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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 was a marvelous year! Just saying thanks!

The old year -- 2011 -- is ending. We're just a few hours away from the new one -- 2012 -- and its new challenges and uncertainties. I haven't been really be to put in a lot of writing the past few weeks. Work just got in the way. But it has all been good. The year 2011 will go down for me as one of the best for me. in so many ways. Like a kid, I was excited. The last several years were getting better and my birthday fell on 11-11-11. So I was thinking that there might be something lucky, mystical or even magical about it. And it was. 

I might make some mistakes here but in no particular order -- the Ateneo Football League, Rely San Agustin and I got it up and running to great success and in a few months we're going to see an improved Season 2 that kicks off in March; GroupM and all the work we got done this year; Sev Sarmenta and everyone at the Comm. Department as well as my Journalism students in Ateneo de Manila University  -- you guys are the best; the Azkals and Smart Gilas; experiencing the Ateneo Blue Eagles win a fourth straight UAAP Men's Basketball title -- never did I think this would happen; AKTV and from Jaemark Tordecillas, Russel Torres, Vitto Lazatin, Tony and Aaron Atayde, Jason Webb, Josue Lamlang, Anthony Suntay, Ryan Fenix and all the production folks -- super super thanks; Football Philippines and Gelix Mercader; the United Football League with Randy, Santi, Phil, Chris, Coco, Ritchie, and everyone else; my linemates the Back Four Bums -- Bob, Ebong, and Cedelf; Liverpool FC, just want to say thanks for being so accommodating in Malaysia; the Kuala Lumpur Dragons for their friendship and hospitality; the Alaska Aces for giving me an incredible first hand look at what a pro basketball club does; the NBTC peeps I work with -- Coach Eric, Coach Alex, and Coach Ato; Pachanga FC with Freddie G., Jojo R., Coaches Nonoy, Marjo, Alvin, and Kim and everyone else -- yo, Kross, leggo of that goat; the Philippine Football Federation -- Nonong A., Bonnie L., Chito M., Red A., Maja and Virgie and everyone else; Cathy Rivilla and Rod Nepomuceno; my buds in the college and PBA press corps; the Ateneo Blue Eagles; the Ateneo Women's Volleyball Team; and everyone who has been reading Bleachers' Brew. This was the best year yet as we got over 550,000 hits for the year from over 180,000 people from 142 countries. I am soo grateful! Thank you for reading. Hope to ratchet the writing and the coverage next year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Thank you so much for making 2011 a wonderful one. Here's to a fantastic 2012 for all of us!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Back Four Bums Episode 4: Our year-end special

This is the year-end podcast of the Back Four Bums' podcast (as presented by Gatorade). In our year-ender, we talk about the top goals in Philippine football for 2011, the recent trip to Barotac Nuevo by Bob Guerrero and Ebong Joson, and some tidbits about the January 7 Sendong Charity game "Dili Kamo Nag-iisa." Thanks for listening this year and wait 'til you get a load of next year's eps.

 Back Four Bums Ep 4 by RixOlivares 

Top 10 Goals in 2011 Philippine Football

1. Chieffy Caligdong, Azkals vs. Mongolia (WCQ)
2. Stephan Schrock, Azkals vs. Kuwait (WCQ)
3. Joshua Beloya, Azkals U-23 vs. Laos (SEA Games)
4. David Beckham, LA Galaxy vs. Azkals (Dream Cup)
5. Phil Younghusband, Azkals vs. Galaxy (Dream Cup)
6. Yanti Barsales, Air Force vs. Global (2011 UFL Cup)
7. Franco Borromeo, Global vs. Pachanga (2011 UFL Cup)
8. Chieffy Caligdong, Azkals vs. Sri Lanka (WCQ)
9. Ian Araneta, Air Force vs. Meralco (2011 UFL Cup)
10. Phil Younghusband, Azkals vs. Mongolia (WCQ)

