Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

James Harden has a point!

Harden has a point
by rick olivares

In the wake of pundit debate regarding James Harden’s comments that he should have been league MVP (Over Golden State’s Steph Curry) last season, many forget one crucial bit of criteria in the MVP voting — it is for the regular season and that does not include the post-season.

In 1993, Charles Barkley was named MVP and rightfully so. After coming off the Dream Team Summer in Barcelona, Barkley who was in his first year in Phoenix led them to league’s best record, 62-20.

However, after the finals clash with the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan was named finals MVP prompting many to say that in hindsight, His Airness should have been given the trophy. The prevailing thought that time was voters had “Jordan fatigue” and wanted to give it to someone else. As much as I am a Jordan fan, I disagree. Definitely, Chuck deserved it. 

With regards to remarks about Harden’s ballhogging. I don’t think so. Didn’t Jordan shoot way too much?

During that 1992-93 season, MJ 2003 shots from the field (knocking down 992 of them for .495 accuracy clip). 
James Harden during the 2014-15 season? He had a total of 1,470 FG attempts hitting 647 of them for .440%

So who was ballhogging?

If they can recall the Game 3 win by Phoenix at Chicago, Barkley and teammate Dan Majerle looked at the stat sheet during the post-match presscon and noted that Jordan took 43 attempts during the game that went into triple overtime. In contrast, Barkley had only 20 attempts!

The Barkely-Jordan debate of ’93 isn’t the only should-woulda-coulda MVP debate. There have been many through the years.

There was Karl Malone winning in 1999 when Tim Duncan or Alonzo Mourning should have won it. In 2002, Jason Kidd, in leading the New Jersey Nets to a fantastic turnaround lost out to Tim Duncan. In 1990, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson won the award but Charles Barkley was clearly more deserving.

Having said that, the voting comes down not to stats but also the voters prefer. I believe that Steph Curry, who no doubt is a worthy MVP awardee, comes across as the next big thing. A far sexier choice to the stoic and not so media savvy Harden.

What I am saying here is that Harden has a point. 

And the NBA Players Association saw it that way as well and named him the season’s MVP in a vote by his peers.


Comparative stats:
Curry: 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 4.1 rebounds per game.
Harden: 27.4 points, 7.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. 
Curry lead the NBA in triples with 286, free throw percentage (.914), and steals (163).
Harden was second in minutes played (2,981), tops in free throws (715) and points (2,217).

NU Bulldogs are tops in UAAP defense after 1st round

NU Bulldogs are tops in UAAP defense after 1st round
by rick olivares

In spite of their 61-59 loss to the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, the National University Bulldogs reclaimed their title of the UAAP’s Best Defensive Team after the end of the first round of play. Despite a 3-4 record, good for fifth in the standings, the defending champions have held opponents to a league-low 62.6 points per game. 

“I think it is good for us that we are starting to play well defensively,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano. “What we need to do now is to put it all together and play more consistently.”

With center Alfred Aroga finding his groove late in the first round, the Bulldogs have become bullish inside the paint and are allowing only 24.6 points inside the paint.

NU is the best team in rebounds allowed with 39.7 a game and because of that opponents only score 7.7 fastbreak points against them. Their stinginess on defense doesn’t allow foes too many assists and they surrender a low of 10.7 dishes a match. Opposing starters also score the fewest against NU by tacking on 33.6 points.

“We don’t have the weapons we have in the past,” pointed out Altamirano. “So we place an even higher premium on defense. It allows us to keep the game close where we hope our veterans (point guard Gelo Alolino, forward Kyle Neypes, and shooting guard JJ Alejandro) can stand out and finish strong.”

“Masama lang yung start namin,” conceded Alolino who is in his fifth year with NU. The Bulldogs started 0-3, won their next three before taking a loss to FEU. “Ngayon mas maganda yung flow ng offense at yung ibang player nag-step up tulad ni Meds Salim at Raph Tansingco.”

“As a team, there are many parts of the game where we have to improve,” pointed out Aroga who is in his second season with the team. “Turnovers is one of them. Like the turnover I had at the end of our game against FEU.”

With the Tamaraws leading 61-59, FEU point guard Mike Tolomia missed a jumper of which Aroga grabbed the rebound. His pass to forward Kyle Neypes was intercepted by FEU defensive stalwart Francis Tamsi with one second left. Although Tamsi missed two free throws after a duty foul by Neypes, NU couldn’t get off a decent shot giving FEU a win that allowed them to tie UST at 6-1 at the end of the first round. 

“I say this all the time but we are really taking this one game at a time,” summarised Altamirano who is now in his sixth year with the Bulldogs; the longest-tenured bench tactician among the current crop of UAAP coaches. “Hopefully, we can get better in the second round."

“It’s nice to be the number one ranked defensive team,” said Aroga. “But I would rather have the win."

