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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Witness Infamy

Witness Infamy
A debacle that hits Cleveland’s heart and soul
by rick olivares

Charles Barkley knows what LeBron James is feeling.

That might sound a little strange when he got on Cleveland’s main man last season for not taking the shot during crunch time. James shot back but took his advice. In fact, when he launched a game winner in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals he was already being celebrated as the most complete player on both ends of the court since another #23 was winning titles in the Windy City. But really… the Cavaliers should have been swept in "fo" straight to borrow Moses Malone’s playoff prediction.

As for Barkley… in 1993 he had a dream season. He was the star of the American Dream Team that won gold in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that preceded the ’92-’93 NBA season. That summer too, he was traded from his first team, the Philadelphia 76ers, to the Phoenix Suns.

In his first visit to the America West Arena as a member of the Suns, General Manager Cotton Fitzsimmons bared the simple facts as he gave the Round Mound of Rebound a tour of the home arena. “You see those seats?" said the GM as he pointed to the cavern and its 16,000-plus seats that were periodically sold out. “You didn’t have a damn thing to do with that.”

Fitzsimmons panned up to the rafters that was devoid of any championship banners. “You see that? That – you can do something about.”

Barkley led Phoenix to a fantastic season where they were nicknamed a “team of destiny.” They finished with the league’s best record at 62-20 and #34 was feted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts. Yet the Suns lost in six matches to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls including all three home games of the Finals.

As the Bulls celebrated on Phoenix’ floor, Barkley found Jordan and the two shared a quick embrace and some encouraging words. As the former Auburn Tiger left the court, he held his hand and looked at ring finger where only moments earlier, he was fighting for a championship ring.

James went through something similar – he won gold with the Redeem Team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was the star of that team (along with Kobe Bryant). He led Cleveland to its best regular season finish at 66-16, slam dunked the media ballots for the MVP Award where he won 109 of a possible 121 first-place votes to unseat Bryant, and was poised to make his second Finals appearance of his young career.

But the Cavaliers’ journey ended in the Eastern Finals in six games against the Orlando Magic who they had so much difficulty all year long. In 10 matches this year between the two teams, Orlando won eight. Not even the Cavs’ homecourt superiority saved them as the Magic stole Game One and immediately put Cleveland on their heels.

For sure, James did not have the same cast as Barkley did in Phoenix, but for almost the entire season, they were the best.

for one series, they were not.

With 7:11 left in the fourth quarter, Rashard Lewis buried a trifecta from the left corner pocket to put Orlando up by 19 points 94-75. Although Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao scored on a three-point play on the other end, Dwight Howard hit a pair of free throws – his 34th and 35th point of the match – amidst the chants of “MVP” that resounded throughout the Amway Arena.

The NBA season seems interminable at times with its 82-match regular grind. But when the second season kicks in, one wishes it was a little longer. because of one simple rule -- if you don't win, you go home.

After a scoreless second quarter in Game 6 that allowed Orlando to put up a lead it would not relinquish, James wished he had a little more time. Only the season had run out.

He left Amway without speaking to anyone or the media. Like Barkley before him, the ring finger was still empty. Like his heart. And for Cleveland another season of futility.

Orlando secured its second NBA Finals appearance (their first since 1996) with one of the most crushing upsets in NBA history and they did it with panache that will recall the Houston Rockets of 1995 when they knocked off three 50-win squads en route to their second Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Orlando beat Boston in seven games. Pundits can make a case that the erstwhile defending champs played a grueling first round with Chicago. Funny that didn’t stop them from stomping on the Los Angeles Lakers last year after going the distance twice in the Eastern playoffs. So here’s a counter argument – Orlando dusted off a Cleveland team that had plenty of rest after they swept the first two rounds of the East.
So how crushing is this for Cleveland?

The 66-16 record – the best in team history means nothing. Just ask the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who like Barkley, can empathize.

The Mariners broke the New York Yankees’ league record of 114 wins in a single season by notching two more but sweet retribution was New York’s as they dispatched Seattle 4-1 in the American League Championship Series 4-1 to advance to their fourth straight World Series appearance.

And all of Ohio is once more in shock as déjà vu has set.

For years Michael Jordan terrorized Cleveland beginning with his shot over Craig Ehlo. Five years later, it all ended for that particular Cavs team when His Airness hit The Shot II over Gerald Wilkins for a 4-0 sweep. That sweep had resounding and long-term repercussions for that plenty good Cavs team (Mark Price, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty, and John Williams) as they were soon dismantled and rebuilt. Current Cavs General Manager Danny Ferry should know that – he was a part of that team.

Now this damning defeat; something that will give James, head Coach Mike Brown, Ferry, and every one else associated with the team all summer to think about.

Not long after the regular season ended, the NBA organized a ceremony at the St Vincent-St. Mary High School where the Ohio kid got his brush with stardom. "Individual accolades come when team success happens," James said in his acceptance speech. "You look at those 14 guys over there, I got the award because of them. They put in the work."

James invited his teammates to the podium and presented each with an expensive camera as a token of his appreciation.

Over the course of the series with Orlando where the Magic’s three-point bombers and bench gave the Cavs all sorts of fits, James’ supporting cast disappeared.

No one’s going to be watching video or using that expensive camera for a while.

Note: I was devastated by the loss of Cleveland. It was this year where I started pulling for LeBron (but I am still a Chicago Bulls fan). It would have been fun to see him go up against Kobe Bryant in what would be a marquee Finals match.

Bleachers' Brew #160 Coast to Coast

Coast to Coast

The Lives & Times of American Globetrotters

by rick olivares

Everybody has questions for the big man.

“How’s the weather up there?”

“Why aren’t you in the NBA?”

“It really isn’t funny anymore,”
says all seven feet and four inches of Priest Lauderdale, the former Atlanta Hawk and Denver Nugget, about the questions constantly asked of him.

On his way up to his room at the Sunlake Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lauderdale finds himself inside the elevator with a couple from England. The elderly woman is less than half his size and she’s got this wide grin on her face. “Oh, my.” she exclaims looking at the giant before her. “Oh, my.”

Yet Lauderdale understands. His is the literal Big Man not on campus but in the city. After all, seven-footers aren’t grown on trees. His height has helped him get by after ditching life in the Association. “It’s all politics, man.” he notes about the NBA. “And money.” So the questions, as cumbersome as they are since they are repeated ad infinitum in almost every country he sets foot in, well, they are fine. “Comes with the territory,” he mumbles with a gentleness that belies his massive stature.

The world basketball scene is littered with American players who either never received a call up to the NBA or were waived after seeing too much pine time. In Jakarta for the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup, there were at least 20 in uniform for 10 different teams.

In the room next to Lauderdale’s is fellow American Maurice Hargrow who is suiting up for Al Arabi Qatar. The door to Hargrow’s room is wide open. “Hey, big man,” yells the player with the cornrows who is grooving to the music video of Leona Naess’ “Charm Attack” on television.

Lauderdale smiles and makes a few motions to synch with the infectious melody that elicits laughter from everyone in the room (Hargrow’s Qatari teammates were inside). “Later, boys. Gotta rest.”

