Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 11, 2007

Collegiate Champions League 2007- Sets and Bets

By Migs

The Collegiate Champions League is just around the corner.

Who’s excited? I’d bet you are.

Last year, the UE Red Warriors edged the San Beda Red Lions, 66-59 to claim the CCL crown. I think that this year, more attention ought to be given to this competition, as the popularity of college hoops in the country seems to be at an all time high. Nabbing bragging rights to being dubbed as the “best of the best” should be enough incentive for the media, and the players, to act like it were “3pm in the Big Dome”, so to speak. 

The leagues participating in the CCL are as follows (thanks to http://wikipedia.org for this):

Now I realize that most people who have gotten so accustomed to the NCAA and UAAP flooding the airwaves might scoff at the hardwood credibility of the provincial leagues cited above. Do know, though, that many of the Philippines’ best ballers didn’t walk down the same path as the Rico Villanuevas, Joseph Yeos, Yousif Al Jamals, or Jason Castros of this world. A lot of them started in small markets, then made it big later on. 

Leyte native and former 4-time PBA MVP and champion Ramon “El Presidente” Fernandez was a graduate not of Letran, or Ateneo, or La Salle, but of a regional school in the University of San Carlos, based in Cebu. During his tenure in the PBA, Fernandez won a total of 19 champions, and is currently the all time leader in blocks and rebounds (consequently, he’s 2nd in steals and assists, too).  

2 time PBA MVP Abet Guidaben studied in the University of San Jose Recoletos. He finished his career with 15, 775 points, 2nd all time, and 8,570 total caroms, also second all time.

So you see, it’s not what school you come from, really. It’s what you make of the opportunities you’re given.

The 2007 edition of the CCL should feature a lot of intriguing matchups, and should serve as a sort of “primer” for hoop fans across the nation with regards to getting a glimpse of basketball of tomorrow’s “who’s who”.  Arao versus Ekwe? Maierhoffer versus Al Jamal? Chris Tiu versus Ogie Menor, or maybe the next big thing no one’s heard of? It’s all possible, and it’s all happening soon.

More information will be coming your way about the 2007 CCL as the days wear on.

~0~

Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 9, 2007

UAAP Swing- Black and Blue.

by Migs

In a recent article in the sports section of the October 9 edition of the Manila Bulletin, writer Waylon Galvez reported on a supposed alumni-led initiative to replace Ateneo Blue Eagles coach Norman Black following yet another UAAP season which ended with the Ateneans staying on the outside looking in. For die-hard Blue Eagle supporters, the fact that arch rival La Salle is currently atop the UAAP mountain only serves to douse vinegar onto an open wound.

The CBA, NBA (he played 3 games for the Detroit Pistons in the 1980-1981 season) and PBA veteran, on paper, seems to be on the hot seat. In my view, though, Black’s job is safe, at least for now. The Green and White being the champion aside, I think Norman’s done a more than commendable job of steering the Eagles towards the side of the fence where the grass does indeed grow…err…greener, or, in this case, “bluer”.

I feel that all this talk about Norman Black being a monumental disappointment as a UAAP coach, and all this talk about Black being on the way out in favor of RP team coach Chot Reyes (who is consequently related to current Blue Eagle Jai Reyes, and former Blue Eagles Eric and Jun Reyes), is quite unfounded, in that, it has come in zest. The bitter taste of having come so close to the finals is still very much fresh in the mouths of those from Loyola Heights, and I don’t think anyone in Blue and White can ever quite forget what happened against UST in 2006. In time, though, these wounds should heal, and in time, Norman should get at least one more crack at winning a UAAP title (he has 1 year left on his contract). Although Zion Laterre and Ford Arao are leaving the Eagles after this season, Coach Black will still have Chris Tiu in tow, along with prospects like Nonoy Baclao, Raymond “Bacon” Austria, and, if indeed the rumors are true, high school stalwarts Ronjay Buenafe (from San Beda) and Carlo Lastimosa (from a provincial branch of Ateneo; yes, he’s related to former pro-baller Jojo “Jolas” Lastimosa). Next year’s lineup should give Coach Norman enough to, at the very least, contend.

In basketball’s “real world”, contending is half bad. Actually, “contending”, in itself, is quite an achievement. The world should not get restless if the Eagles don’t win a title every year, or even every other year. These things take time to pan out. If Norman can’t bring a title to Loyola Heights after next year, then it might be acceptable to begin discussing changes up top. For now though, support is what he and the rest of the squad needs, not idle gossip.

To say that Coach Black’s been an utter disappointment would be an exaggeration. If you were Coach Bogs Adornado of Adamson, for instance, or Coach Joe Lipa, formerly of the UP Fighting Maroons, then, you’d have something to complain about.

Black guided the San Miguel Beermen of the PBA to a grand slam in the late 1980’s. That alone should take some sort of precedence on his part, beyond the mere fact that Ateneo hired him to be its players’ mentor on the hardwood.

