Monday, December 29, 2014
This appears in the Monday, December 29, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
The 2014 Brewskies
by rick olivares
Last year we skipped the annual Brewskies Awards where we had out awards to the year’s dubious achievements in sports. But like Arnold Schwarzenegger who is once more reprising his role in The Terminator, “We’re back!!!”
And we’re off….
Don’t cry for me Award
Goes not to Argentina but to Brazil. Expected to end their drought of World Cup trophies with football’s premier event being help on their doorsteps, Brazil raced through the tournament although not with out controversy. Once in the semifinals, eventual champions Germany in most embarrassing fashion booted them out, 7-1. Looking to salvage a measure of pride by coping the third place match, they were instead blanked by the Netherlands, 3-nil.
The I-Am-Always-Hungry-Because-I-Am-Growing-Boy Award
Goes to Luis Suarez. Remember that old burger joint The Bite Club? They were the first local designer burger restaurant whose slogan was, “We Fight Hunger.” Apparently, if they are still around, they might want to consider getting Luis Suarez as an endorser.
Suarez has an insatiable appetite that not even a championship with Ajax Amsterdam and one trophy with Liverpool can satiate. While at the famous Dutch club, he already showed his hunger for more by biting PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal. When he moved to England to play for Liverpool where he promptly bit Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. On football’s biggest stage, the World Cup, he sank his front teeth into Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini. Instead of raves for his culinary taste, the Uruguayan received a lengthy ban from FIFA and a one-way ticket out of Anfield. Now he’s in Spain playing for Barcelona where many wonders how he will take to Iberian Peninsula cuisine.
The Wow Mali Award
Goes to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist remarks to his girlfriend. Somehow his remarks were taped and released by the rag show TMZ. The NBA pushed Sterling out of the door and sent a message to all its owners that they have to toe the line in this politically correct world.
The Ah-What-the-Hell-Moment Award
Goes to Uruguay’s president José Mujica. Following FIFA’s nine-month suspension of Luis Suarez, Mujica remarked, “FIFA are a bunch of old sons of bitches.”
Mujica recoiled apparently that he said something “un-presidential.”
After journalists present asked him if he wanted to reconsider his words, the former leftist guerilla thought for a moment then said, “Publish it.” And he added a few more choices words: “They could have punished him, but not given him this fascist ban.”
Practice Pays Award
Goes to the organizers of The Lost, este, Last Homestand.
I know that it pays to practice. And I certainly remember American coach Larry Brown saying he would pay money to watch Michael Jordan practice. At least you know it was a practice unlike the farce that was The Last Homestand where organizers fed the public about a game pitting Gilas Pilipinas and a selection of NBA players. Only the organizers never got the approval of the NBA for such an event. The event proceeded and thousands of paying patrons arrived to see a glorified lay-up line.
In the post-debacle, imagine the boss himself, Manuel V. Pangilinan falling on the sword for his soldiers who never admitted to their folly.
The Fall Award
Goes to Gilas Pilipinas. After an successful 2013 FIBA Asia Championships where Gilas Pilipinas finished second to Iran, there were expectations – albeit a little unrealistic -- heading into the World Cup in Spain. The team came close to upsetting several ballyhooed teams in the tournament but did manage a win against Senegal to close out its return to world basketball’s top event.
They had a chance to salvage the year with a run to the Asian Games gold medal. Instead the team crashed and burned rather badly following the benching of naturalized player Marcus Douthit and shooting at Kazakhstan’s basket in an attempt to send the game into overtime where they could try to gain entry to the semifinals by winning by the prescribed 11-point margin. The shot was nullified, Gilas’ coach was vilified, and now the team is starting over again.
The So Much for a Bunch of Titles Award
Goes to LeBron James. When he took his talents to South Beach, Florida. James along with cohorts Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade figured they’d win a smattering of NBA titles. They went to the Finals fourth straight years and in between won an Olympic Gold Medal to go with two Larry O’Brien Trophies. However, last season, perhaps after consecutive long campaigns in the NBA and FIBA, the Heat ran out gas against the highly-motivated San Antonio Spurs. James played well in the finals while Bosh and Wade disappeared. In the off-season, LBJ made another decision, this time, to take his talents back to Ohio and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Only this time, he wasn’t derided for that move. So much for winning a bunch of titles in Miami.
