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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

LeBron James & Dwyane Wade: The new Dobermans

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The new Dobermans
by rick olivares

The Miami Heat opened their 2013-14 NBA season with a ring ceremony and a 107-95 beat down on a Chicago Bulls team that struggled from the field. That’s one down in an 82-game regular season schedule from October to June if they go all the way back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Watching the nifty crosscourt bounce pass from LeBron James to a cutting Dwyane Wade for a bucket, one of many in their three-plus years together, evokes a time-honored duo that wore the fire engine red colors of Chicago – Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

There isn’t any question about both duos’ – Jordan-Pippen and James-Wade – offensive brilliance. It’s on the defensive side of the court that I’d like to make this postulate that James-Wade are heirs to the Doberman duo of Jordan-Pippen.

To recap, former Chicago Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach (1986-93, 2003) used to refer to Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as “Dobermans”.

In Chicago’s “Doberman defense”, Bach utilized his players’ athleticism – most notably Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen – to maraud the passing lanes while setting traps. That defense helped the Chicago Bulls win six NBA titles.

James and Wade have won two titles together and they don’t look to stop any time soon.

The firepower at the hands of Miami’s one-two punch often makes fans and sportswriters forget that the two are just as capable defensively. The Heat superstars also have their credentials as defensive players.

Wade – 3x All-Defensive Second team (2005, 2009-10)
James – 5x All-Defensive First Team (2009-13)

On the other hand, the Chicago Bulls duo are more decorated defensively:
1988 Defensive Player of the Year
9x All Defensive First Team (1988-1993, 1996-98)

8x All-Defensive First Team (1992-1999)
2x All-Defensive Second Team (1991, 2000)

But this isn’t to denigrate LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, now both on their 11th year in the league, and have still have a lot left in their tanks. I think that right now, they are indeed worthy successors to the Jordan-Pippen duo.

Check out their cumulative stats from all their championship years as a duo. Jordan-Pippen (1990-93; 1995-98) while the James-Wade partnership is from 2011-13.

50.0 ppg
13.2 rpg
10.8 apg
4.2 spg
1.5 bpg
4.8 tpg

48.5 ppg
12.8 rpg
11.5 apg
3.6 spg
1.8 bpg
6.0 tpg

While observers note that Dwyane Wade’s defensive ratings have gone down, he remains a threat. Wade has made a career of raiding those passing lanes. While not a lockdown stopper, he does wreak havoc with his quick hands, game intelligence, and athleticism. Those were key ingredients or criteria for Bach’s “Doberman defense.”

With LeBron James, you have a player who is incredibly still getting better on both ends of the floor. And now, he is looking to really make a name for himself on the defensive end.

During last year’s playoffs, when Nate Robinson was torching the Heat, James took on the Bulls’ dynamo and shut him down.

Once the Heat got into the Finals, James, with the San Antonio Spurs spotting them a one-game lead, had three steals and superb block of Tiago Splitter.

They aren’t isolated incidents.

Synergy Sports reported that James guarded 833 individual sets last season. The offensive player took 688 shots and hit only 37.6% of those field goals!

In an interview with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra before the start of this season, the fourth year head coach told, “It would be great to see him (James) be acknowledged for the defensive work that he does. There’s no one else in the league that can do what he does. He’s been banging on that door, getting close. I don’t want it to be a campaign. It has to be earned. But he has that type of potential to be Defensive Player of the Year.’ Not since Michael Jordan has the best player in the league been this proficient on both ends of the floor. And Jordan, you could argue, played both sides as well as anyone who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers in a game in the NBA or anywhere else. James has the potential to do the same and has shown flashes of it throughout his career, particularly in the past three seasons.”

And as the time-honored saying goes, “Defense wins championships.”