Honorable Mention:
Jovin Bedic, Pachanga vs. Cebu Queen City United (2011 UFL Cup)
Gino Palomo, Bacolod vs. Iloilo (Suzuki U-23 Cup)
Francis Gustilo, Iloilo vs. Dumaguete (Suzuki U-23 Cup)
Izzo El-Habbib, Global vs. Air Force (2010-11 UFL Cup)
Ian Araneta, Azkals vs. Bangladesh (AFC Challenge Cup)
James Younghusband, Azkals vs. Nepal (Friendly)
Jess Melliza, FEU vs. UST (UAAP)
James Younghusband, San Beda vs. Teknika (Smart Club Championships)
Francis Gustilo, Stallion vs. Global (2011 UFL Cup)
Mark Hartmann, Loyola vs. Kaya (2011 UFL Cup)
Ayi Nii Aryee, UP vs. UST (UAAP)
OJ Porteria, Azkals U-23 vs. Laos (SEA Games)
James Younghusband vs. Mongolia (WCQ)
Sam Nierras, Malditas vs. Malaysia (AFF Women’s Championship)
Jerry Barbaso, Dipolog vs. CDO (Suzuki U-23 Cup)
Al Bustamante, DLSU vs. USLS (Uinversity Games)
Angel Guirado, Azkals vs. Sri Lanka (WCQ)
Chieffy Caligdong, Azkals vs. Hong Kong (Long Teng Cup)
Chieffy Caligdong, Azkals vs. Bahrain (Friendly)

Honorable Comedy Relief:
TJ Manotoc, Caf Bench vs. Psykicks (Ateneo Football League)
It was a goal by one goalie vs. Psykicks’ GK – none other than Bob Guerrero.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Seaoil NBTC Elite League adds an All-Star Game to its program

The National Basketball Training Center adds an All-Star Game to its program
by rick olivares

What do San Beda’s Baser Amer and Far Eastern University’s Terrence Romeo have in common?

These two cagers are proud products of the National Basketball Training Center.

Now on its fifth year, the basketball grassroots development program of the Sea Oil National Basketball Training Center Elite League is now run in 17 cities with close to 5,000 participants from 139 schools from all over the Philippines. “It’s a huge leap from the initial three key cities of Manila, Cebu, and Davao that tipped off with 100 boys,” marveled Program Director Eric Altamirano,

The Seaoil NBTC Elite League has also grown not just in its participating players but also in its supporters. By the program’s third year, eight LGUs and 39 companies were supporting the teams participating in the program.

Said Altamirano, “The Seaoil NBTC Elite League provides a competitive environment where the skills of the kids are developed and honed. We also teach them strategies and one facet of the game that is often overlooked – mental preparedness. The workshops are specifically designed not only with basketball in mind but also in imparting life’s values and character building. We believe in the holistic formation of a person.”

“We have some of the best coaches in the country participating in these camps to oversee the training of the kids. Many of them have gone on to be a part of the national teams that were coached by myself and later by Olsen Racela.”

“This being the program’s fifth year,” added National Training Director Alex Compton who also briefly played in the PBA and is an assistant with the Powerade Tigers, “We are adding an exciting new component to the NBTC by holding the first Sea Oil High School All-Star Game. This is patterned after the McDonald’s All-American High School Basketball Games in the United States.”

The Sea Oil High School All-Star Game will close out the year’s Seaoil NBTC Elite League in the first week of March 2012 following the National Finals. People from all over the country will also get to follow their respective players on television as the All-Star Game will be televised on AKTV.”

The participating cities in the NBTC program include Baguio, La Union, Tarlac, Olongapo, Batangas, Cavite, Lucena, Naga, Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Ormoc, Tacloban, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iligan, and Zamboanga.

From PBA: Arwind Santos is top bet for Best Player of 2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup

Arwind Santos, the Petron Blaze Boosters’ double-double machine, emerged as the leading contender for the Best Player of the Conference derby after the quarterfinal round of the PBA Philippine Cup.

Santos, with his regular double-double showing, leads everybody in the statistical points (SPs) race with an average of 38.63 a game.

The 6-foot-4 former FEU stalwart is six points clear of chief pursuer Kelly Williams of Talk n Text, giving him a solid chance to become the first player in seven years to win the BPC award in back-to-back fashion.

