In scientific circles, there is an age-old debate about what side of the human being takes precedence: is it the natural side or that side nurtured by society and all its values? In other words, what really defines the human person, is it her nature or is it how she was nurtured? We will not get into any such philosophical debates here. You can go visit The Stone, a highly intellectual section of the New York Times for that. We will instead take a look at the nature versus nurture debate in terms of local basketball.
This came to me as a good friend and I were having dinner. We have had this discussion countless times, and it has been running for at least the last three years. I guess that is what happens when to (oldish) guys who happen to be hoop junkies become friends.
He has always maintained that nothing beats talent, and that no amount of training or coaching or patience or hardwork, or even all the prayers to God above, would ever replace sheer, natural, inherent talent. He contends that in the NBA and the PBA, the highest levels of competitive basketball in the world and locally, those who succeed, who become year in-year out All Stars, are the ones with talent, and only the ones with talent. Mind you, he didn't say athletic ability, just talent. So for him, while Larry Bird is no athlete, certainly he is a heck of a talent, ditto Bird's good buddy Magic Johnson. Michael Jordan is that rare mutant who had both talent and athletic gifts.
We've been to at least three Junior NBA national camps, and he continues with his line of thought: none of the kids we've ever seen named camp MVP or tournament MVP there will become PBA All Stars, with the possible exception of Kib Montalbo, and he still thinks Montalbo has at best a 10% chance of becoming a PBA star guard in five or six years. He has an even lower opinion of kids in Milo BEST and any other basketball camp.
His line of thinking is very simple: superstars past and present like Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Vergel Meneses, Nelson Asaytono, Johnny Abarrientos, his guy Vic Manuel, Calvin Abueva, June Mar Fajardo never went the Milo BEST route. They most likely never even got any "scientific" or "core skills" training in high school, and yet there they are, hoop gods in the PBA pantheon.
I try to counter with examples like Benjie Paras, Jerry Codinera, Jun Limpot, who are all Milo BEST graduates. He said, and quite rightly, that basketball camp did not make Paras 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds of sheer athletic ability, and certainly did not teach Paras how to do his gorilla dunk. There are guys who never attended a single kids basketball camp who also have the footwork, agility and ability to work the post and the lane and everything else Paras did as a PBA MVP.
He points to guys like Fajardo and Abueva, guys who certainly never attended a UAAP or even NCAA high school, and thus never got the benefit of training and learning here in Manila. Fajardo, he said, was even asked to join the Gilas Pilipinas national team as early as three years ago to learn more, and yet it seems Fajardo is doing just fine in the PBA even without having gone to Gilas. Fajardo is averaging nearly 11 points, seven rebounds and a block a game, while Abueva is in the Commissioner's Cup Finals averaging nearly 12 points, nine rebounds and a block a game.
He then rather derisively points to the likes of Nonoy Baclao and Rabeh Al-Hussaini, two guys who came in 1 and 2 in their draft class. Both of them have been shuffled off to at least three different teams in the last two to three PBA seasons. Neither of them is being heralded as a PBA star, although Al-Hussaini was named ROY in 2010, and was joined by Baclao on the All Rookie Team. "What happened to all that training from Norman Black that supposedly made them PBA star material?" he would sneer. "Good for one year only, rookie year pa kung kelan hindi pa sila masyado binabantayan?" he'd sneer some more. Al-Hussaini and Baclao are averaging nearly eight points, five rebounds and half a block between the two of them.
Pointing to Game 5 of Talk N Text's semis versus Barangay Ginebra, he was practically a livewire, wondering why Al-Hussaini, at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, playing for Black, the man who made a UAAP MVP and champion out of him, was losing minutes to the pushing-40 John Feriols, a man easily four inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter. TNT would go on to lose that game, with Feriols still pulling in a near double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in spot minutes. "Akala ko ba ginawa siyang magaling ni Black? Tapos si Feriols pa mas ginamit kesa sa kanya kung kelan crucial, maliit na nga import nila, season on the line, kay Feriols pa mas nagtiwala si Black," he exasperatedly pointed out. "Si Baclao naman na Number 1 pick bangko, ni hindi maka-10 minutes per
With the NBA Playoffs about to enter the Conference Finals stage for both East and West, it is time to take a look at the players who have so far been boons and banes in these playoffs.