Local food doesn’t sit well with Lauderdale. He tried some and it wasn’t so agreeable with his stomach and he has to repair to his room. He always makes it a point to know the nearest Western food eateries and to make a run to the grocery to buy ingredients. He’s become adept at cooking through self-discovery and watching endless cooking shows on the tube.

Ingredients for soul food are one of the items on his checklist when he unpacks his bags in a new city. A wifi connection is another; it’s a vital link to the life he left behind in Chicago, Illinois where he still keeps tabs on “his Bulls.” Once connected, Skype is his lifeline.

Unlike others who keep tabs with family, Priest is not married. “I am not going to subject my family to a life of moving around. Uh-uh. That’s not the way to raise a family. When I’m done… when I’m done playing basketball then it will be time to raise a family.”

He burns the phone lines back home. He’s learned to save his money and invest wisely. He has a small publishing company back home; one of the few businesses he’s set up for when he hangs up his massive sneakers.

Prior to playing in the NBA, the Chicago native actually got his first taste of professional hoops in Greece with Peristeri Nikas. After he concluded his brief NBA career with the Denver Nuggets in 1998 and the CBA (Grand Rapid Hoops and the Fort Wayne Fury) he has made a life for himself playing for Cypriot team Apollon Limassol, Lukoil Academic in Bulgaria, Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia, the Shandong Lions of the People’s Republic of China and as of late, Mahram Iran.

He pokes fun at himself by claiming he is “jet-set.” He laughs but it’s not the throaty guffaw you’d expect from someone his size. He’s polite and respectful in his tones.

During Mahram’s game with Smart Gilas Philippines, Lauderdale’s teammate and fellow American Jackson Vroman got into some trash talking with CJ Giles who was on the Southeast Asian team five. It got a little tired after awhile that Lauderdale raised his voice and told both to chill. The banter stopped.

But in truth, Lauderdale is a picture of content; a ship that sails pacific waters to distant lands he once read about in geography class.

When he travels the globe, it isn’t simply about eking out a living; he wants to win too. “What’s your worth if you don’t win?” he dispels any notion of going through the motions.

Joshua Jones was watching the Philippines play Indonesia and was mesmerized. He had good words for the Filipino team as did Hargrow, his teammate.

Jones is a Houston native who played for Dillard University, a liberal arts school in New Orleans. Prompted by his family to take his education seriously, he took up political science yet found himself drawn to computers and working as a counselor. “Strange mix, ain’t it?” he digs.

Indeed. And his athletic career actually began in baseball where he patrolled the outfield for the minor league teams of the Florida Marlins, Seattle Mariners, and California Angels before he decided that he was better off playing hoops. “And I’m a New York Yankees fan!” he points out.

“Houston is big and that doesn’t mean that everyone from the area is an Astros fan,”
he explains with devilish glee. “There are Rangers fans too so now everyone roots for the home team.”

But the world is not the United States for him. The 6’6” Jones’ initial foray into world hoops was crossing the Texan border to Mexico. “Adjusting wasn’t that difficult since Spanish is spoken extensively in the US, but the game was very rugged, very aggressive. Far from what I was used to.”

From there he got his passport stamped at China, Egypt, Qatar, and Indonesia. “You have to adapt real quick because no one waits for you. From the language to the style to basketball right down to the culture and the food. Yeah, the food.”

Jones was shocked to be served a whole chicken one time complete with its head still in place. “I was speechless. Made it difficult to look at KFC after that.” he relates. “The local players would take me out to restaurants and it took a while for the food to settle down in my stomach.”

“Speaking of eating out and food, you always have to understand the local currency and prices,”
he admonishes. “People will always try to stiff you with prices. But I’m not going to fall for that since I always ask around.”

Conversely, Jones understands that being an American on a foreign team can be a dual-edged sword. “You’re either a savior or a fall guy. Everywhere I’ve played I’ve done well (Jones helped lead Al Arabi to the Qatar Basketball League title) whether it’s being the leading scorer or doing all the intangibles. But the tough thing is having to replace a fellow American because he couldn’t get the job done. It makes me feel sorry and sad.”

Like Lauderdale, Jones calls the internet a lifesaver. “I’m going to have to start blogging soon. After all, it isn’t the usual kind of lifestyle one goes through.”

Joel Box is also from Illinois (Rockford) like Lauderdale and he went out of state first to play college ball with the New Mexico Lobos then with the Quincy College Hawks. “Isn’t it ironic that my college career reflects my pro basketball career – moving around?”

“The nature of playing overseas is to be ready to pack your bag at a moment’s notice. And jet lag or no jet lag you have to be ready to play. That’s the one truth about playing overseas… you have to play,” explains Box, who spent his first pro career in Turkey before going to Lebanon then to Kuwait where he led Qadsia to the Gulf Championship where he was named the Most Valuable Player.

After a quick vacation in Chicago, he rejoined the Kuwaiti team in the 20th FIBA Champions Cup. From America, he flew to Thailand for a stopover before he took the short hop to Indonesia. “Man, that’s 22 hours in a plane. Makes me a little crazy if you know what I mean,” says the 6’9” forward with a mean three-point shot.

Box, like Lauderdale and Jones has heard countless stories of fellow Americans and their horror stories of not getting paid or being sent home after a game or two. “You might get paid in full but your confidence takes a beating. The money cannot cover for that.”

For all the concerns about adapting to different cultures, their ultimate concern is something that can only happen on the hardcourt. “You try to stay healthy,” notes Lauderdale. “Injuries can mess up your career and livelihood.”

“That’s an athlete’s greatest fear, man,”
concurs Box. “But there’s nothing you can do about that. You just keep playing until you can play no more.”

Notes: All the teams were billeted in one hotel in Jakarta and I took the opportunity to befriend many of the players; not just the Americans. Priest Lauderdale was on the same floor as I (he was in Room 608 while I was at 640). We'd chat before and after games and sometimes in the lobby of our floor. Josh Jones was a big fan of the Philippine team and he tried to watch as much as he could. Joel Box was cool. Played hard but not dirty. And a swell guy off the court.

Muchos gracias to Priest, Josh & Joel! It was cool knowing ya'll.

This concludes my stuff on the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup. Oh, by the way, all three players were huge fans of the Chicago Bulls when Mike Jordan & Pip were there.

Check out Chris Charles entry on my Bleachers' Brew column:

or here in Brew:

CJ Giles:

A town. A team. A dream. And one great read.

When I first got my copy of this, I read it at the same time I read Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down (the book not the movie okay? And I thought when the Philadelphia Inquirer featured it before it became a book it was one of the most awesome reads ever).

They were riveting to read.

In case you're looking for Friday Night Lights, they have this now in Book Sale for anywhere PhP100-145.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One more round

As valiant as the Denver Nuggets were, the Los Angeles Lakers showed their championship mettle as they totally outplayed their Midwest foe in Game 5 to advance to their 30th NBA Finals' appearance. Had Denver won Game 1 then it might have been a different story. But that's what it is all about... dodging bullets and surviving. It's win or go home, right?

It would have been cool to see LeBron James (if the Cavs do advance) go against Carmelo in the Finals. Oh well...

Now for ring #10 by Phil Jackson.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Eduardo Alvarez: Winning over A Madridista

(This has got to be one of the coolest football love-of-the-game commentaries ever. Thought it would be cool to post this here. Got this from ESPN's soccernet.)