Ginebra’s Eric Menk was the last player to do the trick in the 2004-05 Fiesta Conference (transition tourney) and the succeeding Philippine Cup.

Also on the strength of his double-digit norms in scoring and in rebounding, Santos won the coveted individual award in the most recent Governors Cup.

The wiry forward has not slowed down a bit, averaging 18.3 points and 12.3 rebounds as he powered Petron to a third-place finish in the elims and to a two-game sweep of Meralco in the quarterfinals.

Santos leads the tourney in rebounds and is fourth in scoring behind Gary David (22.5), James Yap (19.0) and Chris Lutz (18.33).

Williams, the 2008 MVP, puts in 32.92 SPs a game for second place in the BPC derby.

Petron guard Alex Cabagnot is at third with 31.88 SPs an outing, followed by B-Meg’s James Yap (31.38), TnT’s Harvey Carey (30.77), Powerade’s Gary David (30.69), TnT’s Jason Castro (30.64), Powerade’s Marcio Lassiter (29.94), Barako Bull’s Willie Miller (28.80) and Alaska’s Sonny Thoss (28.50).

Rain or Shine super rookie Paul Lee is just outside the Top 10 with 28.27 SPs a game.

Lee is the stats leader in the Rain or Shine team with averages of 13.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 0.9 steal.

The top five in the stats race after the semifinal round contest the BPC awards in a balloting. The winner then automatically becomes a contender for the season’s MVP award.

David, Yap, Lutz and Santos are running one-two-three-four in the scoring race, followed by Lassiter (16.25), Miller (15.9), Castro (15.64), Jeff Chan (15.5), Thoss (15.36) then Macmac Cardona (15.33).

Santos is No. 1 in rebounds, followed by Carey (11.154), Doug Kramer (10.688), Jayr Reyes (10.071), Asi Taulava (9.338), Ali Peek (9.833), James Sena (9.429), Thoss (9.357), Gabby Espinas (9.125) and Williams (8.917).

Santos, Carey and Kramer are the only players averaging double-double numbers in the tourney.

Cabagnot is tops in the business of playmaking with 6.7 assists per game, Lutz is the leader in steals with 2.0 an outing while Japeth Aguilar is No. 1 in blocks with 2.2 a game.

Monday, December 26, 2011

NBA Notes: Chicago beats LA Lakers

NBA Notes: Chicago at Los Angeles by Rick Olivares with pic by Noah Graham/Getty

At the end of the first half of the game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls, Luol Deng hit a shot from the left corner off a dish by Derrick Rose. On the next set, Deng bothered Kobe Bryant’s baseline jumper as the Bulls took a 56-49 halftime lead.

The Lakers ratcheted up their D in the third quarter to take the lead with the crowd getting into it. That was a nifty pick and roll between Steve Blake and Josh McRoberts, 69-68. But the Bulls came back in the fourth after being down by 11 points behind Deng and of course, Rose.

Rose scored the marginal shot on a floater and in LA’s final possession that was somewhat eerily reminiscent of the Lakers’ final play at the half, Bryant drew a crowd on the baseline but Deng this time blocked his shot. I think Deng twice rejected Kobe’s shot -- one in the late third period and the game saving block. Not like Horace Grant’s swat of Kevin Johnson’s last gasp to save the 1993 NBA championship. But it was good enough to give Chicago its first win of the new NBA season. And Deng also stole Bryant’s pass that set up Rose’s game winner. But what a fade by Kobe with 54 seconds left to give LA a 87-81 lead with Deng all over him. Who would have thought that the Bulls would come back from that? Apparently, Derrick Rose did!

Rip Hamilton had a forgettable Bulls debut as he compiled six points, two rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 23 minutes. Not bad except that he’s in the starting unit.

I guess Hamilton’s joining the Bulls means that Kyle Korver is in Tom Thibodeau’s doghouse what with Ronnie Brewer also slugging it out for the two-spot.

For the Lakers, Troy Murphy had a good first game with his new team with seven points, eight rebounds, and one shot block.