Bang: Stephen Curry, Guard, Golden State Warriors
Steph is averaging over 27 points and nine assists so far in these playoffs, and he has been a heck of a leader for a Golden State team that was for years an underachieving bunch. All Star power forward David Lee went down with an injury and yet Curry still found a way to help his Warriors even their second round series at two game apiece against the savvy San Antonio Spurs. He's been shooting like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western and he's been making all of his teammates better, especially second point guard Jarret Jack, on the drive-kickout.
Bust: Jeremy Lin, Guard, Houston Rockets
Lin, the Harvard graduate who was last season's feel-good story of hanging in there and making the most of a big break, was just awful in his first NBA Playoffs against the then-rampaging Oklahoma City Thunder. Ranged against the speed and athleticism of the Thunder perimeter, Lin wilted for a woeful average of four points per game on 25% shooting. Lin punctuated this unmitigated apocalypse of a playoff debut with a chest contusion.
Bang: Zach Randolph, Power Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
When it comes to the top power forwards in the league, Randolph is always in the conversation. For a guy who is by all accounts far from the chiseled, sleek and buff prototype of the modern NBA power forward, he certainly knows how to put together consistent double-doubles and keep his team in the Win column. He totally outplayed jumping jack Blake Griffin when his Grizzlies ousted Griffin's Clippers in the first round. Now he is making life difficult for the Thunder with his crafty moves and patience operating inside.
Bust: Dwight Howard, Center, LA Lakers
With all the injuries the Lakers had going into the playoffs, there was only one way they would make their first round series against the Spurs competitive: Howard would have to dominate inside. A four-game sweep later, and the big man who would be the future of the NBA's most glamorous franchise was mumbling through media availability. Tim Duncan and the rest of the Spurs went to town against Howard and what was left of the Lakers, beating Los Angeles by double digits in each of those four first round games.
Bang: Paul George, Swingman, Indiana Pacers
Paul George was the NBA's Most Improved Player and deservedly so. He is averaging over 18 points and nearly nine rebounds per game in these playoffs. He brought a rare combination of size, length, athleticism and all-over-the-place scoring to help his Pacers down the Atlanta Hawks in the first round. If they catch enough of a break here and there they might face the reigning champion Miami Heat in the East Finals.
Bust: Blake Griffin, Power Forward, LA Clippers
Anybody who thinks Griffin is a great player is seriously deluded. This is a guy who can hardly drop step, really doesn't know his way going box to box at the NBA level, and gets rebounds only through his crazy leaping ability. Griffin MIGHT become a great player someday, and certainly someone only 24 years old, 6-foot-10 and with his strength and athletic ability will surely if slowly learn the game. For now though, the earth-bound but cunning Zach Randolph just took him to power forward school in the first round.
Bang, Honorable Mentions:
Klay Thompson, Off-guard, Golden State - Thompson is making a living playing off the brilliance of Curry in the Warriors' perimeter. His dead-eye shooting is certainly making the second round against San Antonio still very much a toss-up.
Chris Bosh, Forward-Center, Miami Heat - Bosh has finally abandoned all notion of his being part of a Big 3 in Miami, and as a result he has allowed the transcendental play of LeBron James make him the most valuable teammate in the NBA.
Tim Duncan, Center, San Antonio Spurs - A lot of people tend to forget how old Duncan is (pushing 40...) because he still maintains a high level of play and anchoring the inside. He is the one, true reason the Spurs are still a contender even though their three superstars at advancing in age.
Bust, Dishonorable Mentions:
Andre Igoudala, Off-guard, Denver Nuggets - For all he's done, including becoming a US Olympian, Igoudala remains just a second-tier star in the NBA. A lot of Denver fans were looking to him to step up in these playoffs. Instead he and the Nugs crashed whimpering out of the first round.
