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, May 1, 2015

Post-PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals thoughts: Finesse or rugged?

This appears on the official PBA website.

Finesse or rugged?
by rick olivares

Note. The Commissioner’s Cup Finals series has been dissected on the whys and wherefores about why one team won and why the other lost.

However, I couldn’t help but notice that the last two protagonists of the finals series – the Philippine Cup and the just-concluded Commissioner’s Cup – were between two finesse teams (San Miguel and Talk ‘N Text) versus a pair of rugged squads (Alaska and Rain or Shine). As we all know by now, the finesse teams won it. However, this Rain or Shine-Talk ‘N Text finals was not only one for the books stats-wise (the double overtime Game Seven and the career highs of certain players) but also because of the physicality, barbs and whatnot. I thought there was more verbal jousting here than everything put together from the upcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao superfight. In fact, it reminded me of those titanic battles between Ginebra and Tanduay way back in the mid-1980s.

And I also remembered back when the Chicago Bulls were trying to scale the NBA summit and were up against the physical New York Knicks when Xavier McDaniel tried to intimidate Scottie Pippen. “This here’s a man’s game,” said the man with the shaved head called “X-Man.” Then Michael Jordan waded in an confronted McDaniel.

Oh, the “finesse team” – Chicago, won that 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals series with the Knicks.

Back to home turf, before, San Miguel and Alaska (at least during the Tim Cone years) were the paragons of execution. The Aces, with the acquisition of Calvin Abueva years ago changed their persona almost overnight. Along with Gabby Espinas (before he was traded), Vic Manuel, Ping Exciminiano, and even RJ Jazul (for he played ball for those vanguards of tough basketball since time immemorial, Letran), Alaska had become a more physical team. In fact, they harkened back to the pre-Cone years when the Bruise Brothers, Elpidio Villamin and Ricky Relosa, reigned supreme.

Rain or Shine. If there is any squad that reflects the personality of its colorful head coach Yeng Guiao it is the Elasto Painters. Physical, provocative, and old school where loyalty is everything. They are nothing like his Swift and Red Bull teams. In fact, they harken back to the old Ginebra teams of Sonny Jaworski. In Red Bull, Guiao had Enrico Villanueva and Mick Pennisi. With RoS? There’s Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, Ryan Araña, Chris Tiu, and Paul Lee; an all-tough guy five if there was any. And to think, Guiao once had Jazul and Ronnie Matias.

Those teams of Jawo were said to be composed of discards, the washed up, and unwanted where they resuscitated their careers. Think about it, Beau Belga look destined to be become a journeyman after one year stints each with Purefoods, Air21, and Meralco before finding a home and stardom with RoS.

When I saw Jireh Ibañes in college while playing for UP, I was hardly impressed. Now? He’s a terrific and underrated weapon who can get things done on both ends of the court. A wonderful talent, I think he is his team’s version of Talk ‘N Text’s Aaron Aban, a utility player who plays the role of stopper with six fouls to give. Except that Ibañes is a much better offensive player.

But back to my original premise… that the rugged squads did not win. One might make the case that TNT fought back. And they sure did bloodying Lee and even knocking Guiao (exaggerated or not) towards the bench.

This isn’t conclusive but it would be well to note that in this series, Talk ‘N Text attempted more free throws (183-163) and had fewer fouls (155-188). You really don’t want to send the other team to the free throw line and earn cheap points or to have certain players who you need to be on the floor on the bench.

Having said all of that, can rugged squads win? Of course, Rain or Shine has one. Alaska won one in Luigi Trillo’s first year with Calvin Abueva.

They just don’t win too often.

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