The Lakers overall had better stats than the Bulls so how did the Central Division champions pick up the win? Well, the stats are not going to show you that final 3:44 when the Bulls rallied for an 88-87 win -- they played great defense.

Deng and Rose (what superb dribbling skills) carried this team with ample support from Carlos Boozer (15 points).

It’s only the first match of the season so it’s hard to gauge both squads. But I can say that the Lakers saw some sets from their old triangle offense being run. Mike Brown ran some sets designed to turn other Lakers into weapons. If Steve Blake (who was an energizer of sorts) had hit some of those shots then who knows? But LA should be better when Andrew Bynum returns. Hats off to Pau Gasol for being the consummate pro. He was nearly traded away by LA but here he was playing his heart out – 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks.

Metta World Peace made his Lakers debut. He did not incur any technical fouls nor cause an international incident.

If the Bulls want to hurdle the Miami Heat, the onus is not on Rose or Deng to carry this team but for Boozer and Joakim Noah to raise their level of play. Yes, it’s only the first game of the season but the way they played reminded me of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Heat. 

My 2011 UFL Cup Starting XI

With the league competition about to kick off in a little over two weeks' time, I thought that I'd name my starting eleven and bench for the 2011 UFL Cup. Here are my choices:

My 2011 UFL Cup Starting XI

Coach: Sgt. Edzel Bracamonte Jr.
Goalkeeper: Tats Mercado (Air Force)
Back Four: Anton del Rosario (Kaya) Yves Ashime (Pachanga) Jerry Barbaso (Global) Roxy Dorlas (Loyola)
Midfield: William Guerridon (Global) Angel Guirado (Global) Anto Gonzales (Diliman) Chieffy Caligdong (Air Force)
Forwards: Ian Araneta (Air Force) Phil Younghusband (Loyola)

GK Jeff Blake (Nomads)
DF Adrian Semblat (Kaya) Randy Musters (Nomads) Lemuel Unabia (Green Archers United) Jason Cordova (Stallion)
MF James Younghusband (Loyola) Oussey Diop (Pachanga) Ansing Gustilo (Stallion)
FW Izzo El Habbib (Global) Tating Pasilan (Green Archers United) Jovin Bedic (Pachanga)


For a longer version of this, check out the January issue of Football Philippines. I also have an article there titled, "Like a Phoenix from the Ashes". And will also have a league preview of the league competition for 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

My Starting XI for European Football 2011

My European Starting XI
Manuel Neuer
(Bayern Munich)

           Dani Alves       Holger Badstuber          Patrice Evra               Marcelo
               Barcelona          Bayern Munich       Manchester United     Real Madrid

        David Silva             Franck Ribery            Xavi                    
                                   Manchester City       Bayern Munich        Barcelona           

Lionel Messi   Cristiano Ronaldo    Rob van Persie
                                           Barcelona         Real Madrid            Arsenal

Substitutes: Iker Casillas - GK (Real Madrid); Thiago Silva - DF (Milan), Mats Hummels - DF (Borussia Dortmund), Vincent Kompany - DF (Manchetser City), Bastian Schweinsteiger - MF (Bayern Munich), Andrea Pirlo - MF (Juventus), Mesut Ozil - MF (Real Madrid), Charlie Adam - MF (Liverpool), Mario Gomez - FW (Bayern Munich), Wayne Rooney - FW (Manchester United), Miroslav Klose - FW (Lazio)

Coach: Pep Guardiola (Barcelona)

Not easy choices to make as there were lots more terrific players such as Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero. But what a team this would make? The breakdown would be three Spaniards, two Germans, two French, one Portuguese, one Dutch, one Argentinean, and one Brazilian for the starting eleven at least.

Bleachers' Brew #291 The Gift

This appears in the Monday December 26, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror.

The Gift
by rick olivares

The old man pulled up the collar of his grey overcoat to fit more snugly. The December chill stabbed at him and at once made him feel all of his 59 years. The PATH train station junction at Journal Square in Jersey City was deserted on Christmas Eve. Not a soul was stirring. Not even a mouse. Everyone must be at home having some hot chocolate, ham, and maybe some pie, thought the old man who worked as a night watchman. He loved buko pie especially those brought to America from the Philippines. It was a slice of home.