DeAndre Jordan, Center, LA Clippers - A young, dynamic, athletic 7-foot presence, Jordan still has yet to develop anything resembling a real game. He got pushed around by
Ginebra-Alaska. One would think it a retro match-up of two teams that had a mini-rivalry going in the 1990's. With many mornings after clouding my memory I think the last time these two franchises met was in the 1997 season, when former Seattle Super Sonic Chris King helped the then-Gordon's Gin Boars beat Tim Cone and the rest of Alaska.
It is now however the 21st century, and both teams are nowhere near those teams from over a decade and a half back. Barangay Ginebra is now led by former Ateneo superstar pointguard LA Tenorio, while the Alaska Aces have leaned on the mega-motor of former San Sebastian sueprstar forward Calvin Abueva. Tenorio led his team with 28 points in a do-or-die Game 5 versus an undermanned Talk N Text side. Abueva continued to live by his rugged enforcer's play to tow the Aces over erstwhile defending Commissioners Cup champion San Mig Coffee in four games. Tenorio may try to make a statement in these Finals against the team that traded him. Abueva on the other hand will once again try to prove that his Coach Luigi Trillo is a legit PBA coach after all.
Trillo is seeking his first ever PBA championship as a head coach, while his Ginebra counterpart Alfrancis Chua is seeking his second PBA title in his first head coaching stint with the Ginbra franchise. Trillo, whose previous coaching stints were marked by underachievement (perennial UAAP doormat at Adamson University in spite of a loaded roster) and inexplicable losses (lost ironically to an Adamson-based team in the PBA D League Final 4 while coaching a vastly superior Cebuana squad that even had a twice-to-beat advantage), has been looking like a coaching genius, basically for drafting The Beast and then letting Abueva be Abueva. Chua took over from the unpopular Siot Tanquincen, and then had the good enough sense to let Tenorio be Tenorio.
Although the two local superstars will take center stage, the imports will bear close watching as well. Robert Dozier is the last original import standing in the conference, making it all the way to the Finals with averages of over 20 points, 17 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game. At 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, the Alaka import will need help to match up against Vernon Macklin. Macklin has been a bull of an import for the Gin Kings at 6-foot-10 and 235 pounds, averaging over 23 points, nearly 15 rebounds and over three blocks per game. He came in as a mid-conference replacement for the ineffective Herbert Hill. Dozier is more of a hustling utility forward while Macklin is the classic bruiser inside.
Other match-ups worth noting are at the center and swing spots, where 6-foot-8 Sonny Thoss and 6-foot-7 Kerby Raymundo will likely engage in a for-real retro match-up between two battle-tested veterans of the low post and lane. Thoss has been a steady inside presence for the Aces, while Raymundo has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the Gin Kings. Both centers are accomplished going box to box and are expected to bring the full arsenal and then some. At the swing spot, veteran 6-foot-1 flyer Cyrus Bagio will be going up against newly-crowned 6-foot-3 slam dunk champion Chris Ellis. Baguio has become a complete swingman in the PBA, while Ellis is showing a lot of the promise that made him a high first round pick. Whichever of them gets going from the lanes to motor up their team's transition game will have an advantage.
In other match-ups, Tenorio will most likely see Number 1 pick JV Casio in front of him at the point guard spot, while Abueva will probably have the venerable Rudy Hatfield for company at the 3 and 4 spots. Tenorio and Casio both had superb semi-finals, with Casio helping put TNT away in their Game 4 encounter with crucial hits in the payoff fourth period. Both men share similar player traits, but Tenorio has the advantage in terms of speed and cutting up halfcourt defenses. Abueva will prove to be a handful for the veteran Hatfield, and it should be interesting to see if the H-Bomb can really keep in step with The Beast. "I always thought Abueva would develop into something like Hatfield coming into the PBA. But now I think he's actually much better than Hatfield at the same stage," said one veteran PBA talent scout.
