usual, marami na namang tumututol dito, sinasabing dapat ituloy na lang daw ang nauna nang plano sa Europa. Marami naman ang nagsasabing hindi daw babagay ang laro ng NBA sa international game na lalaruin sa FIBA-Asia Champions Cup sa Setyembre. Para sa akin, maganda itong planong ito na nabuo bilang pamalit sa mga larong dapat ay sa Turkey at Portugal. Ito ang aking mga dahilan.

1. Mas makakapagpahinga ang mga manlalaro nating may iniinda.

Alam naman natin na batbat ng injuries ang Smart Gilas Pilipinas. Makasasama sa kanila kung pupunta pa sila ng Turkey at Portugal at babalik agad sa Asya para sa William Jones Cup ng halos walang pahinga. Ang pagkakaroon ng isang “pocket tournament” sa Pilipinas ay makakapagbigay ng mas maluwag na panahon sa mga injured na manlalaro para makapagpahinga.

2. Walang dapat ipag-alala sa “style of play”.

Marami ang may agam-agam dahil baka dalhin ng NBA selection ang estilo ng laro ng NBA, na iba sa international style of play, kung sakaling matuloy ito. Siguro naman ay international rules ang gagamitin dito, at wala ring problema ang makakalaban natin, dahil kasama sina Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala at Kevin Love sa Team USA na nanalo ng ginto sa 2010 World Basketball Championship, ang koponang mas kilala bilang “B-Deem Team”.

3. Magandang pang-akit din ito sa ibang de-kalidad na makakalaban.

The mere fact na isang NBA selection na binabanderahan ng MVP at Rookie of the Year ng nagdaang NBA season, ang pinakamagaling na manlalaro noong 2010 World Championships, at isang de-kalidad na bench, ay sapat na para maakit ang ilang de-kalidad na banyagang professional teams, kung hindi man mga national teams, na sumama sa planong tournament. Isa itong magandang practice at learning experience sa Smart Gilas Pilipinas.

4. Isa itong pagkakataon para imulat ang mata ng PBA at ng ilang fans.

Kung magaganap ito sa kalagitnaan ng kasalukuyang PBA Governors’ Cup, magaling. Kung isasabay ang mga laro sa mga laro ng PBA, mas magaling. Panahon na para ipakita sa PBA at sa mga may-ari ng mga koponan na nakatali ang kanilang kapalaran sa hinaharap sa performance ng national team ng Pilipinas, para maging mas committed sila sa pagbuo ng isang magaling na koponan. Hindi na sapat ang maging magaling lang sa PBA. Kailangang maging magaling na rin ang mga manlalaro ng PBA internationally. Isa pa, dapat na ring ibalik ang ilang repormang ginawa noon pero binawi rin, gaya ng unlimited height ceiling para sa mga import, ang pag-urong ng PBA calendar para umayon sa mga international competition, at iba pa.

Sana naman matuloy na itong planong ito. Kahit na matalo ng 40 o 50 points ang Smart Gilas Pilipinas, ito ay isang magandang hakbang para sa ating ultimate goal: ang manalo sa Wuhan, China sa Setyembre at makuha ang kaisa-isang Olympic slot.

Iyun lang.

Basketball Galore Part 1: 5 Reasons why I (still) Root for the Miami Heat

Posted On June 4, 2011

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As of this time, the effects of that great comeback of the Dallas Mavericks (and the massive collapse of the Miami Heat) in Game 2 of the NBA Finals are still being felt. With Games 3, 4, and 5 scheduled to be in Dallas, many people are starting to think if the series would still go back to Miami for a Game 6. Although I don’t have anything on the Dallas Mavericks, and wouldn’t mind if Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd (two of the finest players ever to play the game) win their first-ever rings, I am still rooting for the Miami Heat.

 

In honor of the 5 games (possibly) left, I would give 5 reasons why.

 

5. I want Miami to win because it would be the end of a long journey for the team.

Seriously, this team has been through a lot of scrutiny and the subject of a lot of doubt and even hatred, much of it undeserved in my view. They have also been through a lot, from that 9-8 start to losing close games. Despite it all, they still persevered and proved everybody wrong so far. What happened in Game 2 just made me believe more that a title would be an ideal end for this team.