Home. That struck a nerve.

The radio was on and there was this man on the radio lamenting being loveless at this time of the year while some shrink imparted advice. The old man switched off the radio a little too late. The problem with being alone and with not much to do is the mind forces you to reminisce. Now he was confronted with memories that were best packed away with old stuff in the attic.

He arrived in America some five years ago as part of a petition by his former wife’s brother. His family had looked at moving to America as an opportunity for a new beginning. But it was a tough time as the country was in the midst of a recession and still trying to find its footing after 9/11. His inability to land a good paying job eventually told on his family. His two sons first worked at the nearby IHop before deciding that joining the military was their best ticket into assimilating themselves in their new country. One was stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba while the other was in Fallujah, Iraq. Their only daughter kept mostly to herself and preferred to stay in the room. His wife worked at a nearby college and it was her salary that mostly kept their family afloat. Working as a used car salesman wasn’t panning out. Even when old cars were priced at $500 no one was buying. Not in this terrible economy.

But what kept them on the edge was staying up at night following the war in Iraq. At that time, the fighting had been heavy in Fallujah and they stayed glued to the news in some form of morbid watch where they hoped for the best but expected the worst. After a particularly nerve wracking week, they received news that their son was doing well. But the fighting had spilled over Stateside as his relationship with his wife got worse. She finally kicked him out of the house and told him to expect to hear from her lawyer as she filed for divorce.

The old man grew up in Bicol and played baseball until his college days. There wasn’t much news about major league baseball in the pre-internet age especially if you lived in the provinces in the Philippines. Once in a while there were box scores in the dailies. Come October and the World Series, the coverage was better but that was about it. He would cut out those news reports and he’d stick them into a folder after having memorized every name to go with their batting average. When he got married and had children he introduced baseball to his sons. Boy, how they loved it as well and they soon made the school team.

When they arrived in America, one of the first things the old man did was to take his sons to Yankee Stadium to watch a game. That set them back by almost a hundred bucks much to his wife’s chagrin. The sightseeing can come later when they had more money that was in short supply now, she argued. He took the barbs but it was money well spent with his boys whom he was close to.

But that was then. The old man switched the dial of his radio to another station where they played classical music. He fixed himself some coffee and when he took a sip he felt some life return to his numbed limbs.

A taxi pulled up just outside the station and the old man watched a passenger alight. The passenger moved briskly towards the entrance. “We’re closed,” croaked the old man as he smacked his dry lips. He took another sip at the java to find his voice. “Station’s closed early for the holiday.* You’ll have to take the cab if you need to get to the city.’

“Papa,” gingerly said the passenger.


It was his son back from Iraq. The old man opened the gate to let his son in. They shared a tender embrace and the father felt his eyes sting from the tears. “I brought some food and hot chocolate,” said the son who also fought back the tears. It was his first time to see his father since he shipped overseas and the first since his parents’ marriage dissolved.

“Papa, look what I found in the attic,” interjected the son sounding suddenly excited. It was a pair of old well-worn baseball mitts. And a ball. “Want to play catch?”

On a cold Christmas Eve, father and son played catch for a few minutes. They smiled and talked baseball. They shared a simple feast and caught up well into the early hours of Christmas morn. It was the best gift the old man had ever received.

* This is a true story about people who I know. Names have been changed. Prior to 2006, the PATH Train would operate until 730pm on Holidays as a result of 9/11. The trains now run once more 24/7. And the old man now has another job and remains in close touch with his children while living in Jersey City.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Looking at the upcoming Ateneo-La Salle All-Star Game

Ateneo Blue Eagles:
Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Nonoy Baclao (Petron), Rico Villanueva and JC Intal (Barangay Ginebra), Larry Fonacier, Rich Alvarez, Japeth Aguilar, and Magnum Membrere (Talk ‘N Text), LA Tenorio, Paolo Bugia, Wesley Gonzales, and Eric Salamat (Alaska), and Doug Kramer (Powerade).