With all due respect to Chot Reyes, or to anyone who thinks that he (she) can duplicate, or eclipse the job Norman Black has done with the Ateneo Blue Eagles, I think that that person, or any other people within Ateneo who are adamant about changes being made, ought to be careful about what they wish for. It’s been a while, after all, since the woebegone days of Ryan Pamintuan, Rainier and Brandon Sison, and John Verayo in the late 90’s which saw the Eagles become perennial doormats in the UAAP.

If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. Just tweak.

Abrupt change can, at times, turn a bright sky, bleak.

~0~

Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 8, 2007

UAAP Finals Swing- DLSU Wins It All; UE’s Rise and Fall

010448_100707dlsuue56cm2.jpg

(Photo courtesy of RPSports.com)

By Migs

After 63 games, including a series of stepladder matches that saw all contests being decided by less than 10 points, a season wherein a Growling Tiger emerged as the league’s Most Valuable Player, after a season which saw the emergence of a formerly oft-maligned Ateneo Blue Eagles center, after a season which saw a team go totally unblemished through the first two rounds towards gaining an outright UAAP finals berth, and after 20 days of inactivity for the mighty UE Red Warriors, the UAAP has a new champion.

That champion is one clad in green, with bow and arrow in tow.

Yesterday afternoon, the De La Salle Green Archers validated their return to prominence with a resounding 73-64 victory over the stunned UE Red Warriors. After romping through rounds one and two of the 70th Season of the UAAP, the Warriors went on a 2 game slide. Unfortunately for them, the two bouts they came up on the short end of were those which mattered the most in the greater scheme of things.

Archers JVee Casio and Cholo Villanueva were named co-UAAP finals MVPs, and in front of a jam-packed Araneta Coliseum in Cubao city which house 18,067 paying patrons, De La Salle ascended to the ranks of college basketball’s elite once again, while the UE, which, conceivably, had all the momentum in the world coming into this exciting, albeit brief, finals series, ended up singing an all too familiar tune- one which spoke of relinquishing an edge, and handing over the Holy Grail of success on a silver platter for the opposition to enjoy.

Back in 2002, the UE Red Warriors, led then by James Yap, Paul Artadi, Ronald Tubid, and Nino “KG” Canaleta came into the UAAP final four at second place. They faced the then Larry Fonacier, Rich Alvarez, and Enrico Villanueva spearheaded Ateneo Blue Eagles, who, with the help of the unwavering faith, the Man upstairs, and a deadeye jumper from reserve Gec Chia, kicked the UE Red Warriors to the curb. The Blue Eagles defeated the De La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP finals that year towards winning their first title, then, in 14 seasons.

Last year, the UE Red Warriors entered the final four, again, in 2nd place. The controversial Bonifacio “Bonbon” Custodio was then the team’s star, and due, in part, to Custodio’s off-court shenanigans, the Warriors were left without a primary scorer in their second game loss against the eventual champions, UST.

Yesterday did not only mark De Lasalle University’s 7th championship, on the 7th day, of the 7th year of the new millennium, but it also heralded the entry of the UE Red Warriors into the a dark room in the hallowed halls of UAAP history reserved for those who, despite showing a ton of promise, end up wilting under the pressure brought about by expectations tied into being the forerunner for grabbing glory by the horns. How the institution will rise up from this disappointing defeat is anybody’s best guess. The Ateneo Blue Eagles suffered a very painful loss in the 2006 UAAP finals. They followed up the mentioned setback with a trip with a 3rd place finish in the 2007 season. Not bad, if you asked me.

Furthermore, De La Salle followed up being UAAP pariahs with being the kings of the hardwood. So you see, nothing is impossible.

Ending UE’s 22 year title drought is, actually, beside the point here. At least one win in the finals would have dispelled talk of UE being a team full of chokers.

Because De La Salle manufactured a sweep, Borboran, Lee, Arellano, and co. will have to deal with donning even a little bit of the “choker” label for some time to come.

I don’t think that Coach Dindo Pumaren can be blamed for the Warriors’ collapse. Yes, this is not the ‘85 squad with Caidic and Codinera and Jimmy Mariano for a mentor on the sidelines, but hey, I think that the younger Pumaren ought to be given credit for getting as far as he did, despite talk that the team being one absent of a “superstar”/go-to-guy was a sign that it wouldn’t make too much of a dent on Season 70. The 2007 UE Red Warriors won ballgames on teamwork and emphasis on basketball fundamentals like spacing the fastbreak defense and offense.

Being in the finals posits an atmosphere that differs very much from being involved in an elimination game. I think that the boys in red weren’t quite prepared for the pressure of being a 14 and 0 finalist. Additionally, I think that that pressure, coupled with the knowledge that the Green Archers were hot, and were experienced in terms of dealing with championship situations, thrown in with the fact that they had come off a 20 day basketball hiatus made the Warriors doubt themselves well before tipoff in game 1. The effects of being under duress showed glaringly. 32 turnovers in the opener, followed up by 21 in the second game? Missed freethrows at critical moments? A normally stifling halfcourt press quelled by thousands of eyes expecting you to totally trample upon the competition? A normally efficient motion offense gone sour due to the death of usually torrid shooting and the proliferation of missed layups?

