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.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.
by rick olivares

The new Asian order is here.

Australia has been crowned FIBA Asia Cup champions. They displaced the old order, three-time champions Iran rather mercilessly 79-56.

Both teams were undefeated heading into the gold medal match. It was no contest.

Along with New Zealand, the two countries formerly bracketed in Oceania made their Asian debuts in smashing style.

Australia finished fourth in the 2016 Rio Olympics losing to Spain by a whisker, 89-88, in the bronze medal match.

If you look at the team that topped Asia, only of them competed in the last Olympics and that is center David Andersen. During that Summer Games, Andersen played for Tony Parker’s French side, AVSEL. He is currently with Melbourne United in the Australian National Basketball League.

In case you don’t remember, that Olympic squad is stocked with NBA players.

There was Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Andrew Bogut (then of the Golden State Warriors), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cameron Bairstow (Chicago Bulls), and Aron Baynes (Detroit Pistons). Ryan Broekhoff (Lokomotiv-Kuban in Russia), David Andersen (ASVEL Basket in France), and Brock Motum (Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania) competed in Europe with only three players playing pro ball in Australia in Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings), and Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats).

This current side that thoroughly dominated FIBA Asia competition are all playing at home Down Under.

Think about that.

In this FIBA Asia, Australia, undefeated in five matches, was tops in scoring (92.5) and rebounding (43.0). Second in assists to Korea with 4.8. Third in steals with 9.2 per game.

New Zealand was without any of its stars Mika Vukona, Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, Tai Wynyard, Robert Loe, and Isaac Fotu. These players gave the Philippines a massive headache in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila last year where this squad finished third in a field of six.

Of that team that played in Manila, only Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai, and Sean Ili were in the roster for the FIBA Asia Cup. And they gave a very good account of themselves as they finished in fourth place.

In this continental cup, the Kiwis were sixth in scoring (79.9 points), fifth in rebounding (38.8), 10th in assists (14.8).

New Zealand finished with a 3-3 record. However, their last two losses were in the semi-finals (Australia) and the third place battle (Korea).

Outside the Philippines, if you look at the other Asian powerhouses – Iran, Korea, and China… they are slowly rebuilding.

China features a team that will compete for many years to come. Many of its players who saw action in the Rio Olympics or even the last FIBA Asia didn’t suit up this time around.

Iran has begun its transition. While Hamed Haddadi and Oshin Sahakian probably have one more FIBA Asia campaign left in them, this side is becoming slowly Mohamad Jamshidi’s. others who are coming up include forward Arsalan Kazemi and guards Sajjad Mashayekhi and Behnam Yakhchali. Their concern will be at the four and five spots.

Korea had to turn to some of its veterans who competed in 2014 as opposed to the side that featured in the 2017 William Jones Cup.

Lebanon will lose key players such as Fadi El Khatib and possibly Jean Abdel Nour. Jordan knows that veteran guard Mousa Alawadi is in the twilight of his career as well. They will need others to step up while find new parts to their national team.

The arrival of Australia and New Zealand signify that Asian basketball hasn’t only gotten better but also made it infinitely more competitive.

Christian Standhardinger: breakout newcomer to Gilas

Christian Standhardinger: breakout newcomer to Gilas
by rick olivares

The Southeast Asian Games may only be one game old for Christian Standhardinger but the Fil-German can already be said to be the breakout newcomer to the national team.

From the recent William Jones Cup to the FIBA Asia Cup and now to the SEA Games, Standhardinger is showing why he is going to be a vital cog in the national team machine for years to come.

He has been adjudged the most efficient performer for the country in FIBA Asia with a rating of 15.3 more than four full points than the former two-time best guard in Asia, Jayson Castro.

The 6’7” forward shot 60% from the field in Beirut, 66% from the free throw line while averaging 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds.

During the William Jones Cup, after import Michael Myers, Standhardinger was the second best leading scorer with 11.8 points per game on 54% field goal shooting. He was also the tournament’s eighth best rebounder with 7.4 boards an outing.

In the 81-74 win over Thailand to kick off the Gilas Cadets’ maiden SEA Games assignment, Christian finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He could have scored more and displaced teammate Troy Rosario as the team’s leading scorer last Sunday night but he missed a lot of free throws.

The 28-year old Standhardinger from Munich, Germany grew up playing a lot of sports. “I played every sport — tennis, table tennis, beach volleyball, bowling, swimming, but when my grandpa introduced me to basketball and there was no looking back.”