Ravena leads UAAP statistical race

This appears on

Ravena leads UAAP statistical race
by rick olivares

At the end of the first round of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament, Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena is leading all players in statistical points with 70.85sps.

He is closely followed by UST’s Kevin Ferrer with 68.28sps while his Growling Tigers teammate, Ed Daquioag, on the heels on a 34-point performance in 83-76 win over UE, climbed up to third with 65.00sps.

Ferrer, who is in his final year with UST, says that being in the running for the MVP award is nice but he prefers to win a championship. Ferrer has played in three title series, one in high school, and two in college but each time, his team came up short. “Sobrang importante sa akin yung championship,” said Ferrer who won a MVP Award in his fourth year in high school. “Pang seventh year ko na pinaglalaban yung UST kaya gusto ko mag-iwan ng championship para sa sa iskwelahan. Gusto ko rin magkaroon ng championship. Mas importante sa akin yung championship kasi mas masaya lahat."

NU’s Alfred Aroga whose game has picked up after the Bulldogs’ dismal 0-3 start, is fourth with 61.14 sps. “I can’t think of MVP Awards right now,” said Aroga. “Defending the championship is our goal. My goal."

La Salle’s Jeron Teng is fifth with 60.14 sps.

At sixth and seventh are a pair of FEU players in Mark Belo and Mike Tolomia who respectively tallied  57.85sp and 55.85 sps. Karim Abdul is the third UST Tiger in the Top Ten coming in at eighth with 53.00sps. Raymar Jose is the third Tamaraw on the list crowding UST just like in the league standings with  52.00 sps that is good for ninth. Rounding out the ten best in the league so far is UE’s Edison Batiller who has 51.42 sps.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shakey's V-League Reinforced Conference Preliminaries Schedule as of Oct. 7

Reinventing Myla Pablo

This appears on

Reinventing Myla Pablo
by rick olivares pic by richard esguerra

Minutes after taking down title favorite Ateneo in the recent Shakey’s V-League tournament, it was announced that Myla Pablo, National University’s Myla Pablo was announced as the Finals’ Most Valuable Player (she scored a total of 27 points during her team’s Game Two and Three victories). She ran to her coach, Roger Gorayeb and hugged him tight with the tears streaming down her cheeks.

A little over 10 months ago, Gorayeb was asked to serve as a consultant for National University’s floundering women’s volleyball program. They had a power packed lineup that wasn’t only under performing but they were underwhelming. Within days, there was a coaching change and Gorayeb found himself installed as head coach. The veteran coach put the girls through their paces. He though the team had too many bad habits and were lazy. After less than an hour’s practice two players sat down in the middle of the drills. Pablo and libero Fatima General.

“Kaya niyo pa ba,” asked an incredulous Gorayeb. “Ayaw niyo na?”

Pablo nodded while General took a seat by the sidelines.

“Umuwi na kayo. Hindi ko kayo kailangan dito. Kahit anim lang kami lalaban kami.”

That evening, the two girls texted their new coach and asked for forgiveness. 

The Lady Bulldogs went on a tear and managed to make the Final Four where they were ousted by La Salle. A few months later in the V-League Collegiate Conference, they looked nothing like their old selves.

Balls that normally would drop in — especially from Alyssa Valdez’ spikes — were received well. The defense was fantastic that they swept the Lady Eagles in both Games Two and Three. Aside from the sterling floor defense, Gorayeb had Pablo positioning herself where Ateneo smallish setter Gizelle Tan was situated. “Sumunod ka lang sa akin,” he would always tell not only Pablo but his wards.

Pablo was an enigma. She was very quiet and timid off the court yet on the court, especially during her debut with NU, was close to being a villainess especially with her penchant for dancing and those irritating bang bang gestures of hers after scoring a point. Gorayeb was the Ateneo Lady Eagles’ coach when they went up against those brash and loud Lady Bulldogs teams. “Akala nila that we will be intimidated by their antics,” said Gorayeb at that time. True enough, Ateneo had its revenge and NU floundered. 

As NU crashed and burned following their initial V-League title three years ago, the reconstruction of Pablo under Gorayeb begun. He got her to ditch her on court antics and instead concentrate on the game. He placed her in a leadership position as second to Jorelle Singh who captained the V-League winning side. “When I need to know something, I only ask Jorelle and Myla,” underscored the coach. “When I was coaching Ateneo, I had the girls (the Lady Eagles) carry their water jugs and equipment. Nagagalit ako kapag yung mga driver o kung sino sinong alalay ang nagbubuhat ng gamit nila. Sila yung nagkakabit ng net and nagliligpit ng gamit. It is all about learning to do the little things and discipline.”

In the early days of Gorayeb’s tenure with NU, one of the drills was to go after the ball. But they had to touch a marker before going after the ball. Pablo time and again refused to touch the marker. Gorayeb railed at her and threw her out of practice. “You cannot win a championship without discipline,” said the coach. Privately, the coach wondered about Pablo’s dependability but the girl's resistance eventually broke. 