Sunday, December 28, 2014
This appears on the PBA website
Where to, Talk ‘N Text?
Where to, Talk ‘N Text?
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio
While talking about Talk ‘N Text’s ouster at the hands of the San Miguel Beermen the other day with a friend, he wondered if the former’s championship window had closed and that they had gone as far as their roster could go.
I thought about it for a moment then said, “No.”
As much as the PBA looks at the NBA for inspiration, the general welfare of the homegrown squads is way different.
For one, there is no brutal schedule where teams have to play a minimum of 82 games.
Second, the local players do not have to spend long weeks on the road and sometimes playing on back-to-back nights. And that counts for a lot as half a team’s matches are played on the road. The only nightmarish travel PBA players have to contend with is the Metro Manila traffic (don’t remind Yeng Guiao about this).
And lastly, there’s the short break between conferences that allows a modicum of recovery.
So how does that relate to TNT and the rest of the PBA? Look at Purefoods for example. Some time after they won their second title under former head coach Ryan Gregorio in the 2006 All-Filipino Conference, they looked done while TNT looked to become the dominant PBA dynasty.
The only three players to have crossed over from Gregorio’s time to current head coach Tim Cone’s squad James Yap, PJ Simon, and Marc Pingris. Even as they lost Kerby Raymundo, Roger Yap, and Jondan Salvador, this squad re-tooled by acquiring veteran players like Joe Devance and Rafi Reavis and drafted smartly as they acquired Mark Barroca, Justin Melton, and Ian Sangalang. They also acquired some young talent through trades such as Alex Mallari and Yousef Taha. They brought tall, smart, and athletic players – key ingredients in any championship squad.
If you look at TNT, after winning the Philippine Cup in Norman Black’s first try, they looked good over the space of the next year or so. For a time, they were undefeated until they ran into San Mig Coffee that was hitting its stride.
The Tropang Texters also paid the price for bearing the brunt of national team duty. Think about it – they had key players who have been playing almost non-stop for even after the PBA season ended – Jimmy Alapag, Kelly Williams, Ranidel De Ocampo, Jayson Castro, and Larry Fonacier (even Ryan Reyes also saw some duty). Even in the pre-FIBA World Cup, Jay Washington was back on national team duty. So after a while they ran out of gas. And it has clearly affected them during a long season where they would almost always go deep in the playoffs.
Now, if you look at current head coach Jong Uichico’s squad, they still have eight players from their recent title squads still playing –Alapag, Harvey Carey, Reyes, Fonacier, Castro, Williams, De Ocampo, and Aaron Aban. They have added balik-TNT Washington and Rob Reyes and brought in through the draft and draft day trades – Kevin Alas and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser. That’s a darn pretty good line-up. They’ve got defensive beasts, athletes, shooters, and smart players. While some like Alapag and Carey have logged significant mileage (along with Danny Seigle), they’re still effective in spot duty.
The Alaska teams that bridged the latter years of the Tim Cone era to the title won with Luigi Trillo at the helm and now with Alex Compton are three constants – Sonny Thoss, Tony De La Cruz, and Cyrus Baguio (you can throw in Sam Eman there for good measure). The Aces have reloaded with some very talented newbies and cagey veterans. They are tall, athletic, deep, and smart. Not to mention tough. They have the ingredients to win.
Let’s face it – TNT ran into a San Miguel team that has the best big man in the local game today – JuneMar Fajardo. His rapid development has been frightening and there isn’t a doubt that he will be terrorizing opponents for years to come.
For other teams to figure out the Beermen, it has to involve stopping Fajardo (as they can match up in other positions).
But back to the Tropang Texters. I don’t think they are done. I would like to also offer unsolicited advice to their coach staff who are very good friends. They might want to look at how San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich plays his bench to afford his ageing Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili plenty of rest. While I am not a fan of the Spurs, I totally appreciate their selfless play and adherence to a team game. If they were previously tabbed as “boring” well, I don’t think so. If boring equates to a championship then I don’t think the Spurs or their fans mind.
Besides, as I pointed out, TNT has the depth and talent to compete.
Clearly I think another conference under Jong Uichico they will be okay. There’s the adjustment period as well to a new head coach.
But having said that, the next two conferences are import dependent. TNT’s fortunes will also depend on the import they are able to land. They need that frontcourt impact player and rim protector to vault them back into contention. If nothing happens by season’s end, then they might want to consider a little rebuilding.