I was born into a family of Real Madrid supporters. My mother's father, Joaquín, was a socio for as long as I can remember. My father's father, Eduardo, not only rooted for Real Madrid but also detested Catalans. In my early years, the vast majority of my closest friends were also Real Madrid fans, with very few exceptions.

With such a background of family and friends, the thought of supporting any other team never crossed my mind. In 1982 I watched my first football match live at the Santiago Bernabéu (where else?), as Real Madrid played Ujpest Dosza in a Cup Winners' Cup tie. On a cold October night, Real Madrid prevailed, and would eventually go on to lose the tournament's final against an Aberdeen side coached by one Alex Ferguson.

In my adolescent years I often attended matches at the Bernabéu. As soon as I could afford it I became a socio and bought season tickets. This nurturing of the Real Madrid creed and its liturgy almost inevitably led to the hatred of all things Barcelona. The most exciting matches at the stadium were the "derbis" (never called "clásicos" back then) against the Catalans, a mixture of sporting rivalry and political competition that created an unparalleled atmosphere in the stadium.

Once Barcelona appeared on the pitch, we loved to hate them, and chose our targets carefully: at the Bernabéu, Julio Salinas was never allowed to forget his glaring miss vs. Italy in the 1994 World Cup; Hristo Stoitchkov was booed beyond belief; Luis Enrique, the blaugrana phase of Luis Figo's career, and Andoni Zubizarreta were also among our favourite villains to scream at. However, Josep Guardiola always commanded a great deal of respect among us madridistas.

Leaving aside his exceptional elegance on the pitch, Pep made his first impact on my short-sighted football beliefs after one of the best matches I can remember. In September 1993, Atlético de Madrid played Barcelona at the Nou Camp. The match had just started and Romário de Souza scored an amazing goal. Before I knew it I was hooked by the fantastic dynamism of that Barcelona side.

Guardiola was interviewed after that match. When asked whether Barcelona's offensive approach was too reckless, he answered: "We play to win, so we take risks. And I just can't imagine Real Madrid playing this way". Barca's attitude on the pitch was something premeditated and non-negotiable, and Pep was their foremost representative.

In fact, that Barcelona team changed the way I watched football. I started to enjoy the game played well, although that didn't alter my allegiances: I still wanted our dull Benito Floro side to beat the so-called 'Dream Team', no matter how. In the following years my admiration for Guardiola kept growing despite the bitter end of his career as a player and Pep's public appearances in the media were inspirational and entertaining whenever he spoke about football.

His appointment as Barça's gaffer last May was as suggestive as it was risky. Guardiola had no real coaching experience, but possessed a deep knowledge of the club and the right vision to leverage a handful of fantastic players. During the season I watched in painful delight each football lecture Barcelona gave on the pitch. Then we got to the point where the Catalans had pocketed both domestic titles and were going to play for the treble against Manchester United.

If I had grown fonder of Barça's brand of football over the years, that was not the case among my Real Madrid friends. Their opinion was unanimous: they wanted Barcelona to suffer an ignominious defeat. The best place to watch that happen would be at an English bar, so that they could root for "oonuit" (the Spanish media way of pronouncing United) in a friendly atmosphere. We chose a well-known pub that was already packed with English expats when we arrived, much to my friends' joy.

The opening ceremony, apparently taken out of "Asterix and the laurel wreath", was finishing. The teams were introduced and we got our first surprise of the evening: the pub cheered Barcelona's entrance. Most patrons were Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea fans who were following my friends' rational and wanted their arch rivals to lose. In the group next to us only Barry, a Gunner from Islington, was rooting for United: "You should support your countrymen, mate," was his reasoning.

At this point I had not yet decided who I would root for: the attacking flair of my domestic adversaries, or their conspicuously dressed-in-white opposition. A foul on Carles Puyol in the third minute cleared all my doubts. Barry stood up and screamed: "(expletive) off, you Spanish fairy!" If it came down to it, I would have to support my countrymen indeed.

The match started with United looking the hungrier side, until Samuel Eto'o ended his barren spell in the tenth minute. He had been looking like a poor man's Andy Cole for a solid month, but took advantage of his first one-on-one chance and scored with ease. I celebrated discretely and got a few stares from my friends.

The next 15 minutes were balanced, with no clear chances. Then the real Barcelona started to play: they got hold of the ball and put together a marvellous string of almost 50 passes that finished with a free kick taken by Xavi Hernández. The Englishmen supporting Barça were brimming with excitement, in anticipation of an easy win.

From that point until half-time, United barely saw the ball. Guardiola had positioned Lionel Messi in one of those "hole" roles instead of his usual right flank spot, similarly to the Madrid match. The Argentine, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta kept possession easily and controlled the midfield, although they were strangely soft in the final third.

Just when we expected United to come out strong after the break, Barcelona overwhelmed them with three glorious opportunities in just five minutes. "Good omen, they're wasting chances!" said the optimistic Barry. Then Xavi hit the post. "Great omen!" screamed Barry. But he was wrong. United were still chasing shadows, and a few minutes later Barcelona scored their second, after Xavi's umpteenth pinpoint pass this season was met by Messi (the shortest player on the pitch, no less) with an emphatic header. "This is awful, they're just too good", said Barry. "They are the best team and you know it", I told my friends. No response from a depressed bunch of vikingos.

The match finished and we decided to dash. Barcelona had just won the first Spanish treble in grand style, so there was definitely no reason for a few madridistas to stick around celebrating. We left as a few dozen Englishmen applauded Puyol holding the Cup, a surreal sight indeed.

"Now Florentino has to do something really big", uttered one of my mates. He will, but the impact is unclear. Guardiola is now reaping the rewards of an approach that started 20 years ago and today permeates all of Barcelona's youth teams.

It will be hard for Real Madrid to replicate that with a bunch of marquee signings. With the right motivation, the Catalans have everything to keep winning for a long time. I am just glad to be able to enjoy their brand of football and celebrate with them, even if it's only their international victories. Thanks, Pep.. and Barry.

The Blue Eagles @ British Columbia (by Jampy Flores)

Ateneo played well against Canada's second ranked team -- the UBC Thunderbirds -- this past Friday. The T-Birds had won against NCAA teams and finished runners-up in the Canadian Championship this March.

The Blue Eagles had to contend with lousy officiating (no bias here) and were down by 20 points in the first quarter. After some adjustments made by Norman Black, Ateneo took the last three quarters but the first quarter deficit was too much to overcome. The visiting team succumbed 90-77.

The main game of the visit was against the NCAA-bound SFU Clansmen. Ateneo led early in the first quarter rushing to a six to zero led in front of a sold out SFU West Gym Arena. SFU asserted their height advantage and took a 44-34 lead at halftime.

The first 20 minutes was marred by uneven calls and a last second three-point shot by Eric Salamat that was disallowed. The crowd noise was just like being at an Ateneo-La Salle game at the Araneta. The Blue Eagles tied the Clansmen midway in the third quarter and found themselves down by three points with 90 seconds left. But poor free throw shooting and a crucial miss from the arc doomed Ateneo.

Thanks for the report, Jampy! Hope to see you soon.

- rick

We're bringing back an Ateneo tradition

Remember when there used to be Cross Country races back in Ateneo? No? Figures.