She then began to follow the coach in everything he said. Soon enough, the young lass from Tarlac made the national team, a feat she never even thought possible. In the days preceding Game Three of the V-League Finals, Gorayeb kept telling Pablo to stick to what he was instructing her to do. “Gawin mo yan at siguradong MVP ka.”

In the post-game awards, the two girls that Gorayeb threw out of practice told never to come back were feted awards. Fatima General was the Best Libero and Pablo, the Finals MVP.

Come the UAAP season, Pablo will take over as team captain from Singh. “In volleyball, hindi ka pwedeng tahimik sa court. Bilang beterano, time niya mag-shine. Forcing her sa leadership role will help her especially when she is done playing the game."

Two nights after the win, the coach waxed eloquent about Pablo and the rest of his girls. "After a few years, these girls will stop playing and will be doing something else. They will have their studies and their volleyball careers to look back on. What they do on that court is something they will cherish forever. And I couldn’t be more proud of the girls."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Former PBA player Mark Andaya takes his game to the streets by running for Manila councilor

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Mark Andaya takes his game to the streets by running for councilor
by rick olivares

Former Letran Knight and PBA player Mark Andaya is taking his game to a different court — to the hard and mean streets of Manila, this time as a Liberal Party bet for Councilor of the city’s 5th District.

After playing for KIA in its maiden PBA season, Andaya felt that if his pro basketball career was nearing its end. After six years in the pro league while dropping to the D-League in between, the six-foot-nine center felt it was time to take a different path.

Unlike some who have difficulty accepting that their dreams went largely unfulfilled or that their career is over, Andaya instead has flashed a sunny disposition. “Nagaling ako sa mahirap. Down na kami sa hirap. Kung magiging ugali natin ay galit tayo sa mundo ay walang mangyayari. So kailangan change ng attitude. Positive tayo,” smiled Andaya.

“My former teammate Willie Miller has this saying, ‘basketball never stops.’” related Andaya. “It means that you stay with the game you love in a different capacity. Pwede ka mag-coach. Pwede ka maging trainer. Ako? Hopefully, I can use the game to give back and help my community."

As a youngster, Andaya’s family didn’t have enough but Mark’s mother, Nona, made sure that she worked extra hard to provide for her children. “Grabe yung sakripisyo niya. Kung di ka naman ma-inspire sa kanya."

His mother made sure that he stuck to the straight and narrow path for they lived in a rough neighbourhood of Manila where crime and drugs were rampant. Mark saw more than a few people he personally knew fall to into addiction and waste away their athletic talent if not their lives. “Yung mother ko made sure na maliban sa pamilya namin, dalawa lang focus ko - pagaaral at basketball. Mas tatamaan ka ng leksyon kasi kakilala ko yung mga naging biktima ng droga. Natakot ako so talagang umiwas ako.”

“Si Coach Louie (Alas), my coach at Letran, sobrang higpit hindi lang sa basketball court but off it,” added Andaya. "Lagi niya sinasabi na kung hindi kami papasok, hindi kami papasa? Kapag hindi kami naka-pasa, paano na yung team namin na umaasa sa amin maglaro?

“I didn’t play too long sa PBA. Syempre, sana mas matagal. Pero yung ang reality — hindi. Hindi lang sa akin pero para sa maraming player. Marami hindi nag-aaral kasi focused sa basketball. Hindi naman lahat nakakapaglaro sa pro? Kami nga sa KIA, sa practice namin ilan kami — thirty players? Maybe more? Ilan lang naman naka-line-up. The rest are practice players.

Even while Mark was playing ball in the pro and semi-pro leagues, he always found the time to helpin his community whether through palaros or helping out during typhoons. "Nagustuhan ko yung feeling ng tumutulong. Iba yung sense ng fulfillment,” he divulged.

"For now strength ko is sports. Hindi ako magmamarunong ng kung ano ano pa. I took up management sa school pero I will stick sa alam ko at alam kong kaya ko. Pero syempre, like my mother and coach before me, studies and sports. Sana makatulong yan sa mga bata. Kasi pag-busy sila, wala na silang time para sa kalokohan at droga. of course, I am hoping that I get voted as councilor so I can do this."

His friends and family were at first against his running for public office. “Lagi nila ako dini-discourage kasi madumi yung pulitika and delikado rin,” admitted Andaya about the decision to enter public service. “Alam ko naman yun. Basta as long as I do the right thing and we can help others, bakit hindi? Syempre hindi ka-simple yun. But we have to try.”

“I just want to leave a legacy. Not just as a basketball player but also as a public servant who had genuine concern for the people."


Additional reading (CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW): Another piece I previously wrote about Mark Andaya. From back in 2011:

More info on the upcoming Baby Dalupan book!

Here's more info on the upcoming book, Virgilio "Baby" Dalupan: The Maestro of Philippine Basketball.