Now that’s a while to go.
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
This appears in the Monday, December 22, 2014 edition of the Business Mirror.
The trade for Rondo & the NBA's best mid-season swaps.
by rick olivares pic from the Texarkana Gazette
Why are you acting so surprised? I am kind of surprised that the Boston Celtics did not trade Rajon Rondo much earlier. They dispatched their veterans but kept their moody young point guard. And now there is no one left from their 2008 title team. But they still do not take the cake for a team so quick to dismantle a championship squad. The honor belongs to the Jerrys (the dumpkopfs Krause and Reinsdorf who since 1998 are still looking for that elusive seventh NBA championship).
How huge is this for the Dallas Mavericks who are looking for one realistic last shot at a second NBA title as the clock winds down on Dirk Nowitski’s incredible NBA career?
Massive. Consider their starting rotation – Rondo and Monta Ellis at the backcourt with Chandler Parsons, Nowitski, and Chandler in the frontcourt. I don’t expect this team to go to the track meet but still… Rondo gives the Mavericks a two-way player and a feisty one at that for the right reasons, I would surmise though.
Will Boston General Manager’s Danny Ainge’s assist to former Celtics teammate Rick Carlisle payoff? After all, Kevin McHale threw him a lifeline of an assist when he traded Kevin Garnett to him in 2008. Time to pay it back and hope that good karma returns in the players they got as well as the draft picks.
We will find out how good a trade this was by season’s end. Now there have been a lot of very good mid-season trades; some of which rejuvenated clubs. However, few resulted in a finals berth or even with a championship.
Here are some of the best mid-season trades in NBA history that resulted in a NBA Finals berth and/or a championship.
In January 15, 1965, the San Francisco Warriors sent Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers for Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, Paul Neumann, and cash considerations. Philadelphia didn’t get past Boston in the Eastern Conference that year and the next. But for the 1966-67 NBA title, Chamberlain and the Sixers faced off against his old SF Warriors team. You know what they say about payback as Philly won in six.
On February 15, 1995, there was a reunion in Houston as Clyde Drexler, who played his college with the University of Houston, rejoined Hakeem Olajuwon with the NBA Rockets. Drexler and Tracy Murray were sent by the Portland Trailblazers to the Rockets for Otis Thorpe, draft rights to Marcelo Nicola and a first round draft pick. Drexler, who led Portland to two NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, nabbed his one and only championship ring that season when Houston dispatched the youthful Orlando Magic in four straight.
On February 22, 2001, the Atlanta Hawks traded their long-time center Dikembe Mutombo and Roshown McLeod to the Philadelphia 76ers for Theo Ratliff, Nazr Mohammed, Toni Kukoc, and Pepe Sanchez. Mutombo provided the rim protector Philly needed while Allen Iverson, Eric Snow, and Aaron McKie took care of the scoring. They made it to the NBA Finals where they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in Game One. But that was it for Larry Brown’s gritty Sixers who lost the next four matches.
On February 19, 2004, a three-team sent mercurial Rasheed Wallace and Mike James to the Detroit Pistons while Chucky Atkins and Lindsey Hunter went from Motown to Beantown while Bobby Sura, Zeljko Rebraca, and Chris Mills got shipped to the Atlanta Hawks. The curious thing here is, Boston waived Hunter who was immediately re-acquired by Detroit and he went on to help win the NBA title four months later.
On February 1, 2008, Pau Gasol, was traded by Memphis along with a second round pick to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, and the draft rights to Marc Gasol and two first round draft picks. The Lakers made the NBA Finals that year only to fall to Rondo’s Celtics. But they did win two in a row after that.
Fast forward to today. Rondo is in his ninth year and the sad plight of the Celtics in the past years has made him hungry for another title. It could be the last ride for these Mavericks as Nowitski and Chandler are on their last legs. The Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban believes he can re-sign Rondo to a multi-year contract. I’d say that it depends on how this season finishes.
For the sake of argument, what makes a trade a “good one?” I’d say one that leads to a title run and a bunch of titles. Making the conference finals for a couple of years is good too, but you want to stack that against what they gave up in return for that trade. Who came out better in that deal? At least, that is how I see it.
As for Rondo and the Mavs -- it’s going to be interesting to see how this pans out.
