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, July 24, 2014

Looking at Blackwater after the expansion draft

This appears on the PBA website.



Looking at Blackwater after the expansion draft
by rick olivares photo from PBA/Nuki Sabio

Now that the expansion draft is done, let’s grade first the selection of Blackwater Sports that will be coached by former Ginebra San Miguel great Leo Isaac.

Center: Danny Ildefonso, JP Erram, Bryan Faundo,

Power Forward: Eddie Laure, Gilbert Bulawan

Small Forward: JR Cawaling, Norman Gonzales,  Bam Gamalinda

Shooting Guard: Alex Nuyles, Robby Celiz

Point Guard: Paul Artadi, Chris Timberlake

Blackwater will be able to add several more players in the upcoming PBA Draft as they have the 12th and last pick of the first round and the second pick of the second round.

Looking at their selections from the expansion draft, what they have is a halfcourt team. It’s a slow team that won’t necessarily get out on the break. If they do run they have Alex Nuyles who should play a big role in this team. There’s JR Cawaling, although he is more of a shooter than a finisher on the break, and Paul Artadi and Chris Timberlake. And make no mistake, JP Erram can run the floor too.

But before you can run, you have to be able to rebound that ball and that brings us to the men who will patrol that shaded lane.

Centers/Power Forwards:
They have players who can pound the ball inside in Danny Ildefonso, Bryan Faundo, Erram, and Gilbert Bulawan.

I don’t see Danny playing long minutes but if kept fresh and given some minutes, he might be a huge factor. Lakay has a lot of motivation going on and will be eager to prove that he isn’t washed up.

Of the three others, I am higher on JP Erram provided he gets his confidence going. He has a decent medium range jumper and if finally playing with that confidence we saw while in college, can be deadly with putbacks and hooks inside. I’m sure he’ll even throw down a few rim rattlers. In fact, he could be the primary rim protector as he’s a very good shot blocker.

Bryan Faundo and Gilbert Bulawan could be the Bruise Brothers of Blackwater…. provided they score more points than they bump and thump opponents around.

Eddie Laure will be the other senior citizen in this bunch. He will bring a lot of professionalism and work ethic to this team. Like Danny, won’t be getting too many minutes but hoping he can be an impact player in those limited minutes.

Small Forwards:
Alex Nuyles can swing over here because they will need someone to break down the defense on the wing. If he can develop a more consistent jump shot he’ll be an even bigger threat.

Nuyles, could be the most important player in this roster. If he realizes what he can do for this team such as score, defender, and create for teammates, they’ll make it difficult for many an opponent.

JR Cawaling can shoot. Just needs to be more consistent.

Bam Gamalinda if he can use Ranidel De Ocampo as a template for the player he should be will help.

Norman Gonzales… this guy knows what battling impossible odds is all about.  From his days of being accused of drug use to making a comeback with Sta. Lucia and playing for the Saigon Heat in the ABL. It would be interesting to see what he can contribute to this team given his age.

Shooting Guard:
Nuyles can play here or if not Robby Celiz. Consistency is a word that will be bounced around a lot for Blackwater. If Celiz can hit that outside shot with consistency, he will help the forwards and centers. If he misfires and there is no consistent or real scary outside threat here, it’s going to be a long day at the office.

Point Guards:
Paul Artadi’s weakness has been his outside shot. He more than made up for that with his speed and willingness to drive inside. It would be interesting to see how he adapts his strengths to this squad. If he can be a true point guard and set up teammates, Coach Leo will have found his playmaker. If it works, he could form a great partnership with Alex Nuyles.

Chris Timberlake. Much the same with Artadi. Gotta work on his playmaking and outside shot.

The challenges for Blackwater:
The trick with expansion teams is that all these guys are discards. They’ll be hungry for the ball and looking to put up points on the board. If players are reigned in so as not to be selfish – given proper backing by management – they’ll do all right. If not and they all look for their own shot, they’ll be blown off the floor.

What they will want to do is to keep the game close so they have a chance. They do not have to personnel to compete… yet. So they want to play smart and keep the game close.

Think of themselves as this year’s Ginebra. Yes, the Ginebra of old and not the superstar laden team it has been in the last decade or so. The old Ginebra of Jawo was filled with discards, has beens, and veterans. Isaac was one of the young guns on that team along with Dondon Ampalayo. He was a shooting guard and small forward who was also tasked to bring up the ball. He sure knows the feeling and he might be the perfect coach of this team.



Rookie Watch: Arvin Tolentino (the A-Train)

This appears on philstar.com


Rookie Watch: Arvin Tolentino (the A-Train)
by rick olivares pic by mon rubio

Before we look at what the Ateneo Blue Eagle rookie, Arvin (can we call him “the A-Train) Tolentino, there are two moments that will define the Ateneo-UP match from last Wednesday.