With all due respect- the Warriors looked more like the 2007 Maroons in the finals, especially in the second salvo. As much as UE supporters and basketball pundits can say that UE shot itself in this brief series, do credit Franz Pumaren and Gang-Green, in the same breath, for having been able to capitalize on the opposition playing scattered. Needless to say, the blokes from Taft grabbed the crimson fighters by the neck, and, ala “300″, sent them careening down the slopes of basketball infamy (infamy in terms of having blown their best shot in years at winning it all).

For now, La Salleans everywhere have reason to rejoice. The UE faithful, meanwhile, has a year to sit down, reflect, and wonder what went wrong. After the smoke clears, a couple of other gladiators, in the form of Eagles, Falcons, Growling Tigers, et al, will be gnashing a the teeth to get a their respective opportunities at tasting ultimate victory.

So goes another year in your UAAP.

~0~

Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 6, 2007

UAAP Finals Swing- Round One To Green

By Migs

Yesterday bore a damning message to the once undefeated UE Red Warriors,

“La Salle’s got your number, and what’s more, one more loss, and you’re on your way home.”

63 points, 60 rebounds, and 32 turnovers later, the De La Salle Green Archers, led by Tyrone Tang’s 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists, and JVee Casio’s 12 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 assist, escaped with a win over the UE Red Warriors. The boys in red were paced by Hans Thiele’s 7 points, 16 rebounds, and 1 block, Marcy Arellano’s 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal, and Mark Borboran’s 13 points and 8 rebounds.

In my view, La Salle didn’t “win” the game. They “stole” it. UE shot itself in the foot by committing 32 turnovers, a season high for any team in the UAAP (Ateneo had previously held the dubious record with 29 turnovers in a pivotal loss to National University), and it didn’t help that they seemed flustered, at times, when JVee Casio and Tyrone Tang sacheted down the throat of their zone defense. Perhaps the “sweepers” were rusty? Perhaps the big game atmosphere daunted the UE stars, who, after all, are all at the big dance for the very first time?

Butterflies and inexperience aside, Coach Dindo Pumaren, in my view, has to find a way to quell the following Green Archer “hotspots” if his team hopes to live to see Game 3:

-Improve perimeter defense and overall defensive rotation: Cholo Villanueva, Tang and Casio live and die on transition, and on screen and rolls. La Salle got too many open pull-ups in Game 1, and because UE couldn’t always respond in kind, or handle the contests’ pressure in stride in terms of execution, they paid for their lackadaisical stance on D. This has to change if they intend on winning the second round. Man for man, the Warriors and the Archers are pretty well matched. It all comes down to who executes the sets in a more disciplined way.

-Give Mark Borboran more touches on offense: The UE Red Warriors don’t necessarily have a superstar player they can turn to on offense, but it cannot be denied that forward Mark Borboran is their best option going upcourt. Borboran is an inside outside lefty threat who, for certain stretches in Game 1, had a height mismatch working in his favor when up against La Salleans like Cua and Villanueva.

Why go to Mark Fampulme in the low block on a crucial possession when you have Mark B. on your side? Sure, UE dialed him up to take the final shot of the game, but still, I would’ve tried to given him many more cracks at the hoop than he did. Maybe if he had gotten a solid twenty points, UE would have claimed victory.

There is such a thing as being “too unselfish” after all.

-Speed up the tempo of the game even more: The UE Red Warriors are kind of like the Phoenix Suns of the NBA- long, athletic, and quick. What do the Suns do when things go rough? Why, speed the game up even more, of course, and rely on the savvy of their floor general (in this case, it’s the very capable Marcy Arellano), to see them through. UE can afford to push the tempo every time down the floor. La Salle will probably continue to look to employ a similar strategy come Sunday, and since UE is the bigger team size-wise, one might think that Dindo’s boys out to resort to slowing things down and subjecting themselves to playing a knockdown-dragout sort of ballgame. Why stray from your strengths, though? I think UE should keep the pace quick, and while La Salle might be able to keep in step through several stretches throughout the ballgame, I think that UE’s usually accurate playmaking and athleticism should see them through to victory. A La Salle kind of game is one that has a deliberate pace (so as to create opportunities for their bigs), with flashes of speed (for Tang and Casio who like to score on the go). While the Red Warriors should seek to hasten the game’s pace, they should not forget about maintaining their poise in relation to the basics (swinging the ball around, giving their main guns touches, etc). La Salle likes to screen and roll and let Tang, Villanueva, Casio, and Malabes “snipe around” for buckets. The red side can counteract this on offense by spacing out their men well, and cashing in on openings created off good ball movement. Quick passes, coupled with an athletic 5-prong attack from all angles, in the open court, is where UE shines the most.