Anyways, we're organizing one (slated for November 2009) and we've sought the help of Track Team coach Mick Perez for this.

Now they call this a fun run because idiots don't know what cross country means . Back in the day, my pop taught me that if you don't know something then ask or find out. Now it's the age of instant gratification.

Okay for the slackers out there, here's the route.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More from the Crawfords

Who doesn't want to see these two guys play in the NBA Finals? Yup, the two Redeem Team captains going at it for the Larry O'Brien Trophy.


In the dying seconds of regulation, LeBron James puts the moves on Mikael Pietrus, plants a forearm on him that sends both sprawling to floor. Foul on the Orlando Magic player. Bron makes his two freebies to send the game into overtime.

One day later, the Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol puts the same move on the Denver Nuggets Nene and the Brazilian is whistled for his sixth and last foul. Gasol makes the two free throws that help LA go up 3-2. Hey, Ron Garretson, make the right call.

C'mon Marv Albert and Doug Collins. Stop being the apologists for Stern's NBA. The officiating sucks. On one hand you say that its palyoff basketball and they should let the players play yet when these stupid calls are made you all say that the officiating is good.

I want to see Kobe play LeBron in the Finals but not at the expense of the other teams and these stupid calls. And I don't care if Danny Crawford is a 25-year NBA ref, he's been making bad calls just like that other NBA doofus Joey Crawford. Look I know the name has nothing to do with it but c'mon!

Then they fine PhilJax $25K for his comments on the officiating.

Like local basketball, I lobby for instant replay. That should also take care of game fixing. Erring refs (who make super boneheaded calls) get their heads punted into the next city.

Chris Tiu and the First Step Towards the Philippines' Olympic Dream

For those who are looking for the story, here is the link:

Thanks! And the last on my series on the American players -- titled Coast to Coast and featuring Priest Lauderdale, Josh Jones, and Joel Box will be in my Monday column for Business Mirror. The first was Man In A Suitcase (Chris Charles) and the second is Soul Train (CJ Giles).


Gerard Pique, Yaya Toure, Sylvinho, and Carles Puyol in Barcelona's back four. What a patch up job and they kept Manchester United's high-powered offense at bay.

Congratulations to the new Euro club champs! Whatta fab job by Pep Guardiola!

I knew my Sam Eto'o jersey was good luck.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Japan trips Smart Gilas Pilipinas

Japan won over Smart Gilas Pilipinas 84-77 in the first of their four friendly matches that was played at the National Training Centre in Tokyo that was sponsored by the Japan Basketball Association.

With 2:08 remaining, the two teams were tied at 77-all. Jayvee Casio missed a lay-up but CJ Giles collared the miss but missed the putback. His subsequent foul was his fifth and last. Japan scored to make it 79-77 with 1:40 left.

The Philippines was whistled for 35 fouls that Japan converted for 22 points. Giles and Dylan Ababou fouled out.

Mac Baracael led the Philippines' charge with 21 points. CJ Giles added 19 while Ababou chipped in 8 and Casio and Mark Barroca had 7 each.

Japan was led by Takehiko Orimo who had 15 points. Yuta Tabuse had 14 and Ken Takeda finished with 10.

The Philippines shot 29.4% from three-point range while Japan shot 15.4. Once more we were killed on the boards 52-41.

Japan's National Training Centre was opened in January 2008 and it has facilities and equipment for all the sports under the Japan Olympic Committee. It is a seven-story structure with the basketball court located on the 2nd floor for exclusive use of the national team. There is an adjacent building for the Japan Institute of Sports Science and an Athlete's Village where all national players are housed.

Thanks to Noli Eala!

Ok, she was scrambling to win but the lady is still the champ

Ok. She got by unheralded Sara Errani and will now face Thai-American Tamarine Tanasugarn who is ranked #52 in the WTA. Here's to the women's defending champ playing better.

Old & New: Europe’s Football Season closes with the Champions League

Old & New
Europe’s Football Season closes with the Champions League

by rick olivares

“We have boys who will only get better. It makes you want to go on forever.”

It’s a simple statement by Alex Ferguson but it’s loaded. Oh, it is.

Read between the lines: no one is taking the Premiership from us and you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Let’s count the spoils of war – 25 titles in 22 years with Manchester United and over 1,900 matches in 35 years on the pitch as engineered by the 67-year old Scot. Amongst the silverware are 11 English Premier League titles out of a possible 17. Rafael Benitez should treat him with more respect.

His current team of Red Devils isn’t exactly aging although Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs, and Paul Scholes have put in a lot of miles in those boots (Giggs is the only one to have played on every United title squad).

But he has young bucks ready to continue this sensational roll – there’s Federico Macheda from Italy who had a string of immediate impact games that helped United stay ahead of hard-charging Liverpool and there’s Brazilian Rafael.

Ferguson is not the least worried about Carlos Tevez or Cristiano Ronaldo leaving after all he still has Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney in harness. And the one thing the jaded have to give credit to is Ferguson’s knack for reinvention by constantly recycling and tinkering with the line-up that has cast a long long red shadow over English football if not the world.

Across the channel, I’m not sure I’d be as gracious with Jose Mourinho who just signed another contract with Internazionale which won its fourth straight Scudetto. Yes, the Chosen One has won league crowns now in three countries – FC Porto in Portugal, Chelsea in England, and now in Italy.

But pardon me if I hesitate to damn him with praise when he tried every opportunity to sink Inter with his outrageous statements and off-field distractions. The team after all is still loaded with pretty much the same line-up that has benefited from the calciopoli that took the starch out of Juventus. And at one point, wasn’t he in danger of getting the boot since Inter Milan was playing such unattractive football?

Yes, Mourinho despite an ego the size of the Eiffel Tower, is a great manager but I’d still say that he is only as good as his last win. Let’s see his true genius next year when he remolds the Nerazzurri into his own image. Then let’s talk.

While two squads retained their titles, in the other major European leagues, the crown switched heads. For all the great work Juande Ramos did with Real Madrid, Barcelona was simply playing at another level; one close to the Arsenal team that striker Thierry Henry played for en route to its last English championship and 49 consecutive wins. Plus they were scoring goals by the bushel load.

Real despite missing Ruud van Nistelrooy and playing with the flair that its Dutch players – Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vart, and Royston Drenthe -- brought to Euro 2008 came close to catching up with the Catalans except that twice they lost in the El Classico including a beatdown at the Bernabeu.

And now with their ever-demanding management without a title after back-to-back crowns, look for another shake-up for the Los Blancos that has already lost central back Fabio Cannavaro who is going back to Juventus.

The Bundesliga has been rather unpredictable with VfB Stuttgart winning it two seasons ago and now VfL Wolfsburg coming out of nowhere to snatch the title from traditional champ Bayern Munich that made a last ditch rally despite the controversies that plagued the club, first with Lukas Podolski wanting to bolt the club and second, the sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann who never even got to finish the year.

It was sweet revenge for Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath who was sacked a few years ago by Bayern despite leading them to a pair of Bundesliga crowns.

And Magath, who played midfield for Hamburger SV in the 1980’s, accomplished it without the mega-spending spree that the Bavarian club doled out for players like Luca Toni, Franck Ribery (who could be heading for Real Madrid) and Miroslav Klose. He had relative unknown Brazilian Grafite forming a fearsome strike force with Bosnian forward Edin Dzeko and the two combined for 51 goals!