There was 5’9” Nico Elorde blocking 6’5” Gelo Vito and a play or two later, Kiefer Ravena hitting a huge triple that hit the bottom of the net.

Even if Ateneo looked lethargic (I won’t give UP too much credit for defense here) because they surrendered 86 points, those two moments emphatically said that the Fighting Maroons weren’t going to upset them on that day.

While it’s still early in the Season as they are still groping for competition form, it should be noted that Ateneo is in the middle of most defensive categories. Even after three games played, they still lag behind UST and UE. They’ll be facing from hereon teams that are in the upper half of the standings.

However, when it was winning time, the Blue Eagles played better defense. When UP cut the lead down to two, Ateneo went on a spurt offensively then choked the Maroons on the defensive end.

Notable stat line:
Ateneo scored 23, 23, 20, and 20 points per quarter.
UP scored 21, 17, 16, and 21

Chris Newsome: 18 points, 12 rebounds (4 offensive), 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 turnover.

Now let’s look at the A-Train’s (Arvin Tolentino) numbers:

Vs. UP
25 minutes = 20 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 turnover.

Vs. La Salle
27 minutes = 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, and 2 blocks

Vs. Adamson
18 minutes = 12 points and 2 turnovers

In three matches, he has averaged:
15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 blocks, and 1.3 turnovers per game.

Breaking down his scoring further, here’s what’s he’s done:
6/15 from 3pt range = 40%
10/17 from 2pt range = 58.8%
8/12 from the FT line = 66.7%.


Solid numbers and he can only get better. Huge pick up for Ateneo.

DLSU closed it out vs. NU

This appears on abs-cbnnews.com


DLSU closed it out vs. NU
by rick olivares pic by mark cristino

De La Salle University, the defending champs still groped for form and got all they could handle from a tough National University team to eke out their first win of the season, 57-55.

Jason Perkins stood tall for the Green Archers as he compiled 14 points (including the marginal basket), 7 rebounds, and 1 assist.

In our previous analysis of the DLSU (regarding their first two matches that they both lost to FEU and Ateneo), we noted the dip in closing out the first and second half. It is only fair to see if the theory has held.

Let’s break down the quarters by scoring.
Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
12
23
10
12
NU
16
13
14
12

As you can see, La Salle put up a huge second quarter that served as a buffer. And even as the Bulldogs charged back, they held them to a draw in terms of scoring in the fourth while coming up in the late stages to eke out a win.

Breaking down the quarter scoring, this  is how La Salle did vis-à-vis NU.
Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
Perkins 6
Torres N. 6
Van Opstal 5

Perkins 6
Torres N. 5
NU
Khobuntin 5
Alolino 5
.
.Rosario 6

In my previous analysis on DLSU (among other things), I listed players scoring at least five points in every quarter. La Salle had more players standing up during the two crucial periods (the second and fourth period) further validating the theory.
Arnold Van Opstal didn’t have a great game but it has been Perkins who has been their most consistent scorer. 

And once more, they went inside, their source of strength.
Category
DLSU
NU
Points in paint
32
24
Offensive rebounds
16
16
Layups/tip-ins
4-7
9-11


The stats have been glowing but La Salle got the important first win in the bag. Now they’ll be working on their consistency, defense, and closing out games. Especially the middle point that is defense. In three matches, they are in the bottom half of the standings in all defensive categories. That is what helped them win the Season 76 title. No doubt, their coaching staff will be working on that aspect.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Feeling the blues of the fiasco that was the Last Home Stand

I don't even know where to start with this. It's been close to 24 hours since the fiasco that was the PLDT Last Lost Home Stand. I've been doing things but at the back of my mind, the Lost Home Stand keeps nagging at me like a persistent headache.

Several weeks ago, we writers at the NBA Philippines website were told not to write about the event since it wasn't sanctioned by the league office. I then asked, why isn't it sanctioned? What are the organizers trying to accomplish by this? I got a shrug for a reply.

I thought nothing more of this until I wrote a friend of mine at the league offices in New York asking if he had any information regarding some of the trades going on at the time and part of his reply was people were unhappy about this event that seemed like a slap on the face of the NBA. I asked about the event of 2011 and I was informed that it happened during a lockout year and the league office couldn't do much. But not this time around. It seemed that the disconnect was communicated very early during the project.

So I told three people from the MVP Group of Companies, two who simply laughed it off. I was shaken by the response of one and while I felt it was such an arrogant reply, I told myself, maybe they've resolved matters. 

When I arrived at the Araneta Coliseum yesterday it was just a little past 6pm. "Good crowd," I thought to myself. "I guess people started to buy tickets now that the prices have been slashed down."

I sat with a couple of media colleagues at the baseline area before moving to Section 109 where my seat was located. On my way, I bumped into James Harden who I extensively interviewed during a previous trip. "Looking forward to the game, James!" I said. "He looked at me and said, "There's not going to be a game."