One thing that should make for an even more exciting Finals is how Abueva will conduct himself in his first championship series against arguably the most popular team in the history of the league. Abueva has been openly getting in the faces of everyone in his rookie year, and many veteran PBA watchers are just waiting to see who finally puts the newcomer in his place. He may have found the team to get that done with Ginebra, a team that normally has at least 4/5 of any venue on its side. Abueva got complaints from up and down the San Mig Coffee organization for his rugged play and borderline-dirty tactics. If he is of a mind to keep that up against Ginebra, and that
Updated 05-14-2013 at 11:37 AM by gameface_one
If there was ever a time to think that the old dynasties have reached their end, these 2013 NBA Playoffs might be it. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, the most celebrated and decorated of the NBA's franchises, have bowed out of the playoffs. Each team seemed to just limp off the court. LA was swept clear out of the first round by the venerable San Antonio Spurs. Boston fought for six grinding games before yielding to the New York Knicks in the second round.
For each franchise, and given their current overall travails, their current franchise foundations may have finally called it quits as well. Kobe Bryant didn't even make it into the playoffs, having ruptured his Achilles tendon after playing eight straight quarters without rest as the Lakers made a surge in the last two weeks of the regular season to try and catch the last playoff berth in the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, Kevin Garnett walked off the Madison Square Garden floor with his head bowed, exhausted as all hell as his coach, Doc Rivers, took him out in the dying seconds of their Game 6 versus the Knicks. "You all right, Doc?" was all Garnett could say to his coach as he made his way to the Boston bench.
Bryant underwent surgery on the broken tendon and will be ought a couple of months at the very least, healing, recovering and getting into rehab. "I hope to get back to being 100% healthy and playing again," Bryant said before the oepration. Garnett also has a banged up body that has seen many NBA wars, and will most likely retire or wind up as trade bait for GM Danny Ainge, making his future in Boston uncertain. While trades are unlikely for Bryant in LA, he might also be pondering deeply about what his future holds. At least Garnett managed to end this season on the court and playing hard, essentially holding his own fate in his hands.
Both men are at advanced ages for elite NBA sueprstars. Garnett turned 37 years old this year, while Bryant hit 34. Bryant has been playing close to 17 years, Garnett 18. It is sometimes difficult to imagine that both men actually skipped college ball and turned pro right out of high school, each precocious livewires when they entered the league as teenagers. They were held up as the poster boys of a new breed of pros making the jump from prep school to the L, with newly-crowned league MVP LeBron James their ultimate heir.
Their journeys in the pro ranks ran parallel, as they spent almost all of their careers as Western Conference Rivals. Bryant came to the Lakers in the 1996 draft through a trade with the Charlotte Hornets, as then-LA GM Jerry West sent veteran 7-foot-1 Yugoslavian center Vlade Divac to Charlotte to get the teenaged son of NBA journeyman Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Garnett was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995. Bryant would go on to win five NBA championships with the Lakers, thanks to partnerships with Shaquille O'Neal, Phil Jackson and Pau Gasol. Garnett would get the Timberwolves into the Western Conference Finals only once after unceremonious first round ousters. Garnett would get his own NBA championship in 2008 with the Boston Celtics, along with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen beating Bryant and the Lakers. Bryant would get back at Garnett and the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. Bryant's five titles with the Lakers are part of 16 total NBA championships for the Purple and Gold. Garnett's lone NBA title with the Green and White kept them ahead of the Lakers with 17. "Those two will be major parts of the lore for each of those great teams," said Alan Taule, a former college coach and student of the NBA.
Both men are driven, cunning, some would even say ruthless, merciless hardcourt warriors. They have had their fair share of ups and downs throughout their respective careers. As admired as they are by fans, the media and their peers, they also strike a number of the same constituencies as overbearing, trash-talking jerks. Both are accomplished at talking trash and planting the occasional elbow into an opponent's midsection or lower back. Both are also known to get in teammates' faces, and call out their fellows who they think are not living up to their lofty expectations. No one however will ever question the spirit, the obsession, the religion, these two guys have with winning. "They were all about winning, even KG when he was on those struggling Minnesota teams, they led by example, and when their teams won it was because they were right up there leading the way," Taule explained.
Like all things though, good and bad, all of it will come to an end. Indeed, this seems to be it for these two battle-hardened basketball gods of war. Pierce will most likely be moved at all cost by Danny Ainge while the veteran swingman still has relatively high trade value. Once Pierce is gone Garnett will most likely retire. He still has
This was one truly news-filled Holy Week on the basketball front.