Now Magath takes to the autobahn to move to rival club Schalke hoping to bring the same type of Billy Ball magic (after former Oakland A’s manager Billy Bean who has been known to produce winning team with low spending).

Another perennial winner that was dethroned is Olympique Lyonnaise that was gunning for an eighth French Ligue 1 championship when the largesse of repeated success did them in (despite featuring French internationalists Sidney Gouvou, Jeremy Toulalan, Hugo Lloris Karim Benzema, and Jean-Alain Boumsong).

Their erratic play may have been due to the fact they’ve rescued their season’s fate when they decided to turn on the jets. But with the rise of Marseille and Bordeaux, the room was crowded upstairs and they paid for inconsistency. And after Marseille got scuttled last weekend, it is now Bordeaux's to win; something we will all find out this weekend's last game.

In the five best leagues of Europe, two teams retained their crowns while three scaled the summit.

And that leads us to the Champions League, the ultimate in club competition where Barcelona and Manchester United will face each other in a few hours and will break an 11-all tie in head-to-head matches in European play.

The Catalans aren’t 100% owing to injuries and suspensions to key defenders. How can you play in the biggest club competition without your back four and against one of the top offensive sides on God’s green earth?

It’s the finals and there’s no tomorrow. And it’s only fitting that the champions of two of the world’s best leagues dispute it.

Soul Train: CJ Giles and the Road to Redemption

Soul Train
CJ Giles and the Road to Redemption
by rick olivares

Chester Jarrel “CJ” Giles has that NBA pedigree even if it’s only by six degrees of separation.

Slam dunking New York Knick Nate Robinson is a former teammate and current chat buddy.

If only for the mad hops and boatloads of potential, he was predicted to be the next Shawn Kemp. Giles though, does reveal a sense of humor when he deadpans, “I ain’t anyone’s daddy,” a veiled pun at Kemp’s family values.

When his energy level ebbs and he settles down, Giles knows that his redemption begins of all places in the Philippines and Indonesia.

When Giles went down with a knee injury early in the game between the Philippines and Lebanon, many thought he was done for the game and maybe even the remainder of the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup.

But the 6’10” former Oregon State Beaver in a stunning display of courage came back to help the Smart Gilas Philippine National Team squeak past the Al Riyadi squad.

At least he’s got character,” smiled Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Executive Director Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala in the giddy aftermath of the win.

On the way to the Britama Sports Arena in downtown Jakarta where the tournament was being held, Giles would normally sit in the back row along with teammate Greg Slaughter. Like his teammates before a game, he would sit quietly with his headphones on as he preferred the solitude of his music. But he would always look out of the window as he studied the strange new world around him.

Previously, every time Giles moved around, first from Kansas then to Oregon State, there was a swirl of controversy that followed in his wake. After being signed by the Los Angeles Lakers for the summer leagues, he was let go after four pre-season matches (he averaged 2.0 points and 2.5 boards in all his appearances).

Determined to turn around his basketball career, the Seattle, Washington native looked to the shores beyond the United States for redemption.

When his agent sent Eala and Gilas Head Coach Rajko Toroman a tape of his skills, the SBP officials did their homework and checked out his background thoroughly by talking to former coaches and people who knew him. He was even scouted by Talk ‘N Text Head Coach Chot Reyes just to give a second opinion on the American player who would be suiting up for the Gilas’ campaign in Jakarta.

He had the skills for sure, but the character…” explained Eala who added that the SBP felt they had found the right reinforcement for the team after sifting through lots of tapes from agents. “That was something we had to find out as we went on. And we’re happy to say that he’s been a very good addition to the team.”

The first time Giles met the Smart Gilas squad was in Las Vegas, Nevada when they were working out at the Joe Abunassar Impact Basketball Camp.

I wasn’t nervous,” said Giles who had the nickname “Big Bird” hung on him by his Filipino teammate Mac Baracael. “I was more concerned about how the team would view me and how I would fit in.”

In the six weeks he’s been with the team, he feels that he’s found a home where he discovered something in himself.

Back in college, I always kept to myself and didn’t say much to others,” he recounted. “Here my coaches and teammates expect me to be a leader; to be vocal. That’s something that crosses over when making the next step. If I get a chance to go to the NBA, do I sit on the bench and do nothing or do I stay abroad where I have a chance to be a part of bigger things?”

Apparently his coaches didn’t expect him to display his huge fighting heart. The day of the Philippines’ second game versus Sangmoo Army Club of Korea, Giles’ injured knee was bothering him. Eala and the others didn’t expect him to play anymore since the team was in the consolation round. Except that Giles gave it a go and scored 16 points while hauling down 16 boards and rejecting 4 errant shots.

His athleticism and willingness to battle inside the alligator wrestling pond -- as former Chicago Bulls coach John Bach used to describe the shaded area -- has given the Philippines a post presence and has helped ignite a running and uptempo game that has made the team such a crowd favorite in Indonesia. His high-flying dunks competed for the crowds’ ooh and ahh meter with another NBA vet Jackson Vroman who strutted his wares for Mahram Iran.

His positive attitude has rubbed off on his teammates and he has good words for his experience in the Philippines: “It’s all good and I’m happy that this is a good first step for me. The goal is always to make it to the NBA – who doesn’t dream about that? What this experience has done is open my eyes. You can say it is expanding my horizons. Definitely. Definitely. Imagine in this time, I’ve been to the Philippines, Indonesia, and now Japan! My career is just getting started but I can say that I’m blessed.”

And those horizons include a ritual that Filipinos can really relate to – praying. Although born a Protestant, Giles carries with him 24 rosaries that were given to him by his grandmother who is a practicing Catholic. He even wears one around his neck when off the court.

While on the team bus in Indonesia, the team’s Operations Manager Butch Antonio asked him about the rosaries, “Yeah, man. I’ve learned to pray.” He flashed an easy grin, “I guess everyone needs it.”

It isn’t only seeking Divine Intervention for Giles, but it’s also a change in attitude.

While In Jakarta one night during the FIBA competition, Giles was at the hotel’s coffee shop chatting with family and friends when he was informed by Gilas Assistant Coach Jude Roque that the team curfew of 11pm was in effect.

Because of the time difference, it was the only time for the American to chat with familiar faces back home. Giles’ face contorted into a frown as he packed his laptop and headed upstairs.

Toroman who was also in the coffee shop noted Giles’ unhappiness. “Why is he bothered? Those are the rules. He knows that.”

The following day, a contrite Giles sought the Serbian and asked permission to stay a little longer than the deadline so he could communicate with his kin back home. Toroman allowed him and when he was done chatting that night, he didn’t need anyone to tell him it was time to hit the sack. Earlier that day, Giles returned to action after hurting his knee to lead the Philippines to an incredible win against Lebanon. Giles had scored 20 points and displayed rare courage for a player who soldiered on even at the cost of aggravating the injury.

I told you, man. This is the real me.

Giles is amazed by the good fortune he’s had since being released by the Lakers. His strong performance in Indonesia had several of the rich Middle Eastern teams inquiring about his services.