Of these 13 players, the only former Blue Eagles contributing to their squads (aside from getting playing time) are Al-Hussaini, Villanueva, Intal, Fonacier, Aguilar, Tenorio, and Kramer.

Al-Hussaini has continued to be a scoring force in the pros but his defense is still suspect. When it moves him, he can get up high and block some shots.

Noy Baclao in my opinion has to change clubs or else his career will soon be over and he will be the third Blue Eagle outside Alex Araneta and Rich Alvarez to be the top overall pick to have a mediocre if not poor career. Japeth Aguilar is another top pick but he still has a ways to go.

Rico Villanueva is not the player he was when he was in Red Bull. Sure he’s played well the past two years for Ginebra but he really has to change his offense some if he wants to remain a starter.

JC Intal… just when he was developing into a force a few years ago, he was once more sidelined with an injury. Consistency is a problem. He can score huge one night and put up only a bucket or two the next. If he played with a little more desire to stuff that ball on everyone he’d be unstoppable.

Larry Fonacier has found a home with Talk ‘N Text. Although he won Rookie of the Year with Red Bull several years ago, it is with TNT where he has been able to showcase what he can really do. One of the smartest players in the league.

LA Tenorio… in the midst of a subpar season after being well on his way as the best point guard in the league. With Alaska sinking deeper into the mire that has allowed Jason Castro and Alex Cabagnot to take that mantle from him.

Paolo Bugia… Mr. Quality Minutes for Alaska. What he needs is more playing time. Really a four-spot player rather than a five but he doesn’t rebound as well. But he owns a nifty jumpshot.

Doug Kramer. Perhaps of all the Blue Eagles in the pros, he is one guy who really worked hard to be where he’s at right now. No plays are called for him but what he adds for his teams is pure heart and hustle.

I wonder how Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Wesley Gonzales are after their respective injuries.

La Salle Green Archers:
Joseph Yeo and Carlo Sharma (Petron), Mac Cardona (Meralco), Willy Wilson, Mike Cortez, and Rico Maierhofer (Barangay Ginebra), Renren Ritualo and Brian Ilad (Shopinas), TY Tang and Ryan Araña (Rain or Shine), Jerwin Gaco (B-Meg), JV Casio (Powerade), and Don Allado (Barako Bull).

There’s another – JR Aquino (Shopinas) but he isn’t listed.

For these Green Archers in the pros, the only ones who figure to be a huge part of their respective pro team’s efforts are Yeo, Wilson, Cortez, Araña, Casio, and Allado. Maierhofer was huge for B-Meg but his playing time steadily dropped (why I am not sure but he does deserve the playing time). Ritualo started out well for Shopinas but disappeared after four games or so.

Joseph Yeo… from a player on Petron’s trading block he has become a great complimentary player for his team. Plus, he’s more than capable of hitting that big shot.

Yeo, isn’t the only one capable of hitting the big shot for the Green Archers in the pros. There’s Mac Cardona who has become a scoring force in the PBA. But I still think that he’d do better with a point guard who looks to pass first than take his own shot.

Willy Wilson has got to be one of the best utility men and smartest players in the league. He has no plays called for him as well but he finds different ways to contribute.

Mike Cortez has found a home with Barangay Ginebra. After several stops, he’s become an integral player to the cause of the Kings. Still very good despite playing on a pair of bum knees. But great instincts!

Ryan Araña has turned himself into a surprise star with Rain or Shine. With their great scorers in Paul Lee, Ronjay Buenafe, and Jeff Chan, he’s found a way to make big shots and big stops. Tough player.

JV Casio is finally buying into the system of Bo Perasol and has emerged as a force alongside Gary David and Marcio Lassiter. Watch out because he will an even bigger player for Powerade.

Don Allado’s play with Barako Bull in the past conference shows that he still has plenty of game in him. He’s kept himself in superb shape and that jumpshot of his makes him valuable.

Will this game be a hotly contested one? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t expect rough stuff. Many of these players have become friends over the years if not teammates in the pros. It will be a fun one to watch though.