The launch on October 19, 2015, at the Ateneo de Manila is by invitation only. After that the book will be available via direct sell and through selected bookstores. There will be the softcover and hardcover version with two different prices.

Via direct selling, the softcover will cost P1,000 with the hardcover fetching P1,200. 

Via bookstores, the softcover will cost P1,200 and the hardcover P1,500.

Here's the table of contents:

Foreword by Tim Cone

The Early Years by Cecile Dalupan, Rick Olivares

Beginning the Tradition of Winning: The UE Red Warriors by Noel Albano

Making the Nation Proud by Noel Albano and Ignacio Dee

Building A Dynasty by Rick Olivares, Cecile Dalupan

Flying High with the Ateneo Blue Eagles by Andres "Chito" Narvasa, Rick Olivares, Sandy Arespacochaga, Jose Antonio "Joey" Pengson, Maximo Estrada

The Great Taste of New Adventures: The Great Taste Coffeemakers by Rick Olivares, Ricardo Brown

A Dream Team's Maiden Title: The Purefoods Hotdogs by Krip Yuson, Cecile Dalupan

Honoring the Legendary Coach by Krip Yuson, Leo Gaviola, Cecile Dalupan

Afterword: Growing up with the Maestro by Cecile Dalupan, Maria Consuelo Dalupan

Monday, October 5, 2015

With some folks over the weekend

Saturday at DZMM Fastbreak with Jude Roque, Sen. Freddie Webb, and Boyet Sison

With Coach Hans Smit and Clem Apacible

With Alex Gabriel, father of former Ateneo libero Steph Gabriel, and Roger Gorayeb

My thoughts post-loss to La Salle

My thoughts post-loss to La Salle
by rick olivares

This is going to be a long one. 

I am not going to totally dissect the game but instead write my thoughts and feelings. And I will begin with a flashback and throw in a number of them as I go on. So bear with me.

During the 1988 season, Ateneo was favored to defend its first ever UAAP Men’s Basketball Title. The team had only lost sharpshooter Nonoy Chuatico who worked for a bit before playing for the national team where he would be named team captain.

La Salle was making noises about knocking that crown off Ateneo’s head. UST was good. FEU was good. UP was still good as they had Benjie Paras and Joey Guanio and a former Blue Eaglet named Alfie Manlulo. 

Over at UE, the pre-season talk was about this dude from the south named Bong Ravena. He served his residency the previous year and was going to suit up. In that day and age of no internet or wireless technology, Ravena’s reputation as a high flying destroyer was by word of mouth.

During the first game of that UAAP season, the Blue Eagles went up against the Warriors (at that time, they didn’t use the adjective “Red” and Bong Ravena. He was a one-man wrecking crew for UE that was in year one of its post-Jerry Codinera phase. Jolly Escobar was also in his first year and played center for UE alongside Jojo Mariquit. They still had snipers Vernie Villarias and Modesto Hojilla. Their lone link to their championship past was point guard Boycie Zamar who was in his last playing year.

Ravena gave us a difficult time in that match, he repeatedly attacked that basket and carried UE on his broad shoulders. To us in the stands at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, we were praying for the game clock to hasten to its end because no one could stop Ravena. In the end, Ravena simply ran out of time, as Ateneo walked away with a squeaker. He took some a bunch of shots, made some; missed some. But UE knew that they had their closer.

The Blue Eagles went on to win the championship while UE stewed. One year later, Ravena carried them to the finals only to lose to a deep La Salle team. And he went down shooting. 

Twenty-four years later, Bong’s son, incredibly, is the man for Ateneo. In some ways, the son did his pop better as he was a major part of two title teams in the seniors (three in the juniors).

What am I getting at?

When it is crunch time, the ball goes to the Man. He might have a bad game but it goes to the Man. If the coach designs a play for someone else, then so be it.

If you go back to 2002, before Gec Chia’s game winner over UE in the Final Four, it was Chia who hit the previous basket. The team simply went to the hot hand.

Does it always go to the hot hand?

Not necessarily.

In 2006, Macky Escalona had an exceptional Game Three versus UST. However, in the final play, Norman Black drew the play for the Man that year — JC Intal. Would I have gone with JC or Macky. That depends. In Game One, the ball went to Doug Kramer who scored the game winner. My thought is to trust the coach.

Hence, I believe that the ball should have still gone to Kiefer.

Yes, maybe he should have gone to the hole instead of trying to hit a tough fade especially since he missed some shots before that. But the thing is, the Man tried. 

I cannot for the life of me see how he is a ballhog. As of last Sunday, Kiefer is leading THE LEAGUE IN ASSISTS with 5.0 and a total of 35 assists a game. And he doesn’t play the one-spot and is ahead temporarily of starting point guards like Mike Tolomia who has 30, Joseph Nalos who has 29, and Gelo Alolino who has 21.