Let’s see if the new millennium Dobermans can lead the Miami Heat to a third straight championship. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A PBA Draft Story: Joseph Terso

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PBA Draft hopeful: Joseph Terso
by rick olivares

Joseph Terso is one of those players who placed his name in professional basketball’s equivalent of Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat. Unlike English author JK Rowling’s famous line of novels where there are four houses where students are sent to, in the Philippine Basketball Association, there are 10. Ten cubs to be exact.

And that means there are a finite number of players playing in Asia’s first ever professional league.

Every year there are dozens of hopefuls out of college hoping to land one of the few precious slots available. Many are not chosen and instead have to go through the difficult route of free agency.

This year, Terso, nicknamed “Jolas” by his parents for the former Purefoods and Alaska great, is one such hopeful. He describes himself as “sanay na sa mga challenges.”

“My college career was filled with learnings and challenges,” he sums of his four years with the National University Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs teams he played for were the pre-SM buyout years where there wasn’t much. Playing for NU wasn’t a labor of love but a day-to-day struggle to keep your head above water. The facilities weren’t much. They lived in a dorm any mother wouldn’t stick her son in. And the team, well, it wasn’t that they kept losing. They kept getting blown out with the nary a care from the student body.

They were the league doormats. But they were clearly getting better.

“While playing for National University,” recounts Terso, “I was under three different head coaches – Manny Dandan, Eric Gonzales, and Eric Altamirano. Each coach had a different system and we all had to adjust whether we liked it or not.”

Under Altamirano, Terso fell at the bottom of the point guard rotation. With rookie Gelo Alolino getting the lion’s share of minutes, the veteran saw the writing on the wall and chose not to play in his final year. “My biggest disappointment was not finishing my last playing year and not being able to help the team in aiming to become the best in the league.”

After a stint in the D-League, Terso is now trying his luck in the PBA Draft. “The Draft is a few days away and I am actually feeling both excited and nervous,” admits Terso. “Of course, I would like to be drafted but at the same time I am also scared of the other players competing for the same slot.”

As a kid, Terso rooted for Ginebra.  The 5’10” guard would love nothing more than to be a part of his childhood team.

Last Monday, October 29, Terso attended the PBA Rookie Camp at the Gatorade Hoops Center. “It was fun and exciting but I think there should be more time and activities for the camp for us to show what we can do.”

Terso knows that there’s another route to the PBA and that’s with the Asean Basketball League. He sees some familiar names making names for themselves in the region before returning to the Philippines.

There’s Jai Reyes who played for Powerade for a couple of conferences before he was released. He played for the Cebuana Lhuillier team in the D-League before joining the Bangkok Cobras in the ABL. Last PBA season, he was able to latch on to the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.

There too is Nic Belasco, the 11-year PBA veteran who thought it was all over for him after the 2010 season. Belasco returned to the United States where he found work when former Jose Rizal University head coach Ariel Vanguardia, who was calling the shots for the Kuala Lumpur Dragons, gave him a call two years later.

Belasco showed that he still had game in him and after a season in Malaysia, he returned to the PBA first with Powerade and then with Alaska where he was part of the team’s 14th title team. 

And there too is Froilan Baguion, a former NU. Baguion went undrafted in 2005 but he managed to gain a slot with the Welcoat Dragons (now Rain or Shine) the following year. He bounced around in the space of one year with three PBA teams – Welcoat, Coca Cola, and San Miguel before he was released in 2009.

Louie Alas selected him to join the Philippine Patriots in the ABL where the team won a championship in its maiden season.

Baguion has seen been a mainstay for the Thailand Slammers where import Chris Charles calls the 5’11” guard the team’s heart and soul.

The young PBA aspirant takes all of these life lessons to heart. Joseph Terso knows the road to a dream is not an easy one. He’s willing to put in the hard work. After all, he used to the challenges.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Emman Monfort to Ginebra?

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Emman Monfort to Ginebra?

by rick olivares

After torching Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in one of their meetings during the recently concluded PBA Governors Cup, it looks like Barako Bull Energy Cola point guard Emman Monfort is headed for the country's most popular pro basketball team.