Although I have told friends in the last couple of days that I personally feel that La Salle’s hunger will find a way to snag the title from the pressure-layden Red Warriors’ fingertips, I think UE still has a legitimate chance to turn their Game 1 “disaster” (it was chaotic by UE 2007 standards) into a Game 2 triumph. Step one towards doing that will be to just relax, and then from there, execute.

So breathe we shall, and return to this arena of thought once Sunday comes.

~0~

Posted by: sportsandbeans | October 1, 2007

UAAP Swing- A Sea of Green and Blue

dsc00327.JPG Watching an Ateneo-La Salle tiff in the UAAP is a feast for the senses. Consider this- 23,000 screaming fans, a tight ballgame hyped up over days and days of speculation, and a ticket to the UAAP finals awaiting the victor at the end of the road.What you get after all that, if you’re a paying patron, is 3 hours or so of excitement and drama that’s worth every cent you paid Araneta, or your scalper friends, for that matter (a special thank you to the latter, by the way).

I was at the Araneta Coliseum today for a knockout contest between Ateneo De Manila University and De La Salle University, two of, barnone, the most popular teams in local basketball today. The Archers won the said battle, 64-60.

At the end of it all, it was nice to have seen Ateneans applauding La Sallites, and La Sallites applauding Ateneans. It was nice to have had the chance to witness a ballgame sans dirty fouls, and punching, and throwing of seats, and fans fighting in the major arteries of the Big Dome after the final buzzer. What the world saw this afternoon was a healthy rivalry in action. A lot of thrills were put in motion. A lot of shouting, and cheering, and teasing. No spills though, and no below the belt shenanigans worthy of making a call to the UAAP board, or the cops.

I wish I had gone to the mass that followed the game, though. I should have gone instead of having gone home and just settling in for the night. I really do feel for the Ateneo team every year, not only because I am an Ateneo alumnus, but also due to the fact that, well, I love sports, I love basketball, and because I would’ve killed a hundred goats to have been part of that team when I was in college. Sadly, those goats have run off ahead of me. I’m sure there will be opportunities left for me to take advantage of in relation to making my sports dreams come true (fewer, but significant nonetheless).

Today made me feel proud to have Atenean blood coursing through my veins. No institution is flawless, but Ateneo does quite a good job in making those that walk its hallowed halls strive for the very best, and learn to walk on their own two feet when things get rough.

Animo Ateneo. ) And yes, it is the truth- I do love “this” game. What’s to really abhor about it, any way?

Posted by: sportsandbeans | September 25, 2007

UAAP Swing- Admu/La Salle 4

By Migs

With the way games have gone down in the last few weeks, is it any wonder that the UAAP is the hottest ticket in town?

Everyone loves Fall Out Boy, and everyone has felt all nice and fuzzy because of Elliot Yamin’s recent visit to Manila, but nothing can quite match the intensity and the drama brought about by Philippine Collegiate Basketball tiffs, particularly those between arch rivals De La Salle and Ateneo De Manila University.

On Thursday, for the 4th time this season, Ateneo and La Salle will tussle, and this time, for the Eagles, a loss would mean the end of an all-in-all decent season.

Keys to a La Salle Win:

For the Green Archers, I think that big games from their wingmen could very well spell triumph (no pun intended). Ateneo’s defense will most likely clamp down on JVee Casio, so, others like Walsham, Villanueva, Tang, Mangahas, and Malabes will have to chip in. Both Ateneo and La Salle have decent big men in Baclao and Arao for the Eagles, and Maierhofer, Co, and Ferdinand for the Archers. La Salle will have an edge in this case terms of overall athletic ability. Guys like Kish Co and Rico Maierhofer can most likely outrun and outjump Arao, Al-Hussaini, and Baldos (Baclao, maybe not), which would give the boys in green a distinct advantage should the game become an up and down affair. In order to ultimately win this gritty battle of will, La Salle will have to speed up the ballgame, and take well-timed perimeter plays and exploit Ateneo having a tendency to be slow in transition with quick passes and cuts to the cup. Also, the Archers need to show composure towards the end game. No more Bryan Ilad flings to the head, please. La Salle doesn’t need such recklessness at this critical point in the 2007 campaign.

On defense, the Archers probably should do a 2-3 zone, so as to put more emphasis on clogging up the interior where guys like Baclao, Arao, and Baldos, do their damage.

Keys to an Ateneo Win:

First off, the Eagles should not ride the wave of their resounding triumph over UST too much. Any overconfidence at this juncture would hurt them, considering that there’s enough of an emotional downpour involved with playing arch rival La Salle. Being too pumped up on Thursday could drain the Eagles so much that they’d lose poise down the stretch.

