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 22, 2009

Smart Gilas vs. Talk 'n Text: A Bad Day

A Bad Day

Talk ‘N Text 103 vs. Smart Gilas 70

words & pic by rick olivares

The offensive set of the Smart Gilas Pilipinas National Team is best described as a motion offense with multiple options. In fact, that kind of game reflects its progenitor – Rajko Toroman.

The Serbian coach of the national squad is not one to sit still for long. He is in a constant state of motion with his mid ablaze with a hundred and one things. Even during his pre-game talks that if basketball weren’t serious business the scene of Toroman pacing back and forth would be comical.

But after his squad’s 103-70 massacre at the hands of the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, he sat forlornly inside the team’s dugout. He spoke briefly. Pointed out glaring mistakes and the failure to run the system. But he reiterated several times that he owned the loss and said that no one should blame one another.

He was not prepared for the game. Not Talk ‘N Text because he knows his team can match up any time any place. What he was not prepared for was his team being so affected by the benching of Chester Jarrel Giles. While the team is trained to read defenses and how to beat them, they are not trained for trouble from within. As was the case during the dirty game with Burger King, the nationals were playing combinations they are not used to. And for the second straight game, there was turmoil.

It has been quite a week for not just Gilas but the local sports scene that is still abuzz and reeling from the actions and results that stemmed from the Gilas-Burger King match. Toroman, on the other hand, has had to deal also with Giles, the team’s candidate for naturalization.

The former Kansas Jayhawk has had nocturnal pursuits that he’s oft been attending practice at less than 100%. That set off Toroman who regards the team’s mission of making the Olympics and putting back the country on the basketball map as a sacred mission. He has on several occasions said that he would die just to do his job and give glory to the country.

And to think that he is not the candidate for naturalization.

As the game with TNT got underway, Giles corralled a rebound off a missed shot. Before he even planted his feet on the court, the American threw the ball  -- without looking at where his teammate could be -- straight into the hands of  Jimmy Alapag who dished off to Mark Cardona for a basket.

Within minutes, Giles was replaced by Jason Ballesteros. His day – maybe even his stint with the national squad -- was done and so was the team as they quickly fell into a deep hole. The team was already short-handed with Rabeh Al-Hussaini in sickbay and skipper Chris Tiu nursing a thigh bruise.

One thing that Toroman lamented about the match with Burger King and the reports that followed the match was that Jayvee Casio’s efforts went largely unnoticed. The former La Salle Green Archer scored 28 points, the best performance so far by any local in the new Philippine Cup.

In their second PBA outing, the team offered the game to Rey Guevarra who earlier in the day underwent a successful operation on his damaged ACL. Instead, there was no fight in them. It wasn’t the loss that ate at him but the manner in which they lost. Toroman understood. The team was distracted. Players like Japeth Aguilar tried to compensate for Giles but it took them out of the carefully designed system.

Unbeknownst to Toroman or the rest of the coaching staff earlier in the game, Giles’ young son, Jayden was sick and in a hospital back home in Seattle. The American found out only hours prior to the match and did not inform the staff except for a few. The staff mistook his lethargy for an unwillingness to play and as such benched him. They only found out after the game but by then the damage had been done.

An uncommonly large crowd showed up to watch the 2:30pm match and several fans voiced their displeasure at the rout and poor play. One said in a mix of veiled anger and frustration, “Mahiya naman kayo Gilas. Score naman kayo. Suot niyo kulay natin.”

Shouted another, “Nanood kami para makita si Giles at si Japeth mag-dunk at manalo kayo tapos ganyan ang ipapakita niyo.”

These words were a far cry from what was exchanged between Wynne Arboleda and Alain Katigbak but these ones stung deep; maybe even more and perhaps with longer lasting repercussions for team chemistry and its future.

The players held a separate huddle after the halftime meet inside the dugout. They were down 46-36 and were still in the game. But a 19-4 blast by TNT to start the third canto pretty much ended any chances of a comeback as the Tropang Texters coasted to their second straight win matching their feat when last season en route to their Philippine Cup championship.

During the half, Giles had the team's trainer Jim Saret write down his son's name on the tape that was wrapped around his wrist. He was hoping that he'd be given an opportunity to bounce back during the game. But with 5:47 left in the game and his side down 86-67, Giles tore off the tape and threw exasperatedly flung it to the bench where he was earlier seated. 

The Gilas program officially got underway in November 15, 2008. Since then they’ve played a lot of games home and abroad. There have been great victories and crushing defeats. Their loss to Talk ‘N Text marks their worst outing since their last game in Serbia when Gilas played KK Metalac Valjevo.

After Serbia, the team traveled to the United States where Giles joined them before taking part in the FIBA Asia Champions Challenge Cup. There they took off until that loss to Qatar that prevented them from advancing further into the competition.

Inside the dugout after Toroman gave his passionate post-game talk (where he also praised TNT for a great game), SBP Executive Director Noli Eala refused to gloss over the latest setback and its origins. “This is the team for the people and the entire country. If anyone doesn’t want to play there are many others who will want to. Those who don’t want to play then there’s the door. We will fight to continue this mission because no one is bigger than the mission and the team.”

And for the second straight game, the team exited the dugout with a question hanging above their heads: “How do you respond to this?”

Talk ‘N Text 103Cardona 16, Alapag 14, Dillinger 12, Castro 12, Peek 10, De Ocampo Ranidel 9, De Ocampo Yancy 8, Belasco 7, Escobal 5, Isip 3, Carey 4, Ritualo 2

Smart Gilas 70Barroca 16, Casio 14, Aguilar 14, Baracael 8, Cawaling 7, Ramos 5, Ababou 3, Jazul 2, Ballesteros 1, Giles 0


For the coaching staff and team officials, it's all about having faith in the system. They know now is all about learning. Better for the mistakes and problems to happen now than later. Like any other team, it's always a problem when you throw in new players into the mix or have players who are gone for a while then try to get used to the system again. Obviously, it's not about winning the PBA because they are merely a guest team. You'd like to see them execute. The new problem that cropped up was totally from left field and no one saw coming. One opposing coach was joking in the corridor post game that if Gilas doesn't have a foe on the court it's from within. The learnings of losses will be for nothing if they don't make adjustments individually and collectively. 


Carlo Ricohermoso Hope Giles stays.

Mayla Ibanez Just realized how high the expectations are with Gilas.

Ares Penales Gutierrez di ba ang objective naman was to toughen up and test game situations instead of winning games?

Enrico Paolo C. Banzuela i was there at cuneta! It was really heartbreaking. Ako yung nahihiya para sa kanila dahil national team sila. It's expected that they should win, and win big. Today, they played like amateurs and not deserving of the name "philippines" in their jerseys. Toroman always tells them about character... i hope that in this very dark hour, their character would shine through. Kailangan eh. Ginebra na susunod...

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