Incidentally, Ravena also lead the UAAP in assists during Season 77 with 88 dishes! That is 32 assists more than the second best passer who was Roi Sumang.

As for Kief’s struggles. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen him struggle. There was Season 76 where he came back from an injury and then if I recall, there was a part during Season 74 where he had a tough time. Some people question how he has changed his free throw stance. When you’re not shooting right, you try to tinker. It’s a mechanical and mental challenge. Hopefully, they can help him correct that and get his confidence back.

Kiefer goes into the ball game thinking of how to help his teammates get good shots. In fact, I think you should credit more than half of John Apacible’s buckets to Kiefer who has repeatedly found him for a good shot.

Yes, it was a painful and disappointing loss. Eto yung game na much like the UST match where panalo na natalo pa.  But I didn’t feel down as much as I used to. I have since adjusted my expectations. It is what it is - a team filled with newbies, blue chip newbies, that are learning to play together.

I recall a game in the Home and Away League (the predecessor of the Filoil tourney that used to be played in the second semester and not the summer) right before Chris Tiu left to spend a few months in a school in France. That team had Japeth Aguilar, Ford Arao, Doug Kramer, Macky Escalona etc. The Blue Eagles were playing the San Sebastian Stags. Ateneo was leading throughout that game and in fact, Japeth Aguilar threw down one of the most incredible dunks that most people have never seen — he blocked a shot, corralled the loose ball and galloped down for a thunderous jam on two Stags. But Ateneo lost when Chris Tiu tried to find teammates instead of taking the shot himself. Following the match, Sandy Arespacochaga chewed out Chris for his decision making in the end game. Bawled him out. As I recall it, Chris felt so bad that the thought of not coming back crossed his mind. But he did. In fact, he became a better player making better decisions and taking better shots. And he did captain that 2008 title team.

And oh, Rico Villanueva understands poor games and slumps all too well. And he did come back a winner.

Back to the Ateneo-La Salle game, I liked the game plan of the Blue Eagles, concocted by the coaching staff. Their zone was close to being impenetrable in the first half. They gave La Salle a dose of its own dribble drive offense (I suddenly remembered Ateneo when Chot Reyes was coaching and he gave the Green Archers a dose of their own triangle-and-two) for a huge win. For the first time all season long it looked like that things have clicked. 

However, think we have to credit La Salle. They made their adjustments in the second half — one they started in the second quarter but perfected in the third where they had Jeron Teng attacking right up the middle. His repeated drived forced the Ateneo guards to double and that freed up their outside shooters. If you watch the first half, they ran pretty much the same sets except they botched their shots. They nailed them in the second half.

You know during Norman Black’s time, he would always say let’s own the paint and dare the others to beat us from the outside. That doesn’t mean they didn’t defend the perimeter, they tried. Sometimes they weren’t successful. Most of the time they were. 

Same in this game.

Should Coach Bo Perasol have used Chibueze Ikeh more? Yes, I think so. But Ikeh came out of his shell to play solid this game. I hope they unleash him in the next game. He does wreak havoc on the court. 

Was the coach right in pulling out Jerie Pingoy for a breather? Definitely, there was that lob to Ikeh that was telegraphed and defended well as well as another poor offensive set. But he was brought back into the game. And boy, Jerie Pingoy saved his coming out party for his first Ateneo-La Salle game. He was sensational dropping dimes and that scrumptious reverse layup.

Lest you think I am using kid gloves on the coaching staff, let me backtrack a bit.

After the win over NU, I was critical for the first time of what the coaching staff ran. Isolation after isolation. And that was after a win. 

But the offense and the defense have improved since. We play nothing like we did following the opening day debacle. We’d love for the progress to be swifter but it isn’t easy. The offense is far better then and were it not for some miscues, we could be 6-1 now. 

After a botched play against La Salle down the stretch, I looked down from where I was seated and looked at Coach Bo. He slapped his palms as he knew that the game had slipped away. I felt bad for him to be honest. 

At that moment, I didn’t want to be selfish. I want the win just as much as any Atenean. I wanted this win for Bo. Man, every single coach since the modern program was put in place — from Joe Lipa to Joel Banal to Sandy Arespacochaga to Norman Black - can relate to the pressure. I may not agree with all his strategies. I may not agree with all his substitutions. But he is our coach. I wasn’t sure of him back during the nominations for Norman’s replacement. But when he went over to the stands to fight a La Sallian heckler, man, I am on his side. 

When I asked Joe Lipa who has become a dear friend why he only raised his first for the Ateneo alma mater song during his first and last game, he told me, that one alumnus — an ass if there was ever one — said he shouldn’t do so because he never went to school in Loyola Heights. I felt bad. Anyone who represents our school has the right to do so. Did Norman go to Ateneo? Did Joel go to Ateneo? During those NCAA years, Al Dunbar, who guided Ateneo to a pair of titles, went to University of San Francisco (right after Bill Russell graduated but played with his brother Charles Russell) go to Ateneo?