In terms of basketball fundamentals, I believe that Coach Norman should eschew using guards Jai Reyes and Eric Salamat for prolonged periods. Jai and Eric are more of one-on-one players as opposed to distributors, and because the Eagles lineup is littered with cagers who aren’t uber athletes (even Tiu isn’t quite like JC Intal, nor is Ford Arao like someone like Japeth “The Future” Aguilar), crisp ball movement and flawless spacing on the court becomes all the more important. Against a team as proficient in full court defense as La Salle, there exists minimal room for coast to coast Steve Nash-like-in-his-days-unde-Don Nelson theatrics. For Ateneo to succeed, they need to slow the pace down and take advantage of their post players, and turn the contest into a halfcourt game so as to leave room for easy rebounds, drive-and-drops, and screen and rolls.

On defense, I feel like the Blue Eagles need to play 3-2 zone. That way, they can cover La Salle’s wing players adequately, while managing to clog up the paint should guys like Maierhofer and Walsham post up or try to sneak in for takeaway caroms.

As with any big Ateneo game, the Eagles will need an exceptional performance from an unlikely source to help push them over the top (penchant for drama? absolutely). In my view, I think that on offense, the dark horses ought to be Yuri Escueta and Kirk Long. If Yuri and Kirk manage to find cracks in the La Salle interior defense, then such would open up avenues for drive and dish plays to Arao and Al Hussaini for easy hoops, or open jumpers for Tiu or Barracoso. On defense, the keys will be 5th year man Zion Laterre, and rookie sensation Nonoy Baclao. Laterre, whose uncanny boxing out ability should result in easy rebounds, and La Salle’s cutting game to, even slightly, go awry (forcing the Archers to take jumpers is the way to go, because size wise, they’re the smaller team), needs to play enforcer to set the tone for Ateneo playing hard-nosed basketball in a high stakes game (this would do wonders for their confidence). Nonoy Baclao wearing JC Intal’s old number is no coincidence, as the 1st year cager’s athleticism around the basket suggests. He may not (and never) be (become) the offensive force Intal was in the amateur ranks, but what Ateneo bid for after their loss to UST in the 2006 season was his long-armed interior D. Once this kid manages to get more of a back to the basket game, the Eagles may very well find themselves in the hunt for gold well beyond the UAAP’s 70th season. This native of the Visayas could very well spell the difference between someone like JV Casio or Rico Maierhoffer getting 5 points, or 25 points. Should the Birds manage to “decelerate” the ballgame, and control the paint, then Loyola Heights natives will be in Cubao, once again, come Sunday.

The Verdict:

All the Ateneo-La Salle matchups have been tight this season, with no game being decided by double digits. Now, all the chips are down, and although a lot of strategy is involved, who wins and who goes home will also depend a lot on who is able to withstand the pressure. The La Sallites have a lot of young players who have never been too far into the postseason, while the Eagles have a lot of wily veterans who should find the final four/step ladder landscape quite familiar. At this point, I feel that Ateneo wants the wins more, but maybe, the team from Taft is more equipped, top to bottom, to steal at least one game to book a date with the mighty UE Red Warriors. The struggle should be close, but I feel that more “reckless” talent could just overcome slow and steady basketball savvy. Ateneo has a tendency to fumble the ball a lot when going against a team that is quick on the perimeter, and one that likes to press. Quick perimeter defenses can tend to stymie the Eagles shooters and their “stand still” bigs. The Archers, on the other hand, may seem to rely on one dimensional plays, at times, to win (i.e. JV Casio ISO, Maierhofer/Walsham, etc lurking around to rebound), but for Thursday (or Sunday), their talent should see them through the distraction that is Ateneo De Manila. The twice to beat caveat will be the killer here. 2 people can’t beat Michael Jordan, one on one, twice. Being the great player that Jordan is, he will, in a figurative sense, find ways to win. Talent can do that. Staying within the system (i.e. Ateneo) has it’s limits. Once the signals within that system are scrambled, then recovery should prove to be a tall task. Talent, on the other hand, can still lift you up out of the grave, no matter how flustered the majority of your comrades are. Think the Bulls of 1998 against the Jazz. Stockton and Malone were great because of the pick and roll. Because they were “effective”, Utah was effective. Jordan and the Bulls looked lost at times in that series, but what got them through in the end? Jordan’s unparalled on-court smarts and basketball talent, of course.

I rest my case.

My prediction = The Archers lose on Thursday, then win on Sunday, to claim the second UAAP finals slot.

~0~

Posted by: sportsandbeans | September 3, 2007

Padding Pockets? =)

by Migs

With the acquisition of former Sonic forward Rashard Lewis, the Orlando Magic suddenly have the opportunity to make a whole lot of noise in the lowly NBA Eastern Conference.

Did they sell their soul in the process, though?

I’ve read many articles, and listened to a whole lot of interviews between scouts and basketball analysts lately regarding this matter. One consensus emerged- the Magic have hamstrung themselves because of the Lewis deal.