4. I want Miami to win because the NBA might be different after this season.

With a lockout looming on the NBA’s horizon, the league might be a different place when the teams get back to playing. That is why I want the Big Three to win a title this year. I don’t buy what a columnist in ESPN wrote about why people should root for Dallas: “Pull for Dallas because Miami will get forklifts of rings someday. This might be Dallas’ last chance.” Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant would be looking for payback. Kobe is still around. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul might join forces on one team someday. Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire would have time to hone their teamwork. Boston’s Big Three would try to have one last hurrah. I know that Dirk and Jason Kidd deserve to win a title, but boy, they had to face the wrong team.

3. I want Miami to win because (personally) it would not look good if Shawn Marion would get a ring before Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

Let me clarify one thing first. I have nothing against Marion. He’s a good player and was a crucial addition to the Mavs. However, I think it’s an injustice if he gets a ring before his more talented ex-Suns teammates (especially Nash), and doing it by riding Dirk Nowitzki’s coattails. Steve Nash, at least, should get a ring before he rides into the sunset.

2. I want Miami to win because of Coach Erik Spoelstra.

Okay, I must admit that his Filipino lineage has a lot to do with it, but it goes beyond being a “kababayan”. I think that a championship for Miami will boost the NBA’s stock among Asian-Americans and Asians as well. Sure, Sun Yue and Mengke Bateer have won rings, but they did not have the same impact to their championship teams as Coach Spo has with the Heat’s playoff run. A success for an Asian-American coach will surely have an impact to the game.

1. I want Miami to win because of LeBron James.

Some fans and analysts are talking about LeBron along the lines of what happened before and during this season. “The Decision”, “Bump-gate”, the allegations of quitting, etc.  I think it’s about time that we stop talking about him along those lines and instead talk about how talented a player he is, and the best way to jump-start that conversation is by the Heat winning the crown. Michael Jordan was accused of egotism and having gambling problems, Kobe Bryant was accused of being an egotist as well, and the recently-retired Shaquille O’Neal also got a rap about not staying in shape during the off-season. However, they all got away with it because they had those rings.

 

So, we wait until Monday to see what will happen in Game 3. Until then, the Mavericks fans can soak up the glory of that Game 2 win they deserved.

Butthurt Troll Nation

Sa aking paglilibot sa malawak na mundo ng Internet dahil sa paghahanap ng kahit na anong broadcast  (video o audio streaming) ng basketball sa 2010 Asian Games na kasalukuyang ginaganap, napapansin kong nagiging aktibo na naman ang mga fans, dahil alam naman nating numero unong sport sa Pilipinas ang basketball. Bago pa lamang ganapin yun eh kanya-kanya nang kuru-kuro at saloobin ang mga fans. Dumadami at umiingay ang Internet boards, blogs at ang Facebook page ng Smart Gilas Pilipinas habang palapit ang Asian Games, at lalo na nung nag-umpisa.

At sa bawat laro, may nananalo at natatalo. Nang dumating na ang turn ng Smart Gilas Pilipinas na matalo, maraming lumabas na mga comments at blogs na nagsasabing “Umuwi na lang kayo!“, “Mag-resign ka na Coach Rajko Toroman!”, “Dapat si <insert name of player or coach here> na lang ang ipinadala, nanalo pa tayo!”, and all that kinds of shit. Pero noong nananalo naman ang Smart Gilas, puro papuri naman ang maririnig mo sa mga bugoy.

Sa aking mahigit na 10 years nang pagkaka-expose sa Internet (ang primary email ko nga eh ginawa using yung Netscape Navigator browser pa), nakita ko ang buti na idinulot nito sa buhay nating mga Pilipino. Subalit naging “channel” din siya sa numero unong “pastime” ng Pilipino, ang magreklamo, ngumawa at manghila ng ibang tao pababa. Sa Net-speak, libangan na nating maging “butthurt” at maging “troll”.

Parang araw-araw ganito ang ibang Pilipino.