Right now, it’s about helping the team and seeing what works best for our futures. Naturalization? We’ll get down to discuss that. But let’s keep it simple; there’s “Pilipinas” on my chest jersey for now, right?”

It’s all a part of his awakening.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Got some nice props from my man, Chris Charles all the way from Beirut, Lebanon. Check out his blog @

Things to look out for: The Soul Train (about CJ Giles), Coast to Coast (Priest Lauderdale, Joel Box, Chris Charles, Josh Jones, and CJ Giles in the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup), and Defend the Crown -- the Ateneo Blue Eagles 2009-10 that puts me on Philippine college basketball mode.

And there's the NU Bulldogs, Mapua Cardinals, San Beda Red Lions, Far Eastern University Tamaraws, and the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals. Only I can't put it here in the blog. In about 10 days I can tell you where.

At Tony Liao's B-day dinner in New Manila

Tony is the team manager of the Ateneo Women's Volleyball Team and we worked together when we did the Shakey's Volleyball Invitational in my time with Solar Sports.

Happy birthday, sir.

I might (might lang ha kasi I will be going to Iloilo next week so I have to finish stuff here in Manila) go up to Baguio this weekend to join the volleyball team for a competition there.

L-R: Theo Jurado (sportswriter People's Journal), Sherwin Malonzo (Ateneo Volleyball Program Head), Roger Gorayeb (Coach Ateneo & SSCR Women's Volleyball), me, a lady whose name I didn't get, Moying Martelino of Sports Vision.
Back: Tony Liao & some dude who I was unable to get his name. Sorry!

Two Thumbs Up for Smart Gilas

Two Thumbs Up for Smart Gilas
by rick olivares

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas expressed satisfaction regarding participation of the Smart Gilas Men’s national team in the recently concluded 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cu in Jakarta Indonesia from May 12-20, 2009.

The Smart Gilas team finished 5th place out of a ten-team field and was second in its Group during the elimination round.

During the Eliminations, the Philippines wound up with a 3-1 record good for second behind undefeated Mahram Iran at 4-0. A shocking and disappointing loss to Al Arabi Qatar in the quarterfinals sent the team tumbling to the consolation round where it had to beat Sangmoo Korea and Satria Muda Indonesia to finish the tourney at the five-spot.

SBP Executive Director Jose Emmanuel “Noli” Eala described the squad’s first international competition was “a huge success for the SBP and our long-term national team program.”

The National Team’s Head Coach Rajko Toroman noted that the team could have gone farther had it not been for bad breaks that was due to the team’s inexperience and spotty officiating in the final minutes against Qatar that prevented the Philippines from advancing deeper in the tournament.

Added Eala, “Jakarta revealed that indeed our developmental program is on the right track and yet more work has to be done.”

Team officials are looking to improve on defense, strength and size in the future to further improve the country’s chances in 2011 towards its goal of reaching the 2012 London Olympics.

The National Team management group was pleased with the performance of its locals as well as the performance of its American reinforcement Chester Jarrel “CJ” Giles. “CJ has shown dedication to the team and has been embraced by his team mates warmly as truly being one with them,” said Eala summing up the collective two thumbs up sign given by team officials. “I don't think you can look for more with what he has shown in Jakarta. Many other supposedly good foreign imports would not and could not have done what CJ did, i.e. continuing to play despite an injury for a team in which he had no guaranteed long term contract, thus clearly risking his career and future.”

Giles was clearly one of the stars of the tournament and other teams expressed interest in acquiring his services.

In the meantime, the SBP is in talks with Giles over his continued tenure with the Philippines as well as possible naturalization.

Naturalization, as I have always pointed out, is a process the SBP will not trivialize or trifle with,” pointed out the Executive Director. “The grant of our citizenship is a serious and even sacred act that we in the SBP are all aware of. Thus, while CJ has already shown interest in going through the naturalization process, we will continue to evaluate CJ both on and off the court, particularly in our final moments with him to make sure that whatever decision we reach will be for the best interest of the Philippines, the SBP and all concerned.”

The Philippines will be leaving this week for Japan for a four-game friendly series with the host country’s national team.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Foot in mouth disease

Last Saturday, one local football official graced the opening of a football clinic at the Manila Polo Club and he told the assembled kids and parents that we have a respected grassroots program in the Philippines and that he is working on bringing in a major tournament here in the Philippines. Some parents laughed coz they know the score about this guy.

What I want to know is what this guy is smoking and does he know that talk is cheap?

What have we done to deserve this?

This just in: no word on the financials promised during the Bribe Session of the PFF Congress. So what else is new? No word of honor. Pass the bullshit please.

Thanks for the memories, Sami!

Liverpool beat Tottenham 3-1 to close out their season -- trophy-less I might add -- but with the knowledge that they pushed Manchester United all the way to the Premiership. I'm still blaming their runner-up finish on a poor December and January when all they did was draw matches; that allowed ManU to catch up.

The final game at Anfield this year featured the return of Robbie Keane and he scored too. But what was disappointing was seeing Sami Hyypia, the team's former captain before Steven Gerrard, only brought in so close to full time.

So now there are three left from the Champions League line-up of 2005: Gerrard, Carra, and Xabi.

Thanks, Sami. Good luck in the Bundesliga next year. YNWA!

Ain't it sweet to see them again after all these years? The Harlem Globetrotters rock!

It has been a long time since I saw the Harlem Globetrotters. The guys I saw then were the great Curly Neal, Sweet Lou Dunbar, and Twiggy Sanders. All I know is that I had a lot of fun then as a kid. Wasn't that nifty that they had their own cartoon on Saturday mornings?

You betcha Saturday morning were special for kids. There were cartoons on TV and I got to eat my favorite cereals (Frosted Flakes or Fruit Loops). Seeing the Globetrotters team up with Scooby Doo and the Scooby Gang... whoa, Nelly!

Last month I got an opportunity to interview Buckets Blakes and well, let me put it this way... sometimes it's hard to separate the fanboy from the journalist. Bwahahaha. Sorta like Jakarta, right refs?

So today @ the Araneta Coliseum was being a kid again with my kids. Hahaha. Even the veteran photogs were all transformed once more.

Sweet Lou is now "coaching" the Globetrotters and has put on a lot of pounds that he hardly resembles the player he once was. But he's got the tricks down pat.

So cool. So cool.

Here are some vids I took. Sorry I wasn't using my camcorder just my digital.

Handles shows his handle

Globetrotters rewind

Handles vs the Kids

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bleachers' Brew #159 Man in a Suitcase

Man in a Suitcase
The Basketball Odyssey of Chris Charles
by rick olivares

Chris Charles was chasing the player he was guarding when he ran into a teammate’s knee causing him to fall to the court in pain. As play action continued since there was no dead ball situation, he felt a wave of fear engulf his body.

God, please. Let me be okay.” he quickly prayed as he clutched his right knee.

Charles is one of America’s oldest global exports – a basketball player who lives out of his suitcase to eke out a living in far away lands where Pidgin English and hoops are the only means of communicating.

And that livelihood is dependent on one’s ability to play and to stay healthy. Charles, the former Villanova Wildcat center, would be sidelined for two matches for Al Riyadi Lebanon’s campaign in the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup in Jakarta, Indonesia along with its star Fadi El Khatib (who was out with back spasms).