Word is that Monfort will be headed for the PBA’s crowd darlings while Rob Labagala will move to the Energy Colas in a proposed trade involving another unspecified club.

The 5’6” Monfort, drafted 16th overall last season after a sterling college career with Ateneo, had a spectacular Commissioner’s and Governors’ Cup for the Energy Colas after missing the entire Philippine Cup with a broken hand. He put up career numbers including a 25-point torching of Ginebra in a 104-91 win last August 30. The diminutive court general finished with averages of 5.8 points, 1.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 0.8 steals while turning the ball over 0.5 times a game.

Monfort, an Iloilo City native, missed Barako Bull’s last few matches of the Governors’ Cup with a fractured ring finger.

If Monfort transfers teams, that could reunite him with Greg Slaughter (assuming that he is selected by Ginebra as the top pick in the upcoming PBA Draft) and with other former Blue Eagles LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar. He was a part of three Ateneo championship teams in the UAAP from 2009-11.

Monfort’s other Ateneo teammates -- Ryan Buenafe, Justin Chua, John Paul Erram, Nico Salva, and Chris Sumalinog – also entered their names in the upcoming PBA Draft.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A PBA Draft story: Hoping for a chance: Paul Jordan Payoyo

I wanted to write something about PBA Draft applicants who are skating the edges. Everyone will be writing about the big names. I want everyone to see what is on the other side.

This appears in the Monday October 28, 2013 edition of the Business Mirror.

Hoping for a chance: 
Paul Jordan Payoyo
by rick olivares

There are 85 hopefuls in the upcoming PBA Draft so you’ll have to forgive Paul Jordan Payoyo for being nervous.

He glanced at the list of PBA hopefuls and saw a lot of “household” names from the NCAA and the UAAP. They have the advantage of going to bigger schools with big names and who are shown on television on a regular basis.

In the meantime, Paul plays, or toils if you will, for the Trinity University of Asia White Stallions who play in three different leagues – the College Athletic League, the Universities and Colleges Athletic Association, and National Collegiate Basketball League. “Mas maraming exposure kasi hindi kami kilala,” he reasons.

More often than not, the White Stallions merit just a little space in Manila’s sports pages. But Paul hopes that by some stroke of luck, he’d be tabbed in any of the draft rounds by any team. “Kahit saan basta may chance,” is what he prays for. “Pagbubutihin ko.”

If he gets selected by fellow Pampangueño Ato Agustin who now at the helm of his favorite PBA ballclub, Barangay Ginebra (Mark Caguioa is his favorite local ball player), he’d be ecstatic.

Payoyo hails from the city of San Fernando. It was while playing in the inter-barangay leagues where the 5’10” guard was eventually spotted by TUA coach Junel Mendiola and offered a scholarship to the Quezon City-based school.

At TUA, he’s taking up Business Administration but more than anything in this world, he wants to be given a chance to play in the PBA. “Nasa dugo ko ang basketball,” he says.

Indeed it is. His father, Teddy, after all named him after arguably the Greatest of All Time – Michael Jordan.

Paul is quick to dispel that his game is Jordanesque. “Hindi ako nakaka-dunk,” he admits. But the lad can shoot. With TUA, he averages about 15 points per game. During one match, he lit up the Emilio Aguinaldo College Generals for over 20 points and a bunch of triples.

In his final year in college, Payoyo along with teammates Joshua Saret (who used to play with the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons) and Mark Doligon (who used to suit up for the Arellano University Chiefs) led the White Stallions to the NCBL Finals. Except TUA lost to Technological Institute of the Philippines, 70-62, in the championship game only last October 12.

The TIP Engineers posted a big lead early in the match but the White Stallions launch one rally after another to no avail.

With his college basketball career done, Payoyo (who is graduating in March 2014) is hoping that Lady Luck might smile on him differently on November 3, the night of the 2013 PBA Draft.

“Ito yung pangarap ng marami. Pangarap ko rin to. Sana,” he says in a hopeful tone. “Sana may chance.”