In many ways, this team reminds me somewhat (except that this is more rookie and newbie laden) of the 2002 team. They looked nothing like champions in the first round. Many wondered what the heck Joel Banal was doing. There were galling losses then in the first round. They did put it together and went on to win it all ending 14 years of heartache.

The season has been trying. Definitely we could be 6-1 as opposed to 4-3. Honestly? I am excited for the second round. I hope they can put it together and we can see that deadly form they flashed for a half against La Salle more consistently.

In 1988, we prayed up in the bleachers for time to run out on our foe.

This year, we’ve got the son of that Man on our side. And there’s still time. And that’s the second round.

My last word on the FIBA Asia Finals officiating

If you haven't read my piece, The Morning After, on the day after the loss, click on this link.

You know, I have been covering FIBA and international basketball since the 1990s. I have seen a lot of hoops and I have seen a lot of controversial games. To make light of the bad officiating is wrong. There are bigger things that happen. There is more to a game than a gold medal.

Take a look at these screen shots. Look for a common denominator. It isn't difficult to spot.

So what about the loss to Palestine? Hindi naman inaasahan matalo doon. Oh, he did officiate one game where we won. Tambak kasi yung kalaban. Can't make any magic when you're up huge.

The tweets from MVP regarding the unavailability of the bus to pick them up, the lack of tickets, the fixing of the ring during warm-ups? This happens a lot. Not just in hoops. 

In 2010, we were in Vietnam for the Suzuki Cup. Now the order for eating meals was -- Singapore, Philippines, then Myanmar. Teams never ate at the same time. It is part of the protocol. Now during Singapore's time to dine, their entire team stayed outside the dining area while they allowed one coach to go in and eat. Turns out he was their official "food taster." If after 30 minutes, he wasn't puking his guts out, wasn't suddenly ill or dying, that is when the team ate. I asked their coaches about this and I was told that it was a precautionary measure. Some hosts pull tricks to throw you off rhythm. One times, they were staying in this hotel in another country when the fire alarm went off in the dead of the night. Everyone of course rose and scampered out. Turned out to be a false alarm. And it happened twice! They weren't able to sleep soundly after that. The following day, they were lost badly. In that tourney, Myanmar brought their own food. Kaming mga Pinoy, oh, hell. We ate. Phil Younghusband fell ill though the night before the game against Vietnam. But the rest is history. We beat them, 2-0.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Post-FIBA Asia Championship: The Morning After

This appears in the Monday, October 5, 2015 edition of the Business Mirror.

The morning after
by rick olivares pics from the fiba site

I woke up feeling a lot less emotional but there’s still pain. It’s all right to lose as long as you gave it your best and it was a clean fight. I still believe that we can defeat China. In another country and with better and less partial officiating, that is.

How does officiating affect a game or a team’s psyche?

Having watched competitive basketball closely for over 30 years, the most simple way to do that is to make early calls that affect the rotation and of course, performance. If you’re whistled for two early fouls then you’re hesitant to challenge shots or even lane incursions (if you play the center position). It can be irritating to a player when the officiating is inconsistent and fouls or non-calls not called both ways.

It is sad that our team went into the finals with concerns about the officiating. It’s like walking home late at night and you keep looking over your shoulder. It is even more sad that China has to resort to all sorts of tactics to get ahead. 

I had this sense of foreboding hours before the match following an interview over DZMM with Sen. Freddie Webb, Boyet Sison, coach Jude Roque, and Benjie Paras. 

Paras, who was a part of the first all-professional Filipino line-up in FIBA competition related an incident during the 1990 Asian Games that was played in China.

All the matches of the group stages right up to the semifinals were played in one venue, including the infamous 65-point thrashing to the host team, 125-60. The Filipinos rebounded from that loss to book a finals seat against the Chinese. However, in the finals, there was a sudden change of venue. More than that, the heater was turned off. In the cold autumn weather of Beijing, related Benjie: “Hindi pawis ang tumutulo sa amin… sipon yung tumutulo.” Talking to Chito Loyzaga who was on that team, he concurred with Paras’ story. “It was exactly like that, partner,” he  said. The Filipinos made a closer game of it but the game went the Chinese’s way, 90-74.

Twenty-five years later, it was more of the same.

If you saw national team patron Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Tweets prior to the 2015 FIBA Asia Gold Medal Match where he lamented about the delay in picking up the team from its hotel, to the unavailability of tickets for some of its coaches, to the “repairs” of the teams basket during warm-ups, and God-knows-what-else, it was obvious they were done to mess with the Filipinos’ focus.

You can be that sure distracts from the game at hand. I wasn’t on ground during the tournament so I cannot ascertain the coaching staff and the players’ thoughts and mindset but for an athlete, routine counts for a lot. And so we lost 78-67. 

The road to Rio — the qualifiers — looks just as daunting. There’s France that is stocked with all-world and top-caliber players like Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Evan Fournier to name a few.