Thursday, December 18, 2014
This appears on the PBA's official website.
What’s next, Ginebra?
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Philippine Cup campaign has once more come to a sickening halt. Eliminated at the hands of a resurgent Talk ‘N Text team, 87-69, in the quarterfinals, this title-starved ballclub has to ask, “What now? What next?”
Ginebra started out the season well racking up win after win before shedding the mantle of early season invincibility.
As for Talk ‘N Text, they didn’t look too impressive at the start of the Philippine Cup but they have steadily found their groove. Talk ‘N Text, after looking like their dynasty was over last season, look to be back. Ranidel De Ocampo is moving well. Jason Castro is getting to the hole with impunity. Matt Rosser is proving to be a huge pick up for this squad.
As for Ginebra, just when people thought they had put it all together with their addition of Joseph Yeo, they have once more fallen by the wayside.
During the 2013-14 season Philippine Cup, Ginebra also burst out of the gates and topped the elimination round, 11-3. They got rid of Alaska in the Quarterfinals only to lose in seven games against San Mig Coffee.
In the middle, Commissioner’s Cup conference, they dropped to the lower tier, finishing eighth with a 3-6 record. Despite their less than stellar record, they made the quarterfinals where Talk ‘N Text bounced them in one match.
In the season ending Governors’ Cup, they fought back to a 5-4 elimination round record; good for sixth. Alaska sent them packing in the quarterfinals.
And in an ironic twist of fate, the man who guided them to their last title – in the 2007-08 Fiesta Conference – is Jong Uichico who was on the bench of the Tropang Texters that ousted them last Tuesday night. It has been six years – an eternity it seems – since this squad tasted championship bubbly.
It has been that long. And speaking of “long” this team needs some longevity and continuity in some places. Particularly speaking, the coaching position.
Since Al Chua vacated his seat in July of 2013 after six months on board, Ginebra has needed some coaching stability. Ato Agustin, who replaced Chua didn’t last long either as he stayed on the job for nine months. Now, Jeff Cariaso, eight months on the job, has the perennial crowd favorites playing well. They just need some consistency.
Only Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar average in double figures with the former only receiving the third most minutes. There are four players averaging at least nine points per game. That’s still good support but you’d like them to do better.
Consistency day-in and day-out production. And that goes as well in coaching. They have a good young coach in Cariaso and they should give him time to get the team used to the system. Watching them this conference, I see them running the Triangle Offense at times and junking it on others. Of course, not one team in the world runs it full time. Circumstances dictate that.
Speaking of longevity in player terms, most of the players, save for Yeo and rookie Rodney Brondial, have been together some time. They have the parts and the talent to win. They just need to bring it every single day. The lack of consistency forces the coaching staff to constantly change and tinker with its lineup.
Looking at their season stats, Ginebra can score. At least we know they can. Their Triangle Offense, or their version of it, seems to get more press. But maybe the team would like to – if I may be so bold – to re-dedicate themselves on defense first (they are a middle of the pack team in terms of team defense).
It should be noted that three of the four top-ranked defense teams are in the semifinals. Talk ‘N Text, as I said earlier, are finally putting it together.
Ginebra should pay attention. After all, they have the giants and the athletes to throttle opponents. Now we’ll see if they get to do that on the court sooner than later before management decides to throttle their underachieving club undermining the good pieces and vibes they have picked up in the past two years.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
This appears on nba.com
If MJ’s all right with it: Give Kobe a chance.
by rick olivares (I took the photo from my copy of the book)
When the book “For the Love of the Game: My Story” came out in 1998, there were two NBA players given a page and Michael Jordan’s thoughts – Scottie Pippen, who His Airness affectionately called a “predator,” and Kobe Bryant. At that time, supposedly Jordan’s last year in the NBA, Bryant was in his third season. But the GOAT obviously thought well enough of him to earn a page.
In that page, Jordan asked, “Can Kobe Bryant become a great player?”
I think that even back then, MJ saw something special in Bryant that warranted that special mention.
Sixteen years after that Jordan “endorsement,” the Black Mamba has surged past him on the all-time scoring list to squarely sit in third. It was obvious that Bryant was going to pass Jordan in the all-time scoring list just as he past MJ for the most number of points scored in his All-Star Game history.
