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.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Time to cowboy up for the Petron Blaze Boosters

This appears in the PBA website.

Time to cowboy up for the Petron Blaze Boosters
by rick olivares

The Petron Blaze Boosters have lost back-to-back games to drop to 7-2. With center June Mar Fajardo out until January 8, 2014 with a knee sprain, the Blaze Boosters now find themselves vulnerable and scrambling to protect that rim.

Although in their Christmas Day loss to Barangay Ginebra, even without Fajardo, they outrebounded their opponents, 53-48, prompting the former’s head coach Ato Agustin to scratch his head in wonder.

Sure it’s a loss but one has to look at the bright side too.

If Petron wants to win, they have to remember they are a team. And that means all hands on deck in protecting that shaded area and rebounding like gangbusters.

Yousef Taha is their only legitimate center and he is way too raw. This kid, loaded with potential he may be, only played one season in college with Mapua before turning pro. Taha, a Filipino-Kuwaiti, was drafted 11th overall in the 2012 Draft by Air21 but midway through his very first PBA conference, the Philippine Cup, he was traded to Ginebra. Before the season-ending Governors’ Cup of that campaign, he was traded to GlobalPort. Then prior to the start of this new season, he was sent to Petron, his fourth team in four conferences. It is a dubious start for any new player. But if Taha wants to break out of his caddy status then this is where he shows what he can do.

Doug Kramer is a power forward not a center. Arwind Santos is an incredible talent and can play any of the frontcourt positions but the five-spot isn’t something he relishes.

Unfortunately for Petron, they are a little lean on that area. So, it’s all hands on deck.

Ginebra has taken Talk ‘N Text’s formula of a tall and athletic front line and turned it into a freakish one with terrifying possibilities. They’ve got Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, King Kong, and Knifehead. It’s like a Kaiju (sorry but I am a Godzilla and Pacific Rim film fan) lineup of studs who like to host dunk and block parties.

When the Tropang Texters were winning titles left and right, they had Ranidel De Ocampo, Kelly Williams, Harvey Carey, Ali Peek, and Japeth Aguilar. Now the Gin Kings have Aguilar, seven-foot Greg Slaughter, Jay-R Reyes, and Billy Mamaril to pound foes into submission. And there’s the undersized Mac Baracael.

If the opponents double team, then Ginebra has the forwards and guards to burn them with Chris Ellis, Mark Caguioa, Dylan Ababou, Jayjay Helterbrand, LA Tenorio, and Emman Monfort. Lost in the shuffle is Josh Urbiztondo who is a terrific player.

As for Petron, even without Fajardo, they are still a dangerous team. The loss to Ginebra was something they didn’t have enough time to prepare for. Now they do. It’s a mindset thing. They know the hand that has been dealt to them and they will figure out a way to play with it. Although they do have one more match – against Talk ‘N Text that has found a resurgent Nonoy Baclao – before Fajardo returns. Now that match is big because they don’t want to give up ground to the Tropang Texters and the other teams.

With San Mig Coffee inching its way up the table, the race to the second stage of the Philippine Cup is heating up. Petron should thank their stars too that Alaska and Meralco have been sputtering.

The Blaze Boosters multi-dimensional players in addition to Santos who play both ends of the floor in Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter. The return of Alex Cabagnot cannot have come at a better time because they’ll need that stud clutch player. Putting the ball in the hoop is no problem for the squad of head coach Gee Abanilla. It’s making the stops.

Do I think that Petron is reeling in the light of their misfortune?

No. Not yet. With another loss, maybe yes. Having said that, this is a crucial phase in the campaign for Petron. It’s like the NBA’s Chicago Bulls – they lose their star but they just have to cowboy up. Injuries are all part of it. No excuses here. Champion teams thrive in the face of adversity.

And for the Blaze Boosters to realize that, I expect them to go all out against Talk ‘N Text. This is going to be a battle royale.

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