With Rashard Lewis, you get a guy who can easily net you over 20 points a night, while getting you anywhere from 6-8 rebounds. He can shoot the 3, and is insanely athletic at 6,10″. Pair him with Dwight Howard, and what you get is a combo that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of opponents for years to come (Lewis is 27, and Howard is only 21).

Does he possess the leadership and game-altering skills of a Lebron, Kobe, or Jordan? I would be inclined to say, sadly, no. At best, he’d be the second best player on a good team- ala Pippen. Paying him $125 Million, over six years, seems to be a little to taxing on the squad’s cap flexibility, no matter how good the cager you’re signing is (most times).

The era of signing players to big, bloated, contracts is passe. The name of the game these days, I think more than ever, is financial flexibility. In addition to this monetary blunder, Orlando GM Otis Smith, and Darko Millicic plus his agent, Marc Cornstein, have started World War III with each other over the Magic’s refusal to honor a supposed verbal agreement stating that Millicic would be resigned, and for more cash. Those in the Magic Kingdom could have at least done a sign and trade for Darko, instead of just letting him walk. This assertion comes in light of the fact that they seemed to have overpaid for Lewis, and that the team seems to be in dire need veteran leadership on and off the court with the departure of the oft-hobbling Grant Hill.

On the brighter side of things, the hiring of Stan Van Gundy as the head coach of the Orlando Magic should prove to be a shrewd move. If his handywork in Miami was any indication, then the Floridians are in for some serious mentoring.

Then again, Howard and Lewis are NOT Shaq and Wade.

Hedo Turkoglu is NOT Udonis Haslem.

Tony Battie is not Alonzo Mourning, post or pre kidney trouble.  

And well, Stan isn’t Riles. No way.

This comes as yet another example of “show me”.

As was alluded to earlier, because Orlando’s in the East, the immediately have a shot at making a big impact. Whether they have enough mustard to making “Magic” happen is another story altogether.

The East ought to be quite the draw this year. Lebron’s Cavs are the defending Eastern champs, the Celtics have been revitalized, and the Magic look good. Despite this, the best still seem to reside out West- that is, as long as the Duncans, Parkers, Nashes, Nowitzkis, Deron Williamses, and yes, Nellies, of this world, are alive an kicking.

=)

Posted by: sportsandbeans | August 29, 2007

Ateneo and UAAP Season 70.

By Migs

Wow, it’s been some time since I’ve written anything here. Welcome back to me!

Okay, we’re in round 2 of UAAP season 70. The UE Red Warriors are kicking major butt, sporting a flawless win-loss record. Returning DeLa Salle University has held on to second place with unreleting tenacity, while schools like National University, defending champions the University of Santo Tomas, and Ateneo De Manila University have been clawing at one another towards nabbing the 3rd and 4th spots (with the way UE and La Salle have been playing, the 3rd and 4th spots seem more like seats over a volcano’s crater than “tickets to the promised land”).

How does Ateneo De Manila fare in the scheme of things? Do they have a shot in hell at getting to the finals, or even winning it all?

The Blue Eagles, like last season, aren’t lacking in terms of size. Severino Baclao, Jobe Nkemakolam, Claiford Arao, and Rabah Al Hussani have provided a lot of muscle in the 3rd and 4th spots. This foursome may be imposing during man-to-man halfcourt defensve sets, but once the game speeds up, they tend to lag behind, leaving rather large pathways in the paint and lanes open for their opponents’ exploitation.

Chris Tiu is in his final year as an Ateneo gunner, and while he doesn’t possess the raw athleticism of JC Intal, or the overall savvy and leadership skill of LA Tenorio, Tiu is a decent defender, and a gifted shooter. If guys like Arao and Jobe can become some sort of post threats, then Chris will have all day to light it up from the outside. How did Larry Fonacier make his money anyway? Why, with steady hands and help from bruiser Enrico Villanueva commanding double teams, of course.

Newbie Kirk Long is to Ateneo as someone like Matt Barnes was to the Golden State Warriors in last season’s NBA Playoffs. Long’s a high energy guard who has a decent jump shot, and a fearless knack for getting to the basket and drawing contact. Yes, his decision making could still use some maturing, but he does have one intangible that Norman Black seems to be trying to hone early on- excellent ball sense. This kid’s got a radar or where every lose ball bounces. That, in turn, allows him to work towards saving possessions, getting garbage points, and making big plays. On the whole, look for Long to be, actually, the X-factor in the Eagles’ success this season, and in those that have yet to be.

Zion Laterre is the more one-dimensional, scrappy, version of Kirk. Zion won’t score 20 on you, but he will salvage for you a possession or two, while maybe scoring on an “and 1” play off a missed 3 point shot. Think of this fellow as the Jerome Williams-ish (known in NBA circles as “The Junkyard Dog”) cager amongst the boys from Loyola Heights.