And when you look at his game, he performs with no frills. No fancy moves. He exaggerated display of emotion. “The one thing you have to understand about me is I am focused,” he said with unabashed honesty. “My concern is being able to do what is asked of me and to contribute. It makes me focused and – how do you say this – goal-oriented.” 

As for his simple style of play, Standhardinger will disappoint you if you postulate that German star Dirk Nowitski is an influence. “I have no basketball idols to be honest,” he fesses up. Not even German star Dirk Nowitski. “Nope. I just played on my own and learning from the games I played. Maybe that is why I have a weird or funky style. But when I am playing my thinking is, ‘how to make my game effective?’"

He parries the accolades and praise that come his way taking everything in stride. “It’s cool,” he shrugs. “But I have so much to learn. And I know that. Maybe that keeps my feet on the ground.”

Christian also admits that wearing the national jersey is an immense source of pride. “It was an easy decision,” he admits about suiting up for the Philippines. “I am proud that I can represent the Philippines. My family is honored as well.”

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Breaking down Lebanon’s win over Gilas

Breaking down Lebanon’s win over Gilas
by rick olivares

It didn’t go well for the Philippines from the get-go. They surrendered an alley-oop dunk, lost the ball for a fastbreak lay-up, and Fadi El-Khatib stroked a wide-open triple to make it 7-0.

Calvin Abueva retaliated with a triple over El-Khatib. But the Lebanese Tiger responded with his second trey.

And that set the tone for the game as Lebanon never surrendered the lead en route to a 106-87 blowout loss; the Philippines second in a row after winning three straight. That loss also prevented the Filipinos from finishing fifth place, their first finish outside the top four since the 2009 FIBA Asia Cup when the Philippines ended up at eighth place.

My thoughts about the loss?

I thought the Lebanon quickly planted their imprint on the game by going strong inside.
The three-point play by naturalized player Norvel Pelle (although he missed the bonus free throw) showed their intent of punishing the Philippines inside.

Without Christian Standhardinger, easily the Philippines’ best inside operator for the tournament, Gilas got carved up inside.

Lebanon owned a massive 44-29 advantage on the boards. And that translated into a 29-10 fastbreak points advantage and a whopping 48 inside points (the nationals only managed 22)!

They also swatted 10 Filipino shots while Gilas only finished with 2.

The Lebanese had plenty of motivation.
They were the hosts and also had a raucous home crowd, they know that Fadi El Khatib could be playing his last games in a national jersey, and they were out to finish a respectable fifth.

The Philippines no doubt has its own dynamo in Terrence Romeo who prodigious scoring feats can be inspirational. But El Khatib despite playing the three-spot put up better stats 36 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists to the Filipino’s 19 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists. In my opinion, more than the scoring, the Lebanese Tiger’s ability to do a lot of things including set up teammates is a massive advantage.

I wondered if the Philippines would come out like a house on fire to avenge the loss to Korea. But Lebanon got the jump on Gilas. I thought that Calvin Abueva and Japeth Aguilar tried their best to turn the tide. Had Japeth’s missed dunk down the middle gone in – who knows – it could have pumped up the team and the crowd even more. Sure, Aguilar later threw down a two-handed stuff but Lebanon had a comfortable lead at that point.

The lack of that stud in the middle hurts.
Norvel Pelle was a game changer for Lebanon. He provided a different dimension with us ability to rebound and protect the rim. And that allowed Lebanon to run.

That instance where the Philippines had a 3-on-1 fastbreak advantage with only Ali Haidar left to defend. Romeo sucked in the Lebanese down the baseline and dropped a pass to Carl Bryan Cruz. Pelle ran back on defense and rejected Cruz’s shot igniting a Lebanon fastbreak and a bucket.

The win over China was good. If you look at the rest of the tournament, we can get by without say, Andray Blatche, for a game or two but ultimately, really miss that big guy in the middle who score and defend.

June Mar Fajardo did his best to hold the fort inside with 13 points and 2 rebounds. Japeth Aguilar added 5 points and 6 rebounds (with no blocked shots). But that was woefully short as the pounding inside killed the Philippines’ chances of eking out a win.

I find it shocking that some quarters dismiss the loss to Korea by saying the Olympics and the World Cup qualification are the main goals and this tourney is a pride. Sure it is but it is also trivializing the loss. So why did we celebrate the win over China?

The fact of the matter is, the eventual finish of this tourney is a jarring reminder not to take things for granted and that we have our work cut out for us. Fortunately, there’s time to adjust for the home-and-away series that happens in a few months’ time.