Ayon sa Wiktionary, “butthurt” is a slang adjective meaning “annoyed, bothered, or bugged because of a perceived insult“. Pwede din syang noun na ang ibig sabihin ay “annoyance because of a perceived insult” o “upset because of a perceived injustice“. Ang “troll” naman, ayon sa Wikipedia, “is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response, or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion“. Sa madaling salita, ang taong “butthurt” eh yung mga tipo ng taong feeling nila ay telenovela ang buhay nila.

The two greatest sources of butthurt feelings in the Philippines.

Ang mga “trolls” naman eh yung layunin lang eh manggulo. Magiingay tungkol sa isang topic para mapansin, o matabunan ang maayos na diskusyon tungkol sa isyung yun, or hatiin ang isang grupo.

The most recent troll magnet.

Maitatanong nyo, anong kinalaman ng mga Internet terms na yan sa buhay natin? Para sa akin, malaki. Marami kasi sa atin ang butthurt sa mga bagay na hindi naman dapat. Butthurt dahil hindi nanalo ang Ginebra, butthurt kasi hindi napili ang idol na makasama sa National Team, butthurt dahil pinalitan ang ka-loveteam ng idol na artista, butthurt kasi nagtaas na naman ang presyo ng langis, butthurt dahil hindi nanalo ang kandidatong sinuportahan. At sa kadahilanang iyan, nagiging troll sila. Binabato ng piso ang referee, sine-secondguess ang mga magagandang hangarin ng kandidato, binabantaan ang bagong ka-loveteam ng idolo, nagra-rally sa kalsada, nagpo-post ng kung anu-ano sa Twitter at Facebook, naghehenyu-henyuhan, at kung anu-ano pa.

 

Magbigay kaya ng ganito ang gobyerno sa bawat Pilipino?

Hindi masama ang pumuna sa kung ano ang sa palagay ng isang tao ay hindi dapat, pero ibang usapan na kung lahat na lang ng makikita ay mali. Tinatabunan ang tama at pinapalaki ang kahit na ang maliit na pagkukulang. Isa pa, kung may nakitang mali, eh di gumawa ng bagay para itama iyun, sa halip na magngangangawa.

Taragis na yan, nagutom ako ah. Masarap kaya ang talangka bilang hapunan? Ah…hindi na siguro, baka masira ang tiyan ko at maging literal ang butthurt ko…XD

2009 FIBA-Asia Quarterfinals Preview

I was actually planning to post a preview of the ongoing 2009 FIBA-Asia Championships, but the unfortunate death of former President Corazon Aquino happened, so I just waited until the preliminaries were done until I make a preview. As of this writing, the quarterfinal pairings are all set, after a two-round elimination part. So,  I will try to look at my “crystal ball” and see what will happen on August 14.

First Match: Jordan vs. Team Pilipinas

Key Players: Rasheim Wright, Sam Daghles, Zaid Al-Khas (Jordan); James Yap, Asi Taulava, Willie Miller (Philippines)

Tournament Record: Jordan: 4-1, #2 in Group F; Philippines: 3-2, #3 in Group E

Analysis: Jordan has been playing impressively in this tournament, going unbeaten (and winning big too, with all their victories decided by 12 points or more) and pushing Asian powerhouses China to the edge before losing by six. On the other hand, Team Pilipinas lost to Korea by 13 and to Iran by 10 points. With Jordan’s chemistry clicking and the Philippines having problems with their shooting, not to mention the 31-point plastering that they got from this same team in the Jones Cup last July, coach Yeng Guiao’s team will be hard-pressed to find a way to win.

Prediction: Unless Team Pilipinas shows the shooting they had against Chinese Taipei and Japan in the preliminaries (and do it all game long) and they find a way to shut down Rasheim Wright (the tournament’s leading scorer), sad to say, it will be the end of the road for them. That is why I am praying for the team to get its shooting touch on that game. Pahingi po ng konting tulong sa Team Pilipinas, Bro. Kahit sa game lang na ito, make Team Pilipinas play like superstars. Jordan by 12 points.

Second Game: Qatar vs. Iran

Key Players: Saad Ali, Mustafa Elsayad, Yasseen Musa (Qatar); Hamed Ehadadi, Samad Nikkah, Mahdi Kamrani (Iran)

Tournament Record: Qatar: 2-3, #4 in Group F; Iran: 5-0, #1 in Group E

Analysis: Iran, the defending champions, seems determined to keep it, even with China looming in the distance. Proof of which is that they are one of the two teams left unbeaten after the preliminaries, along with–who else?–China. With Memphis Grizzlies player Hamed Ehadadi leading the charge, this should be a cakewalk for the Iranians.