Two players I am a bit wary of are Jai Reyes and Eric Salamat. Jai Reyes is a JJ Redick sort of player who likes to shoot, but can’t create that much one-on-one. Salamat is the Asian version of Stephon Marbury, someone who has dazzling isolation play skill, but not a good enough a jump shot (not to mention, enough leadership skills to make those around him blossom), to be quite unstoppable. At the head of teams without dominating centers, is a sly one or two. Ateneo doesn’t have that at this point, in my view. What they do have are two little men who require the ball in their hands to be effective.

That, my friends, is not the most auspicious of tags to don at this point in the college basketball season. No, no.

The Blue Eagles will most likely make it to the UAAP Final Four after heated battles with UST and NU, but will most likely fall to either UE or La Salle in 1 game. Personally, I think Ateneo stands a better shot at pulling of an Ateneo circa-2002 via booking a ticket into the final four against the Green Archers. The guys in green have size, like to run, and have a tendency to go one-on-one (i.e. Tang/Casio). So does Ateneo. Through the whole ADMU-La Salle rivalry and the emotions it brings to the table, and what you have, then, is a battle the Eagles can win. It’ll be tight, and if luck in the form of a tiebreaking 3 pointer courtesy of Chris Tiu (enter sound of a thousand shrieking Ateneo girls), a running layup by Jai Reyes, or, a nifty up and under move by Ford Arao comes along at the right time, Katipunan could rock itself all the way into the UAAP Finals. Heck, La Salle is probably the more poised team right now, but I just have a feeling that if good fortune doesn’t carry Ateneo through, the sheer emotion will.

Getting through UE in the big dance, though, is another, maybe improbable, proposition.

The UE Red Warriors have romped through the past season with impeccable ball movement, decent shooting, and adherence to tried and tested offensive and defensive systems. They haven’t strayed, and so, success hasn’t deviated from its course, either. When they swing the ball around, one with even a satisfactorily decent discerning basketball eye will notice a Mike D’Antoni-like feel spread all over the young men in crimson red. It’s the controlled chaos that this discipline prides itself on that will probably beat Ateneo (or La Salle, for that matter) in the long run.

Hey, there’s always next year. Chris Tiu will be gone by then, but true basketball pundits will opine that hope will continue to resonate through the Blue Eagles’ locker room. The UAAP’s playing field has always been rather unpredictable and even season in and season out (sorry, UP, but you’ve been the exception to the rule the last few years). It’s because of this, a glut of (still) pretty decent ballers talent-wise and in terms of sports IQ, and the power of recruitment, that Ateneo will then, and always, have a shot at making some noise.

(Basketball isn’t about your “pretty”. It’s about your “gritty”.)

=)

Posted by: sportsandbeans | July 9, 2007

Who is the King Eagle?

by Milo 

It wasn’t pretty, but the Ateneo Blue Eagles managed to eek out a win against the very formidable Adamson Soaring Falcons last Sunday, July 8, 2007 with the score of 69-63. 

The way it looked, the Eagles are still hurting after the departure of frontman JC Intal, clutch point guard Macky Escalona and big man Doug Kramer as well.  They looked lost at the very start of the game when they quickly found themselves down a pit, 11-0.  The starters couldn’t buy a single basket as they were forced down a corner, throwing up desperation shot after desperation shot.

Suddenly, after having the Tenorios, the Fonaciers, the Villanuevas and the like for the past years, real heroes in their own time for the Ateneans, the Eagles had no leader on the floor that will lead the cavalry charge for this year.  There was no one they could turn the tides in their favor.

The truth struck hard, and struck good as Ateneo’s coach Norman Black scrambled to call a timeout to break the Falcons’ momentum. 

There was no King Eagle. 

As seen in game one, there wasn’t someone who was hungry enough to take the throne vacated by JC Intal, someone like Macky Escalona who has passion and intensity written all over his face that translated into exceptional ball handling and clutch scoring.

As seen in game 1, the men from Katipunan are looking for their floor captain.  However, unlike JC Intal who was touted as the next King Eagle, and eventually lived up to those expectations, this year’s crop may have a difficult time finding that gem of a player.  Yes, a team may live and survive without a floor leader through exceptional teamwork (which they still need to work on a lot).  However, when it comes to a clutch situation or a situation where the team needs a spark to ignite a run, they may scramble and crumble just like what occurred for most of the first quarter.

Let’s look at Chris Tiu, the Blue Eagle who is touted to lead the Ateneans this season.

Talent-wise, the King Eagle title will fall on the young shoulders of one Chris Tiu.  This sweet shooting Xavier graduate proved last season that he was a force to be reckoned with, especially when it comes to his outside shot.  He is very capable of making his own shot, even staying steady in the clutch.  I remember that Norman Black handpicked this guy to lead the Ateneo Blue Eagle team this Season 70 in an interview.

But that’s the problem.  Everyone in the league knows his talent and ability.  With the Ateneo team mostly unchanged this season, the other teams in the UAAP practically know the skill sets of each Atenean player through experience.  I’m not saying that they cannot improve anymore, but rather, the opponents have studied game tape, and have personally tried and tested the abilities of the Atenean roster.  Unfortunately for Ateneo, aside from Chris Tiu, I cannot think of any name in the roster that can strike fear in the hearts of his opponents yet based on the last UAAP season. 