With the Jordan loyalists out in force (as are the Kobe loyalists and haters), maybe this should put things in perspective.
In the last page of the book, Jordan says, “There is no such thing as a perfect basketball player, and I don’t believe that there is only one greatest player either.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
“Everyone plays in different eras. I built my talents on the shoulders of someone else’s talent. I believe that greatness is an evolutionary process that changes and evolves from era to era.”
“The evolution of greatness doesn’t stop with me just as it didn’t stop with (Elgin) Baylor, Dr. J (Julius Erving), Larry Bird, or Magic (Johnson). The nature of evolution is to continue.”
“Somewhere there is a little kid working to enhance what we have done. It may take a while, but someone will come along who approaches the game the way I did. He won’t skip steps. He won’t be afraid. He will learn from my example just as I learned from others. Unless they change the height of the basket or otherwise alter the dimensions of the game, there will be a greater player than me.”
Sixteen years ago, Jordan wondered about how great Kobe Bryant is. Looking at how his career turned out, I sure as heck don’t think he took shortcuts. He certainly didn’t skip steps and wasn’t afraid. And without a doubt, Bryant will go down as one of the best. Possibly even cracking that list of Top 10 players to play the game.
Just as Reggie Miller (who played against Jordan and Bryant in their primes) said of the latter’s feat of moving past MJ in the all-time scoring list, “It’s a truly special career. That’s a heck of a lot of points and a heck of a lot of longevity.”
Miller forgot to mention that Bryant has been relatively injury-free for most of his career (save the past two seasons where he was knocked out for an extended time). His longevity (18 years and counting) and relative durability is a testament to his greatness as a player.
Just as Jordan was quoted as praising Bryant, we too want to see what Kobe will accomplish next. We should just all sit back and enjoy one of the NBA’s all-time greats pour it on in the twilight of his career.
With Jordan’s words, prophetic or not, about players surpassing him. Let’s take at look at where he has been surpassed.
At one time or another, Jordan owned some 200 records in NBA history (all of which he achieved during his time in Chicago). However, since his full time retirement from the game, there are quite a few that have been broken:
Games scoring 20 or more points: 926. Broken by Karl Malone.
Seasons scoring 2,000 or more points: 11. Broken by Karl Malone.
Free throws made in a quarter: 14. Broken by Vince Carter.
Free throw attempts in a quarter: 16. Broken by Ben Wallace.
Consecutive free throws made in a game: 19. Broken by Dominique Wilkins.
Seasons leading the league in steals: 3. Broken by Chris Paul.
Scoring 10 or more points in career playoffs: 179. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Consecutive points in a playoff game: 17. Broken by Ray Allen.
Playoff field goal attempts: 4,497 points. Broken by Kobe Bryant.
Three-point field goals made in a half of a playoff game: 6. Broken by Vince Carter.
Three-point field goals attempted in a half of a playoff game: 9. Broken by John Starks.
Free throws made in one post-season: 183 free throws. Broken by Dirk Nowitski.
Free throws made in one playoff game: 13. Tied by Dirk Nowitski.
Career post-season free throw attempts: 1,766. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Free throw attempts one post-season: 229. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Free throw attempts in a 4-game series, one post-season: 58. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Free throw attempts, regulation, one game, playoffs: 28. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Free throw attempts, half, post-season: 17. Broken by Magic Johnson.
Free throw attempts, quarter, post-season: 14. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Post-season steals, career: 376. Broken by Scottie Pippen.
Field goals made in a 5-game NBA Finals series: 63. Broken by Allen Iverson.
Three-point field goals made, career, post-season: 42. Broken by Robert Horry.
Three-point field goals made, one game, NBA Finals game: 6. Broken by Kenny Smith.
Three-point fields goals, made in half, one NBA Finals game: 6. Broken by Ray Allen.
Three-point field goal attempts, one NBA Finals game: 10. Broken by John Starks.
Three-point field goal attempts, one NBA Finals game: 10. Broken by John Starks.
Free throw attempts, one half, NBA Finals game: 15. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
Free throw attempts, one quarter, NBA Finals game: 12. Broken by Shaquille O’Neal.
All-Star Game points, career: 262. Broken by Kobe Bryant.
All-Star Game field goals, career: 110. Broken by Kobe Bryant.
All-star Game field goals made, game: 17. Broken by Blake Griffin.