Prediction: There is not much the Qataris can do, except to pray that Ehadadi gets injured or something. Iran by 20+ points.

Third Match: Chinese Taipei vs. China

Key Players:  Chang Tsung-Hsien, Tseng Wen-Ting, Wu Chien-Lung (Chinese Taipei); Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, Zhu Fangyu (China)

Tournament Record: Chinese Taipei: 2-3, #4 in Group E; China: 5-0, #1 in Group F

Analysis: This is a very interesting match-up, if only because of the political relationship of the two countries. Otherwise, I don’t see any way for the Taiwanese to pull the rug from under their mainland cousins, not even with newbie coach Guo Shiqiang handling the Asian powerhouses. The height and talent advantage is just too much, just like almost everything else.

Prediction: This is the first time I’ll see a China vs. Taiwan match ever, but it’s not as close as it would seem. China by 15+ points.

Fourth Match: Korea vs. Lebanon

Key Players: Ha Seung-jin, Kim Min-soo, Bang Sung-yoon (Korea); Fadi El-Khatib, Jackson Vroman, Matt Freije (Lebanon)

Tournament Record: Korea: 4-1, #2 in Group E; Lebanon: 3-2, #3 in Group F

Analysis: The most exciting and interesting of the quarterfinals matches. Lebanon upended the Koreans in the semifinals of the 2007 edition in Tokushima, Japan and the Koreans would like to have some measure of revenge. With the 7-3 Ha Seung-jin and 6-7 Kim Min-soo manning the middle, and Bang Sung-yoon providing the outside sniping, they are sure to give problems to the Middle Eastern powerhouses. But Lebanon has added some ceiling with Jackson Vroman and Matt Freije. The two newcomers, along with veteran anchor Fadi El-Khatib and able support from Brian Feghali, Ali Mahmoud and Rony Fahed, should counterbalance the other side.

Prediction: Korea wants to have the win this time around, Lebanon wants to keep the streak going, and both squads will fight to the finish. Lebanon by 2 points (again).

I’ll check back in a couple of days to see if I got it right….


East proves too good for West (the post-match blog)

Blogger’s Note: This was supposed to come out Monday, but unforeseen technical problems stalled it. Anyway, here it is: my reactions and notes about the recently concluded match between Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao and Ricky “Hitman” Hatton).

I was dead wrong on two counts with regards to my prediction (as shown on my previous blog); first, that Pacman would win it in six rounds.

It wasn’t even close, as Pacquiao (fill the blank with the word you think is appropriate; destroyed, annihilated, obliterated, etc.) Hatton in two vicious rounds. Pacman had the Hitman down twice in the first round, and I thought for a moment that Hatton will survive the second round…until, BOOM! The Hitman got hit with the Pacman’s left. And like that, it was over. (Actually, I was not able to catch that moment. My sister’s cellphone–which had mobile TV–had a weak signal on that moment. By the time the signal came back, Hatton was already knocked cold in the canvas. I only saw the hit on the replays.) And it was so fast that I first thought that it was a body shot that waylaid the Brit. Slo-mo showed that it was the left that sent Hatton to La-La-Land.

Second, I was wrong about Hatton bringing his all to this fight. He did not do anything much, save for holding on to Pacman so much that at one point I thought he was getting all gay, and being knocked down. Whatever it is that Floyd “Who was the  joke trainer again?” Mayweather Sr. taught Hatton proved useless. On the contrary, I believe that the excessive holding by Hatton was the one that spurred Pacquiao to bring the pain on to him.

In a nutshell, this fight was a diligently worked-upon masterpiece. I doubt if Picasso can even draw something like it.

What is next for the two fighters? Pacquiao, having etched his place among the sport’s legends, has the big names lining up for a match. The likes of WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto and WBA welterweight champ “Sugar” Shane Mosley are being mentioned, but Team Pacquiao has its sights set on one man: former pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. (who is fighting Juan Manuel Marquez in July, probably for the right to face Pacman). My guess is that Pacman will battle either Cotto or Mosley after the Mayweather-Marquez fight, and the winner of Mayweather-Marquez will get Manny, presumably before this year ends.