Will this game be a hotly contested one? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t expect rough stuff. Many of these players have become friends over the years if not teammates in the pros. It will be a fun one to watch though.

Looking out for LA Tenorio to JC Intal or Japeth Aguilar for the alley-oop. Mike Cortez, TY Tang, or JV Casio to Rico Maierhofer for a slam. Larry Fonacier and Mac Cardona to guard each other. Wesley Gonzales and Ryan Araña to play D on one another. Rabeh (if he's well enough to play) go up against big bro Carlo Sharma! 

Chris Tiu should be here!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bleachers' Brew 2011-12 NBA Preview Part1

Looking at the 2011-12 NBA season Part 1
by rick olivares

Will the Miami Heat win it all this year?
Lost in all the pre-season hullaballoo with the lockout and the CP3 trade that never was to the Lakers but to the Clippers, are the Miami Heat who must be happy not to have all that attention directed their way.

Unfortunately, they are not the type of team to glide in under the radar. The addition of Shane Battier and Eddy Curry only add to the expectations. The contract extension fro Erik Spoelstra as head coach means that he will not be operating under a lame duck status and that gives him a strong foundation to stand on. Yet for all the Heat’s new weaponry, they will advance only as far as their Big Three can take them. This team is driven like no other since the ’95 Chicago Bulls. They’ve got a chip on their shoulder the size of the Empire State Building and that will fuel them. Yet as always, their fate will depend on LeBron James to show what he is made of not just in the clutch but when it matters.

Can Dallas repeat?
Let’s see… they lost Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, JJ Barea, Caron Butler, and Peja Stojakovic. That’s a lot on defense and offense. Although they did bring in Lamar Odom, Vince Carter, and Delonte West.

I have always liked Odom. I thought that he contributed pretty well in his early years with the LA Clippers (where he was made team captain in his second year with the squad) and Miami. And no surprise with what he gave the Lakers.

Odom showed that he can play with superstars and emerging players. In Clipperland, they had a young squad bursting with potential (they more than doubled their wins from Odom’s first to second year) with Corey Maggette, Darius Miles, Jeff McInnis, and Keyon Dooling. In Miami, there was Dwyane Wade in his rookie year, Rafer Alston, Caron and Rasual Butler, Brian Grant, Udonis Haslem, and Eddie Jones. And we all know who had for teammates in Los Angeles.

So I expect Odom to play well with Dirk Nowitski, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Shawn Marion. Now how the heck does one get his shots with all them needing the ball to be effective? They pulled it off last year and I think that it will not be a problem. After all, when you do get older, the ring is the thing.

The concern for Dallas is their interior defense. Can Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi be those clogs in the middle? If they lockdown that middle, these Mavs can will repeat. They missed out on Sam Dalembert who went from Sacramento to Houston. If there’s a doughnut hole in the middle, look for them to make a mid-season trade as they try to land either Dwight Howard or Andrei Kirilenko, or even Ben Wallace.

Can the Oklahoma Thunder take the next step?
The young Thunder topped the Northwest Division of the Western Conference 55-27 to raise their first banner. They defeated the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in their playoff opener then played a thrilling semifinals by outlasting the Memphis Grizzlies in seven before falling to eventual champion Dallas 4-1 in the Conference Finals.

It’s so easy to say that this team is on the rise. But they have been so in the three years since they relocated to Oklahoma from Seattle. In their first year (Kevin Durant’s sophomore season), they finished 5th in the Northwest 23-59. The climbed to 50-32 and 4th in their division the following year before their incredible 2010-11 NBA season.

For a team saddled with the label of “potential”, that’s dangerous. They have to make either the Western Finals again or the NBA Finals. Anything less means they could regress.

The NBA landscape is littered with the corpses of teams that were similarly labeled.

There’s the Cleveland Cavaliers of the late 1980s-to early 1990s. The Cavs behind players Brad Daugherty, Mark Price, Larry Nance, Ron Harper, and John Williams made the playoffs for eight straight years winning 50-plus matches three times. But once there, the Bulls clobbered them in ’88, ’89, as well as from ’92-94.