He returned to action in their final match of the eliminations (albeit in a losing cause) against the Philippines notching 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 block as he played the entire 40 minutes.

Yeah, the expectations are somewhat crazy,” he admitted of the “savior” tag unfairly heaped on American players. “I think everyone expects us to be like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. But that’s okay. I accept it as a challenge.”

The curly-haired seven-footer out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin suited up for the Villanova Wildcats although that is somewhat of a misnomer since he hardly got any playing time. Charles knew right away that there was not going to be any invite for an NBA team since he didn’t have the statistics to show. The Milwaukee Bucks’ Charlie Villanueva, who went to the University of Connecticut, was someone he once played against and seeing him make the pro circuit only motivated him to try harder.

I grew up a Bucks fan,” said Charles of what became his mission. “Whether it was the bad days or the good days I was a fan. So it was always a dream for me to not only play in the NBA but for my home team. And if the road to the NBA means playing overseas then I’ll travel that road.”

Travel was the order all right as he began the journey of filling his passport with immigration stamps.

That first opportunity was in the Dominican Republic and he immediately researched on any bit of info he could gather on the country and its basketball league. On the flight to the Latin American country, Charles felt a little queasy about venturing into the unknown. He had heard from many others horror stories such as Americans not getting paid or being sent home after a poor game. “I was nervous about making a name for myself,” he explained with conviction. “But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

Except that an ankle injury knocked him out after two weeks of action. The club replaced him right away but paid him in full for his services anyway.

He went back home to Milwaukee and worked at a car dealership while contemplating his future. The decision was easy… play basketball because Charles was driven to not only prove himself but because he was pursuing a dream.

The good vibes of his initial sojourn abroad dissipated when in his next destination, Serbia, he encountered money problems with his club. While the case was elevated to FIBA for a resolution, Charles went home, but this time, the homecoming wasn’t well received as family and friends strongly advised him to hang up his sneakers and join the rat race.

Why do you continue to ball when you don’t have too many things to show for? You have a college education, sure you can find a job in America.” they all chided. It was “a crazy time” in the former Sociology Major’s words. At this time, a former college teammate of his Randy Foye of the Minnesota Timberwolves, opened his home to him. Foye told him find means “to control your destiny” and this opened up a pipeline with Minnesota coach Kevin McHale who later helped get him a tryout with an NBA club.

Yet he still wouldn’t give up. “I was young and felt that it was still to early to give up. And quit? That word is not in my vocabulary.”

He continued to rack up the frequent flier miles at a dizzying pace. There was a stint with the Elkhart Indiana Express (where he teamed-up with his ever-supportive cousin Philwaukee) in the International Basketball League that brought him to a tournament in China. When the contract was done, he found himself packing his two suitcases and duffel bag to Lebanon, Dubai, and soon after that in Syria.

At first the constant relocation battered his confidence. It wasn’t so much the being alone since as an only child he was used to the solitude. It seemed that the road to the NBA was nowhere in sight.

It would be easy to give up and if it weren’t for three things, I might have too,” admitted the Charles.

Those three things? His laptop, iPhone, and the Holy Bible.

“Thank God for the invention of the laptop and the internet! And mobile phones are also a lifeline. They keep me in touch with all the people in the world who care about me and they push me to continue as well. Just give me an internet connection then I’m alive. But some places have terrible connections!”

The saying that there are no atheists when one finds himself at the lowest ebb doesn’t hold true with this Wisconsin lad. Raised a Baptist, he reads the Bible and prays everyday. Life on the road has only strengthened his belief. “Every time I step on the court, I pray to God to keep me safe, healthy, and free from injury. I also pray that for my teammates and opponents.”

And it has taught him to quickly adapt to new lands and cultures. With basketball the fastest growing sport in the world, there are thousands of Americans playing outside the United States and their proliferation somewhat helps with the transition and translation. “Next to the language, one of the things you have to learn fast is the currency and prices of goods because as an American, store owners will try to make a fast buck on you. Then there’s the food…,” he laughed as he left his sentence dangling.

“In China, they served us a bunch of dishes where they asked us to figure out from what animal it came from. Believe me, the less you know the better it is. But you do not want to offend them so I try it. But it always helps to cook your own food or know where the nearest KFC or McDonald’s is.”

Making the finals in the IBL and winning an MVP Award in Syria (with Al Jalaa Aleppo) gave him the stomach to continue for after a while, his friends had jumped off the bandwagon.

His perseverance paid off when he was invited last summer by the Chicago Bulls (as McHale also came through) for their summer league team. Although he didn’t make the opening day roster of the team, the fact that he excelled and was included on their roster in the Las Vegas league proved that he was getting somewhere.

That’s when my family and friends said, ‘Ah, okay. Now we can see what you’re driving at,’” Charles recounted of their reactions. “Making it to the Bulls' summer team also let me know what I need to work on so I can build for the future.

His luck in the past year has turned as he now admits that it is good enough to earn a living and save money. His strong play in Lebanon (where his team, Champville made the playoffs but was ousted in the first round) got him an invite to join Lebanese champions Al Riyadi in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

The club finished third in the ten-team field despite injuries to Charles and El Khatib. The end of the tournament brought much relief for now he could really stay up late to chat and surf and update his blog where he keeps a journal of his basketball adventures. The team was to fly back to Lebanon the following day for debriefing, claim his pay then ultimately pack his bags.

It was time to go home to Milwaukee.

Author's Note: Thanks for hanging out with me at the coffee shop, Chris. See ya 'round. That sure was fun.

Watch out for a collected piece on Priest Lauderdale and other American players @ the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

* I cribbed the title from the song by the Police from their masterful album Zenyatta Mondatta.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Terima kasih from me

As I wind up the stories I am writing about the initial campaign of the Smart Gilas National Team (for now only as the college basketball season gets started), I just wanted to offer my most sincerest thanks to the following who made the last three weeks a wondrous time:

The SBP group & team officials: Mr. MVP, Comm Noli, Perry, Butch, Rico, Bernie, Joey as well as Jen & Kaye.

The team coaches and trainers: Rajko (Coach, Barca won the La Liga!, Yes, Coach Rajko roots for FC Barcelona), Jude, Allan, D'jalma, Jim, Albert, and Drew.

The team: Chris, Mark, Dylan, Jayvee, Jason, Al, CJ, Greg (now we almost got the same music in our iPods), RJ, Rey, Mac, and JR. For taking me into confidence and sharing a lot of your thoughts and ideas. Chris, you were right... there's something about hearing the national anthem during competitions like this. I forgot I was supposed to remain impartial.

And wherever you go, officiating sucks. Even the Pinoy refs who were there were terrible. My media colleagues even picked up this line of mine: "That was a shit call, ref!" and "Dude, that was freakin' awesome!" Bwahaha!

FIBA officials: Mr. Erick Thohir of SEABA, Washeem of FIBA Asia, Salim of NewTV Lebanon.

Coach Mario Palma who rekindled my interest in the great John Wooden, Coach Fouad Abou Chakra who was always willing to talk (I hope to go to Lebanon one day), Coach Aleksandar Bucan whose outstanding and sometimes stubborn belief in the healing power of hoops rubbed off on me, and Coach Fictor Roring (good luck defending your crown).