For Ricky Hatton, he could be on his way to retirement, since that kind of loss is the type that submarines careers. Or he could try to stay on, but he won’t be in any big-name fight again.

Here are my other reactions:

* I am of course, pissed because GMA-7 had so many commercials again. The match was already over for around three hours when they got into televising it. Why the long delay? I almost screamed in a number of occasions.

* The absence of political ads of some presidential contenders (namely Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Ping Lacson) was unusual. However, they were replaced by ads for some administration officials who have obvious political designs (you must know them by now). Either the three senators chose to lay off the politicking for the match, or something else.

* Martin Nievera’s version of the National Anthem did not sit well with the National Historical Institute, who plans to charge him with violation of RA 8491, or the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines, which states that “the rendition of the National Anthem, whether played or sung, shall be in accordance with the musical arrangement and composition of Julian Felipe.” I think that Martin did just fine, and that at its heart, it is the thought that counts. However, as long as there are laws about that specific matter, we should abide by it. Translation: Pay the fine, Martin. It beats being jailed and being harped at by crusty bureaucrats.

Pacquiao vs. Hatton: The Battle of East and West

As I am writing this blog, it’s just a little more than 24 hours before the most awaited boxing match of the year starts. The match, dubbed as “The Battle of East and West”, pits our very own Manny Pacquiao against England’s Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton. This was a match filled with controversy from the start, when there was a disagreement over the cut of the pay-per-view earnings that threatened the fight (it was settled with a 52-48 division, Manny getting the bigger cut). It also had to contend with a tug-of-war between Solar Sports (and in extension, GMA-7) and ABS-CBN over the telecast rights (Solar Sports kept it), as well as verbal fireworks between the trainers, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach.

But tomorrow, all eyes will just be on the two warriors. It’s expected to once again bring the Philippines to a standstill, make crime rates drop and buy that elusive peace. And although the recent H1N1 flu outbreak dampened the otherwise boisterous mood, both camps still promise a match for the ages. Why wouldn’t it be? The match means a lot for both fighters. For Pacman, this match puts him at the cusp of history; a chance to be enshrined as one of the greatest boxers, and perhaps the greatest Filipino athlete, ever. For Hatton, this is all about exorcising whatever demons remaining from his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. This is also his chance to prove that he belongs with the sport’s elite.

Of course, by now everyone has already picked their bet. From sports writers to tricycle drivers, from the experts to the newbies, everybody has at least tried to justify their choices. So, allow your humble blogger to join them. Anyway, I won’t be pretending to be an expert, because I’m not.

For me, the keys to the fight are these: Would Ricky Hatton find a way to neutralize the Pacman’s speed? and Would Manny Pacquiao avoid being muscled by the Hitman? We all know that it was the Pacman’s lethal speed that made Oscar Dela Hoya into a human punching bag last December. The question is, would the Pacman repeat it against a younger, stronger Hatton? If yes, then Ricky Hatton will be hit, man. He’ll be hit a lot.

By now, everybody would have known that Hatton plans to enter the ring tomorrow at 154 lbs. for a 140 lbs. match. For me, that means that he plans to counter Pacman’s speed by simply muscling him, perhaps applying some of those less-than-clean tactics to slow down Pacquiao. But it might backfire. He might be sacrificing his own movement.

My prediction? It will be Pacquiao in 6 rounds. Hatton will throw everything he has at Manny. Problem is, it won’t hit the Pacman. He’ll be like the waterbug that dodged De La Hoya. Oh, before I forget, I bet on Manny’s opponent in his last two fights (against Diaz and De La Hoya). I hope that the third one’s the charm. And, please, I don’t want to be branded as a jinx in case Manny loses.

Now, I need to text my friend Bimbo if his house is available tomorrow (we don’t have cable, and I don’t want to watch the telecast of GMA-7 because they stuff the fight with so many ads). If he says yes, then I’ll be going there. If not, well, I’ll just enjoy the match, no matter how much it’s crowded with ads.