And there are the teams that the Philippines played in last year’s FIBA World Cup. 

There’s Greece (we lost 82-70), that that is led by NBA stars Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kosta Kouos, and Kostas Papanikolaou. There’s the JJ Barea-led Puerto Rico (we lost in a close match 77-73). And there’s the Gorgui Dieng-led Senegal team.

There’s Italy, Czech Republic, Canada, Mexico, Angola, Tunisia, New Zealand, and those old FIBA Asia foes, Iran and Japan.

It is definitely a hard road. But the nationals, Gilas Pilipinas, will fight the good fight. We’ve got a very good coaching staff and a good team with promise. We might have seen the last of some of those old warhorses in Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros and God bless them for their contributions. Watching Asi bang inside and score underneath, the man is a warrior. And Dondon — as a friend, Jojo dela Rama said on his Facebook post — old shooters never die; they just continue to shoot the lights out.

Following the 1990 Asian Games losses to China, I remember attending the first few games of the PBA. The crowds were sparse; there was a feeling that our best was outclassed.

These past several years, since the current Gilas program of the SBP has been in place, it is no coincidence that the league and the game is more popular than ever.

In 2013, I remember former national head coach Chot Reyes saying that the silver medal was as good as gold. And it was.

This year’s silver medal, however we look at the championship game, isn’t that bad. No one expected us to get that far anyway and given the hand that head coach Tab Baldwin was dealt, you have to really appreciate it. For that we have to tip our hat to the national team and MVP and offer our gratitude. And it’s good to know that the program in place by the SBP is bearing great fruit and who knows what could be harvested in the future? 

Unlike the 1990 loss, I think when the PBA opens in a few weeks’ time, the atmosphere is going to be electric.


Check out this piece I put together on the questionable officiating. Click on this link.

Thanks, Coach Tab!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

James Harden is with adidas! Swag!

The wait is over! James Harden's $200 million payday began with a truckload of adidas shoes delivered to his house. Love the commercial. And that expression when he sees all the shoes -- hahaha! 

Swag, ya'll. 

I am envious that James Harden's big payday has arrived. I am still waiting for a job that pays me even a fraction of that. But good for the fella! He earned it.

2015 FIBA Asia Japan-Philippines semis: It came down to 4th qtr execution

That Japan-Philippines semis: It came down to 4th qtr execution
by rick olivares pics from fiba

Japan came close to going to the gold medal game. For a little over three quarters, they battled the Philippines tooth and nail.  While the final score, 81-70, in favor of the Philippines, doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, it does reveal their young team’s flaws.

Makoto Hiejima and Joji Takeuchi played solid basketball but it wasn’t enough for Japan to advance to the gold medal. 

Hiejima posted a game high 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists while his teammate added 18 points, 16 boards, and 1 assist. Takotoshi disappeared again scoring only 4 points. Point guard Yuta Tabuse was the closest bit of help as he chipped in 9 points.

It’s all right when you have two studs taking charge but not against a deeper opponent like the Philippines.

If they wanted to win the match, we previously pointed out that they needed to do a few other things.

Get to the free throw line. They did this time around, attempting 29 free throws and making 24 of them while the Filipinos were awarded only six.

Limit those turnovers. They had fewer turnovers this time around but the Philippines still managed seven steal that they converted into 8 fastbreak points.

Score more against the second highest scoring team in the tournament. Japan scored more points in the paint, 34-30, while their bench evened it out, 11-11. 

However, Tab Baldwin’s starters scored a whopping 70 points. Japan’s starting unit managed only 59 with only two of them scoring in double figures.

Unfortunately for Japan, it was the Philippines that had a field day as they shot the ball much better - 46% to 36%. It isn’t enough to win the battle of the boards, which they did, 41-37, you need to convert. They had fewer field goal attempts, 63 to the Philippines’ 68.

The three-point shot, a staple of Japan’s offense, deserted them. They missed all 11 attempts. In contrast, the Philippines was 13-31. Dondon Hontiveros drilled in six treys that erased deficits and eventually broke the backs of the Japanese. If Hiejima and Takeuchi cancelled out Andray Blatche and Jayson Castro’s production, that third scorer would have come in handy. That’s where the Philippines has had that advantage. For th emost part of the tournament, that third scorer has been Terrence Romeo. In this game, Dondon Hontiveros busted Japan’s zone wide open.

Furthermore, as both teams battled to a stand still after three quarters, it came down to defense and execution. With not many other scoring options for Japan, Gabe Norwood was able to key in on Hiejima. Just as he had that crucial stop on Korea’s Kim Min Goo in 2013, he had two crucial stops in the fourth period, one where he deflected a pass by Takeuchi and a block on Hiejima. 

They had no one who could body up with Andray Blatche. Atsuya Ota and Gaku Arao really couldn’t contain Blatche who can play both inside and outside. 