The fine folks at Indofoods, Shangri-La Jakarta, and the Sunlake Hotel even if you lost my laundry then found it after I threatened to nuke the premises (I recovered mine but my colleagues and other guests didn't), Lola our liaison, Ms. Julie Estelle who laughed at my "lost in translation" jokes, and the folks at Umbro who tried their best to get me a Three Lions jersey.

My Pinoy media colleagues: Joey, Julius, June, Jun, and Tito Willie. Dominic Menor... long time no see no chat bud! My editors at BM: Jun Lomi & Aldrin... muchos gracias. Antara, the Jakarta Post, and SLAM Indonesia for the kind words, Valentino for the press cons and the Alessandro del Piero Juventus shirt (To my cousin Aldrin who lives in Turin: the call of the Old Lady rings in my ears. I'm saving for Italy!). See I am wearing my Juventus jersey in the photo above.

To Arynnn, Valentino, and Insane... terima kasih. Saya baik-baik!

The friends I made on the other teams... Chris, Joel, Priest, Josh, Mo, Ali, and Shayee.

Mr. Harry Angping... Mabuhay! See ya next week.

Coach Chot for always telling me to keep on rolling. Nice seeing ya in Jakarta!

I'm going to miss those late night coffee shop talk. I was stoked for "The Summit."

I'm going to miss CJ yell, "Yeah, boy!" and Rey G and Dylan do their impersonations of Mac Baracael.

Well, 'til next time!

And there are three remaining pieces from this experience: Man in A Suitcase (my Bleachers' Brew column for Monday's Business Mirror), Soul Train Express (CJ Giles), and Coast to Coast (featuring Priest Lauderdale, Joel Box, Josh Jones, Brian Beshara, and Chris Charles).

On the way to Britama

Notice how Al, CJ, and me are plugged into our iPods. Picture was taken by Dylan Ababou.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Insane about Barroca

This here is Indonesia's #1 streetballer... Insane is his handle. He is now a huge Mark Barroca fan and I intro'd the guys after the game versus Satria Muda. Notice the San Miguel Beer jersey he's wearing (Danny Ildefonso). I snapped this shot using his digicam.

Here's his cool youtube video.

Thanks, bro. See you when I'll see you.

Pictures of Game Day @ the Britama Sports Arena

Game day at the Britama Sports Arena in Jakarta. 

More snapshots from Jakarta

Here were some of the people who cheered the Smart Gilas team on in its match versus Lebanon.

Press conference after the match between Lebanon and Korea.

In Fadi El Khatib's second game (yes he only played two out of seven because of back spasms, the Tiger showed how good he is when he was responsible for the first 15 points of Al Riyadi Lebanon against Satria Muda Indonesia. In Lebanon's first possession, he faked off his man at the post then banked in a shot. He assisted, rebounded, and ran on his way to a game high 30 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 rebound. That was his last match for the tourney as he got injured again afterwards. He was in such pain he could only sleep on the floor of his hotel room.

The Sangmoo Army Club of Korea is indeed a military team. When their National Anthem is played, the entire squad salutes as this picture that I took shows. These guys are a bunch of tough hombres.

The tough thing about writing the daily news features about the Smart Gilas team was the schedule of the games and the deadline at Business Mirror. Remember Indonesia is an hour behind and if the match is at 4pm and that means it will end around 6pm (7pm Manila time). By then the sports section has been laid out and the space allotted for the story won't be much that's why it was oft condensed unless I sent it early.

When I had more time I was comfortable writing it. Posting the stories and my thoughts on the blog gave me more flexibility in writing about the team.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chris Tiu, Jayvee Casio & Dylan Ababou @ the FIBA Asia Champions Cup

Snapshots from the 20th FIBA Asia Champions Cup Tournament

This was taken before we all headed to the game venue for the final game. Greg copied a bunch of stuff from my iTunes for his iPod. Jayvee and I chatted about the games here and what the whole experience means to him. He was teasing me about the name of the blog. "Bleachers Blue" dapat pangalan daw. Hahahaha. "I said if that were so then I can't write about anyone who isn't of blue pedigree.

I'm with Arynnn here. She writes for the Indonesian version of SLAM magazine and is an immense hoops junkie. I don't have a picture with this guy whose handle is "Insane." Insane is the top streetballer in Indonesia and is a huge PBA fan. In fact he watched all the Smart Gilas team's matches here. During the final battle with Indonesia, he came to the Britama Arena wearing a Danny Ildefonso San Miguel Beer jersey. He asked me a favor if I could hook him up with his new idol, Mark Barroca. They had their picture taken after the win against Indonesia. Said Insane, "We learn the game from Filipinos! I am a big fan!"

You're all right, brother!

Rashad Dominic Powell and Nakeia Jovon Miller both play for Satria Muda Indonesia. They are two of the most competitive players you will ever meet. In fact, Miller is fun to watch because he totally leaves his heart on the floor. I chatted with him after their quarterfinals loss and he was devastated that he let his team down. He isn't one of the most consistent players in this tournament for nothing. This was in the morning shootaround where both Americans were playing a game of horse from the halfcourt line.

When we go down for breakfast, our usual na kasabay was the Korean team. Every team hads its own set of tables and there was hardly any intermingling save for the coaches. I was the only nosy one who would move from table to table chatting and making friends with the other teams. The Korean Coaches Lee Jun Hae (left) and Jang Chang Gon (right). On Tuesday morning, Comm Noli Eala sent a box of Ponkan to their table (courtesy of a friend of Gerry Tiu). So over Ponkan we spoke about Korea (not hoops) but its tense relations with its northern neighbor. Who said that life is just hoops?

This was truly a great experience for me. And one of the best things about it was making friends in the foreign media from Lebanon to India to Indonesia to Iran. Here are my friends from Indonesia (L-R: Valentino, me, Arnold & Jul) who are all Liverpool FC fans. Between writing stories and press conferences, we talked about football and the Reds who we all worship. The cool thing is we will all see each other in Singapore this July to watch LFC play there! YNWA!

By the way, the guy who snapped this shot -- one of the media relations guys -- is a MUFC fan. He was ribbing us about his team winning the Premiership for the 11th time. I said, I don't care if you won, you still all suck! We had a big laugh.

Hey, Valentino! Thanks for the Alessandro Del Piero shirt! I also am a fan of Juventus.

Last Monday, I joined the Kuwaiti team shopping first at the Mall of Indonesia then at the Mal Kalapa Gading. This is the tres cool entrance of MOI with Qadsia's Macedonian Coach Jordancho Davitkov. On the first day, I nicknamed him, "Don Nelson" and the code name stuck. But you really have to ask everyone about Coach Davitkov, one of the true characters of this tournament. After all, he did turn Jayvee Casio into an "addict." Bwahahaha. Ask him about it or anyone on the team -- Davitkov.

Notes: I have two more stories to tell about the Smart Gilas team. One is about CJ Giles and the other is about the American imports who played in the tournament. The latter story might be broken into two with one used for my Monday column in Business Mirror.

For the story, I'll feature Joe Box of Qadsia Kuwait, Chris Charles of Al Riyadi Lebanon, Priest Lauderdale of Mahram Iran, and Joshua Jones of Al Arabi Qatar.

Oh I also have a short piece on Mario Palma, head coach of Jordan and formerly National Coach for Angola.