The mid-1990s Los Angeles Lakers are another of those young squads that made a lot of noise but ended their seasons with a whimper. Once the Magic Johnson era ended for good in 1994 (after deciding not to come back coaching), the team with Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Cedric Ceballos, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal tantalized fans with what could be a dynasty in the making. It would take the arrival of former Chicago head coach Phil Jackson in 1999 for the team to realize it potential. But by then, they had a different look with only O’Neal and Bryant left from those high-flying teams of the 90s.

The Thunder have a good core with the NBA’s top scorer in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins. They were fifth in scoring last year. They’re backed by a good organization. They’re young, hungry, and loaded with talent. Plus, they have learned something that those 90s Cavs and Lakers team did not learn – to play D. But they have to improve their standing as they were ranked 16th in a 30-team league.

Do they have enough to get past Dallas? I’m saying no. Maybe they can add Michael Redd to take that shooting guard slot (they have Sefolosha and Harden playing tag team there) that will ease up the pressure from Durant and open up the lane for Perkins and Ibaka.

The Thunder are gaining experience. What they need is veteran leadership and help. Redd is a solid operator who doesn’t come with any baggage.

So how’s the post-Yao Ming Houston Rockets team going to fare?
No Yao. No Pau Gasol. No chance.

Oh, Houston also lost Shane Battier who was tough upfront.

However, I like Luis Scola and his work ethic. But look at their center-by-committee: Hasheem Thabeet, Sam Dalembert, and Jordan Hill at center. Thabeet – he had a good career with UConn but has had a difficult time in the pros. He was ignominiously sent down by the Memphis Grizzlies to the D-League in his rookie year. And last season he only played two matches with the Rockets. Hopefully, he will learn from new head coach Kevin McHale. Dalembert hopefully will help despite never seeming to catch on with his teams. If McHale can get him to produce like he did with the Philadelphia 76ers from 2006-2008 then he’ll be a huge addition for the Rockets.

For sure, points from their five-spot will help. Houston can score behind Kevin Martin, Scola, Kyle Lowry, and Aaron Brooks. In fact, they were third in team points scored with 105. 9. The problem was last year, they surrendered 103.7 and were ranked 22nd on D. So the question remains – can they make defensive stops?

The Southwest Division of the Western Conference is going to be tough. There are the defending NBA champions Dallas, ever-dangerous San Antonio, and up-and-coming Memphis. They could catch the last seat of the playoff bus but it’s not going to be easy.

NBA Facts:
Eight of the NBA’s Top 10 scoring teams are from the Western Conference: Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Oklahoma, San Antonio, Golden State, Los Angeles Lakers, and Minnesota. The only Eastern squads on that list are New York and Miami.

On defense, it’s the reverse. The Eastern teams fared better. The top four were (in order) Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee and Orlando. The other East squads included Miami and Atlanta. The top Western defensive teams were New Orleans, Portland, the Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas.

Rick Adelman is now with his fifth NBA team as head coach. He’s coached Portland (where he once starred), Golden State, Sacramento, and Houston. Now he begins his stint with Minnesota. In his 24 years of coaching, he’s only missed the playoffs twice and those two years were with the Warriors that was languishing in their post-Run TMC (although they still had Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, and a young Latrell Sprewell. Adelman handled Spree in his first two years before PJ Carlesimo took over and we all know what happened that following season.

When the NBA kicks off its 66th season on Christmas Day, 2011 (North America time), only seven players (minimum 10 years) will have played their entire career (thus far) for only one team:
Kobe Bryant – Los Angeles Lakers (15 years)
Tim Duncan – San Antonio Spurs (13 years)
Jeff Foster – Indiana Pacers (12 years)
Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs (10 years)
Dirk Nowitski – Dallas Mavericks (14 years)
Tony Parker – San Antonio Spurs (11 years)
Paul Pierce – Boston Celtics (13 years)

Others included in this list if they suit up with their current club for the new season will be:
Michael Redd - Milwaukee Bucks (12 years)
Andrei Kirilenko – Utah Jazz (10 years) but he is with CSKA Moscow now.