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, November 1, 2012

Death, taxes, and James Yap

Death, taxes, and James Yap
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio

I went to the PBA last night for the first time in more than a conference. I have wanted to begin my coverage with the return of Norman Black to the pros and the debut of Calvin Abueva with Alaska but my workload does not allow that flexibility anymore. But I did have a meeting at the Big Dome with Meralco’s Butch Antonio and Virgil Villavicencio and Alaska’s Alex Compton and since I was already there, I decided to begin to my coverage. I am glad that I stayed to cover and now, well, write about it. Not a game recap because you can go elsewhere for that. But more of dissertation on big game players and what not.

If there is anything that is as close to a sure thing in the vein of death and taxes, it’s a James Yap bucket. Even when he was playing for UE in the UAAP, all I could do was hope he’d miss. Of course, anything he accomplished as a Red Warriors has since been dwarfed by what he has done in the PBA.

For much of the game, GlobalPort Batang Pier did pretty well with their brand of small ball as they raced to a double-digit lead. But once the San Mig Coffee Mixers’ Marc Pingris began to exert himself inside, GlobalPort began to reel under the assault. When the defense sagged inside because no one was capable of stopping Pingris, San Mig Coffee turned the ball over to Yap.

In the first three quarters, Yap was 1-5 field goal shooting and I’m sure you know the math there in terms of percentages. No matter as PJ Simon kept them in the game. But as the adage goes, a shooter needs to keep shooting, and Yap, like a grenade, went off.

When Simon faltered after that massive block on him by Willie Miller (Simon subsequently flubbed two point blank stabs undoubtedly bothered by the earlier rejection), Yap was there; a luxury for San Mig Coffee Head Coach Tim Cone (as it was for Ryan Gregorio and Jorge Gallent before him).

Yap hit shots with Josh Vanlandingham and Mark Yee in his face (but who has not been humiliated by Yap). He adjusted with his fadeaway when the drive was shut down to him. It wasn’t by far his best performance but when you think about how uninvolved he was in his team’s earlier fortunes, it’s his uncanny ability to turn himself from bystander to a lethal assassin at the drop of a hat.

Having watched him for so long, I have always thought that it’s his vertical leap and ability to suspend himself that has made him such a danger shooter. And there’s that flick of the wrist. The adjustment, the follow through – it’s textbook perfect.

But if Yap, who scored 11 points in the final quarter to go with Pingris’ own 11 points, is to San Mig, GlobalPort has its own lethal weapon in Willie Miller.

There aren’t many players who can get off a shot anytime they want and Miller has always been one of them. I have seen this guy since his days in Letran and while he has been such a dangerous scorer who could hurt an opponent with his outside shooting and drives to the basket (I always thought that Denok Miranda played like him and they are built similarly).

But I cannot help but notice how he has moved around a lot unlike Yap who has stayed with only one team. Miller has played for seven teams beginning with the Nueva Ecija Patriots in the defunct and great MBA before moving to PBA clubs Red Bull (and his second stint with Barako Bull), Talk ‘n Text, Alaska, Ginebra, and GlobalPort.

If there is anyone in the PBA who still has that playground feel to his game it is Miller. Like Yap, he’s got great hops. Unlike Yap who uses his arms to ward off defenders when he drives (sakit niya ‘yan and he doesn’t get called for it often), Miller is all skill and athleticism.

San Mig coach Tim Cone threw Pingris at him but there wasn’t much he could do against Miller who hit a trey and more. There was that post up and that deceptive stop start where he changed gears on a drive before blowing by them for a layup. That where he changes gears I like to call a changeup. What a blow by the way he can weave through any defense. But there’s that maddening inconsistency. He missed two free throws and a layup that could have changed the outcome of the match.

Like Yap, it wasn’t Miller’s best performance, but his nine fourth quarter points (not to mention a Vic Manuel putback) gave GlobalPort some hope of winning their second game of the Philippine Cup.

And San Mig, playing their best fourth quarter thus far, won, 82-78. The Mixers hiked their record to 4-2 while Batang Pier slid down further 1-6.

Cone lamented his team’s lack of fire but was confident his team would pull through. GlobalPort needs their inside players to score. Vic Manuel is a stud but he cannot do it alone. Rabeh Al-Hussaini should wake up and smell the San Mig Coffee if he wants to remain a valuable player in the league. Imagine, Will Antonio playing the four-spot! Sure he can take his man out but he got zero rebounds.

But back to James Yap. I’ll always see that elevation, the mid-air adjustment, and that ultimate flick of the wrist for a deuce or a three-ball. I should remember also the look of anguish on the faces of Vanlandingham and Yee as – going by what they call on the playground – ginawa silang asintahan by one of the best in the game right now.


Got some of those limited edition PBA trading cards. Cool!

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