What?

"Yeah, the league said we can't play. We want to play for the fans but… well, I don't know. Let's see."

He then made his way the court to do some shooting.

I knew the game was going to tip off at 7pm. It was 6:47 and I looked at my cellphone and wondered, "Doesn't look like we're getting ready for a game here. What gives?"

When the event finally began, when PLDT's Ariel Fermin took to the mike and announced that fans could avail of a refund if they weren't happy with what they were going to see, I knew then that there was to be no game. I hoped against hope there'd still be something. As the Gilas Pilipinas players and the Fibr All-Stars participated in some drills, the crowd began to get a little restless. After the ocho drill and players switched to a 3-2 drill, the crowd unleashed a cavalcade of boos. 

It got steadily worse. I saw one fan from the baseline hurl invectives towards the direction of one of the television cameras. The two fans who had their picture taken for a spin.ph article with their thumbs down sat in front of me. The person to my right announced loudly to anyone within earshot that he was going to be Tweeting this event as a scam. The booing continued and after a while, I got up to leave. I left because I felt bad. 

I felt bad for the fans who paid their hard-earned money for this and braved the bad weather. I felt bad for my colleagues in media who were shabbily treated and not taken care of by the organizers. Outside the Big Dome's Red Gate, many of them were fuming for not being on the list, for not having IDs, for not being given tickets, hell anything. I felt bad for the national team and the NBA players. I felt bad for the organizers. I felt bad for MVP who has given so much. I felt bad because the wolves and the vultures would feast on this snafu. I felt bad because this could have been avoided if people did the right thing. 

As I made my way out, I bumped into one of the organizers. "We never promised a game," he  said nervously. "You actually believe that?" I asked back. "I don't think you're going to like the fallout from this. And you better have a good PR team to deal with this because people will get nasty."

There too was this man who couldn't contain his anger when one of the ushers told him that once he left the venue, he wouldn't be allowed back inside. Suffice to say that I cannot print what he said and it surely wasn't anything charitable.

Before I went home, I decided to have a late night dinner at Pho Hoa along Wilson Street in San Juan. It was there were I first read the Tweets and angry status messages on Facebook. At first they were borne of frustration. By mid-morning, it got vicious. 

Then I Tweeted:




Earlier, I said this could have been avoided. The right thing to do would have been to cancel it before the point of no return. Take the loss and eat humble pie. Even though the fans would feel short changed, at least there would be proper refunds and the organizers manned up and owned up to it. It will be all forgotten and forgiven. And remember, you are talking to a populace that has had it with corrupt and inept government officials who get away with their thievery. Instead, there have been responses about not promising a game that only infuriated the already disgruntled. And about the event being for charity and maybe we didn't need to refund. That is… not the appropriate thing to say at all. I thought if people were more forthright then there would be no displeasure.

I have been told that the disconnect with the NBA was known by some of the organizers some time ago. Whatever it is… this shouldn't have happened. It sends the national team off on a sour note. It gives the MVP Group a blackeye too. This after all MVP's done. Furthermore, I wonder if this will affect the team's training in Miami and well, Blatche playing for the national team. I really have no idea as I don't really talk to the coaching staff or management of the team. 

I Tweeted MVP early in the morning offering sympathies and thanking him for his giving back a lot. 

Even sleep couldn't get that bad feeling out of me. Even as the NBA came out with a statement with regards to the mess, it left even more questions. If there were problems early on, why wasn't it resolved? Did they assume that by supposedly changing the format to a drills/practice/workout it would be all right with the fans? Why didn't the advertising and promotional materials communicate that? Were the organizers still thinking there'd be an 11th hour change from the NBA's stance? If there was the possibility of this backfiring, why weren't PR plans put in place? As someone who practices public relations for a living, there should always always be PR plans in place regardless of how an event goes. That way no one is caught unawares.



This morning, I spoke to a friend who is a part of this event and he lamented, "You know, this is one of those things where everybody loses."

Yes, and unfortunately, it's the sad and painful truth. But what will compound this is that it will hurt for a very long time.








------------------------------------

I remember before the very first NBA Asia Challenge, I asked Scott Levy, NBA Asia's top man about the possibility of having a pre-season or regular season match in the Philippines. Having lived in the US and watched quite a number of live NBA games, I was more excited about the fact that it could be held in the Philippines for our countrymen to experience. Scott said that there were some things that needed to happen and when it does it will happen. 

After two NBA Asia Challenges and a number of Jr. NBA and other events, the first ever pre-season game in Manila was held. While wasn't the best of performances because it wasn't packed and it coincided with a terrible traffic jam, it looked good. Finally, the magic and excitement of the NBA was here.

I missed the previous game of the NBA players because I was abroad with the Azkals and was doubly excited for this Last Home Stand. It sure was a massive disappointment that it ended this way.