In this light, as seen in game 1, the Soaring Falcons isolated Chris Tiu as the “superstar” and sent out hordes of double teams whenever he had the ball, forcing him to pass to his nearest teammate.  Once he did that, the play broke down and the Blue Eagles seemed unsure what to do next.  They made life difficult for him, resulting in a terrible performance from the supposed heir to that King Eagle title.  1-11 field goal percentage, 3 errors, and 9 points.

At least, Norman Black managed to adjust his game strategy in order to contain the Soaring Falcons.  Plus, a surprise performance from Ford Arao did wonders for Ateneo’s game one win.  The confusion on the face of the help defense was priceless as he was clearly battling whether to double team Arao or not.  After all, Arao was never known to be a spectacular player in the post.

But I digress.

Now here comes Tiu’s challenge that he needs to step up and answer right away.  Is he really that good as seen in his previous seasons in the UAAP, or is his ability only influenced by the top quality players surrounding him before?  If there are no more Tenorios, Intals and the Kramers that will draw double teams and leave Chris Tiu all alone to take the open shot, will he still be that good and effective?  This is the first time that he will experience being one, if not, the best player in the roster.

Yes, he has the skills, but it’s time to see if he is ready and mature enough to take these talents to the next level.

Posted by: sportsandbeans | March 29, 2007

The Depth of Ginebra

by Milo

There’s more to Ginebra than just the Too Fast, Too Furious Tandem of Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa.

When coach Chot Reyes called up the Caguioa-Helterbrand tandem to participate in the national team, many pundits said that Ginebra will have a tough time defending their crown in the Fiesta Conference.  After all, the Ginebra Gin Kings are fueled by this run-and-gun sparkplug tandem, that many call them the “Heart and Soul” of this “never-say-die” team.  There is virtually no one in the league can match the speed and agility of these two Ginebra guards when they kickstart the entire offensive machine of the team.

Their credentials speak for themselves.  Helterbrand was the PBA 2006-07 Philippine Cup Finals MVP, 2005 MVP Sultan Cup in Brunei, 2-time PBA Mythical Five member, 2001 Most Improved Player, 2005 PBA All-Star game MVP, 2002 Skills Challenge Winner & the recently concluded 2007 PBA Philippine Cup Finals MVP.  Caguioa on the other hand was the 2001 PBA Rookie of the Year, 2001 PBA Mr. Quality Minutes, 2005 PBA Mythical Second Team, 2006 PBA Mythical Second Team, PBA 2006-07 Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference, 2006 PBA Scoring Champion, and 7-time PBA All Star.

And these pundits may have proven their point when the conference started.  The Gin Kings dropped the ball to the Alaska Aces, 99-98.  But the Aces needed a Willie Miller jumper to drill the win for the Aces.  The Kings still fought hard and stood ground even without their leading scorer in Caguioa and playmaker Helterbrand.

Since that loss, they never looked back and now play among the top teams in the standings with a 4-1 record.  They got their first taste of victory against the Welcoat Dragons, 99-97.  They tamed the Red Bull Barakos, 111-105 in their second win.  They downed the Coca-Cola Tigers and San Miguel Beermen soon thereafter 101-97 and 102-84 respectively.

Critics may point out that three out of the four games were indeed very close ones and could’ve gone either way.  However, looking deeper in these games, one would notice that there were different “stars” in each game that the Gin Kings has played.

Though one constant factor is their prolific scorer embodied in their import, Rod Nealy, averaging at least 26 points in all their four wins, it was their balanced offense, their different “stars” that made it very difficult for their opponents to focus and clamp down on defense on a singular Gin King.

In their first win, Ronald Tubid and Sunday Salvacion starred for the Kings with 18 and 14 points respectively.  Veteran Johnny Abarrientos also did his share in the point guard spot by filling up the stat sheet with 9 assists, 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

It rained threes in their second win as Salvacion finished with 20 points wih 4 triples. Tubid also scored 20, while Rudy Hatfield and Abarrientos added 17 and 12 each.

The Coca-Cola Tigers managed to lock down Tubid in the third game, but Abarrientos, Salvacion and Mark Macapagal picked up the slack with 16, 14 and 13 points each respectively.  Abarrientos also logged in 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 4 steals, echoing memories of his “Flying A” and 1996 PBA MVP days.

Their blowout win against the San Miguel Beermen was a statement game especially since this team was the runner-up in the recently concluded Philippine Cup.  Yes, we can still win without our top scorer Caguioa and playmaker Helterbrand, and beat you down real good – this win said.  Hatfield contributed 22 points, while Tubid added 14.

Anyone can explode at any given time; a warning signal as red as their team jerseys, but as hidden as a land mine – it’s too late once you step on the hardcourt with them.

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