First recent Best Import awardee Jamelle Cornley got himself arrested for basically going apeshit after he was supposedly robbed of $1,400 by a trio of hookers in the picturesque Quezon City district of Morato-Timog. Cornley apparently trashed the room he let out to, in his words, "have some fun" with the three whores after he woke up post-"having fun" and discovered that the $1400 in cash he had in his wallet was gone. Among other things he destroyed a computer and the glass door of the bar of the hotel where he took the hookers.
Naturally the establishment's people called the cops, and when they showed up Cornley reportedly took off his shirt and basically dared the authorities to try and take him in. At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds of power forward muscle that would take some doing. He was eventually brought to the nearest police precinct where he was still reportedly being out and out beligerent and hostile. He even wound up hitting a policeman on duty at that precinct, with said policeman having to be taken out of harm's way on a stretcher.
Needless to say Cornley spent the long weekend in jail, only being let out on bail this morning. Atty Mamerto Mondragon of the Rain Or Shine group, and last conference's Chair of the PBA Board of Governors, personally took Cornley out of lockup. He also urged Cornley to face all the charges against him, including assaulting a person in authority and malicious mischief.
PBA Commissioner Chito Salud was not amused. “Mr. Cornley is not currently associated with the PBA in any manner whatsoever,” Salud emphasized in one interview.
“Be that as it may, I’d perhaps take the occasion to remind our players that playing in the PBA is imbued with public interest, and they are thus subject to close public scrutiny within the context of higher standards and expectations. If the allegations and charges in this incident are proven to be true, I see Mr. Cornley as having zero chance of playing in the PBA again, at least not under my watch.”
As for Rain Or Shine, Mondragon said the team is supportive of their former import. "May pinagsamahan na kami, so hindi namin siya pababayaan. Pero he already has his own lawyer, so bahala na sila kung papano gagawin nila sa kaso na ito," Mondragon said after escorting Cornley out of the Camp Karingal facility.
What have I to say about Jamelle Cornley after this incident? What a dumbass. Quite simply, there was no excuse for what Cornley did. QCPD Station 10 Commander, Superintendent Marcelino Pedrozo Jr, and QCPD Director, Senior Superintendent Richard Albano, will be pursuing this case, especially as one of their men was injured in the line of duty. Cornley is following in the footsteps of "ugly American" imports such as Tony Harris, Carlos Briggs, Dexter Shouse and lately, Renaldo Balkman.
Why can't all PBA imports be like Bobby Parks?
Parks succumbed to the throat cancer that was once thought already beaten over the weekend. he was 51.
Parks was a seven-time PBA Best Import who showed a complete game and won a number of championships. Through it all he was the perfect gentleman both on and off the court. I recall one game in his very first conference in the PBA, that must have been the late 1980's, he was playing for San Miguel Beer, and they were going up against the rugged Ginebra San Miguel squad of Sonny Jaworski. Parks was taking so much of a beating he was at one point playing with cotton balls up his nose. Jaworski was called for a foul in one rebounding play when he sneakily undercut Parks sending the import to the floor nearly horizontal. He never retaliated, and in fact was never involved in an on-court fracas, never got suspended, never got any bad press, never got involved in any shenanigans or scandals.
We had the privilege of interviewing Parks live on Gameface Radio a couple years back. Parks had returned to the country because his boy Ray was playing for the National Univesity Bulldogs. It was quite an interview, stretching to two hours on what was supposed to be a one-hour show. Joe had a heck of a time trying to get the normally loquacious other Gameface members in the booth to speak up, so in awe were they of the seven-time Best Import.
This is the kind of import we all long for. Not only was he immensely talented, but he was also a genuinely nice guy. Salud has already announced that the PBA's Best Import award will now be named in Parks's honor. “Bobby Parks, a seven-time PBA best import awardee, epitomized everything we could hope for an import: highly skilled, hardworking, respectful of host country rules and sensibilities and a perfect gentleman on and off the court,” said the PBA Commissioner in an official statement.