In the clutch, the Philippines made 9-16 shots from the field while Japan crumbled going 4-12 on the floor. Four of the Philippines’ field goals came from three-point territory.

There’s that big game experience that former Philippine national head coach Chot Reyes has espoused. The Philippines has lots of players who have played huge matches with a lot of international experience; the Japanese do not. 

There’s promise for Japan. Think of this where the Philippines was in 2011, finishing fourth. It would be worth watching where they go and how their talented youngsters who aren’t lined up in this tournament contribute for the long haul.

The FIBA Asia Finals: A return to glory for either China or the Philippines

This appears on

The FIBA Asia Finals: A return to glory
by rick olivares

It’s official. The silver medal finish of 2013 is no fluke.

The Philippines used to play for pride and its return to the basketball firmament. Now, to cement that, it’s for FIBA Asia gold and an outright ticket to the Rio Olympics next year.

Think about this incredible journey. In 2013, after 40 years, the FIBA Asia Championship was back in Manila. While Nationals were unable to duplicate the gold medal feat of its forebears, that silver was just as good as gold. 
The big win back then was over Korea. This 2015, it’s against Iran. Now, as the Philippines is taking big names and kicking butt, reshaping the FIBA rankings with one impressive performance after another, there remains one more stumbling block, one old and familiar foe, who was actually the one that dominated Asian basketball for decades — China.

Until the rise of Iran and other West Asian nations in the last decade, China ruled Asian basketball. They supplanted the Filipinos in the World Championships and Olympics. They even sent a couple of players to the NBA. 

The cool fact about the FIBA Asia Finals is that it features two teams that defeated the defending champions. Convincingly, I might add.

To be the champ, you have to beat the champ.

And now for the first time since 1985 when the two countries last squared off for FIBA Asia gold (where the Philippines defeated China in the final game of the round robin semifinals, 82-72, they’re back. And someone is going to be the champion and is going to Rio. 

China is the last undefeated team in the tournament and they tote an 8-0 record. They also own the head-to-head match up in FIBA Asia, 9-3.

The 2015 FIBA Asia Finals will surely be electric. The Changsa Gym will be packed and rocking; something the Filipinos know all to well as they utilized that homecourt advantage to the hilt in 2013. This time, the crowd will be jeering them.

And in my opinion, they will need all the vocal support they can get. Even if China is 8-0, I thought they really hit their stride with their last match of the second round, an 89-65 win over Qatar. Furthermore, they have only one player who scores in double digits — Yi Jianlian who averages 17.4 points per game. That could spell trouble for them if no one else can pick up the slack. 

It is a young team that they have paraded here in Changsa. There are only four holdovers from the 2013 games — Yi, Guo Ailun, Zhou Peng, and Wang Zhelin. 

In the Manila tournament, Yi only played five matches and averaged 17.4 points while Wang Zhelin added 10.2 markers of his own. Their own living legend, Wang Zhizhi suited up in Manila for his last hurrah and he averaged 13.4 points and led China when Yi didn’t play.

Granted China plays as a team as their scoring is more or less scattered and with every player chipping in points. But they are young. 

However, the Philippines brings a relatively veteran team to the finals. While there are only four Manila veterans in Jayson Castro, Ranidel De Ocampo, Gabe Norwood, and Marc Pingris, Asi Taulava, Sonny Thoss, and Dondon Hontiveros have had previous and extensive international experience. Two newcomers, Terrence Romeo and Calvin Abueva have given a good account of themselves and have been sparkplugs in more ways than one.

In 2013, former national coach Chot Reyes ensured that his squad earned a lot of big game experience. The Chinese don’t have much of that… yet.

Looking at how they match up statistically, the Philippines has the edge in most categories.

Tab Baldwin’s boys are second in the competition in scoring with 88.3 points a game. China is fourth in the tournament with an average of 84.9 points in eight matches.

The Philippines hauls down 46.9 rebounds a game. China is sixth in rebounding with 41.5 boards a game.
China holds its own however. 

No team is deadlier from three-point country than China. In eight games, they shot 39.7%. The Philippines isn’t far behind with a 36.2% accuracy rate. The onus is on the Chinese to get off their shots a lot quicker because the Philippines is one of the better defending teams especially from the perimeter.

What China does so well is to go to the free throw line. They get 17.0 points from the 15-foot line every game. The Filipinos are three full points behind.

Assist-wise, China has a 13.6 average to the Filipinos 11.3.

Looking at the match up, I’d say that veteran experience of the Filipinos will counter the homecourt advantage and youth of China. The Filipinos usually count three double digit scorers a game. Aside from the one-two punch of Andray Blatche and Jayson Castro, there’s Romeo. Against Japan, Romeo faltered, his first poor outing of the tournament. Hontiveros though, greatly picked up the slack.

It is easy to say that China will have a handful. But they will be buoyed by their crowd and home support and that counts for a lot.