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  1. Call It A Career, Tim. We'll Miss You.

    Tim Duncan hugged fellow All Star Chris Paul after one of the greatest Game 7's in NBA history. They exchanged a few words as they embraced, showing respect. Paul had just hit the game-winner in an epic 111-109 thriller that will go down in basketball lore as one of the best-played winner-or-go-home games ever.

    Give Paul credit. This may go down in NBA history as the "CP3 Game", or the "Chris Paul Channels Willis Reed Game". Paul, easily the best pure pointguard in the NBA if not the world left the game around the middle of the payoff fourth quarter. Turns out he had injured his hamstring, and he headed off to the dugout to get treatment. He would return a couple minuts later with his Los Angeles Clippers only down one against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

    It turned into a meat grinder from that point on. Paul, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin would exchange baskets with Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Duncan.

    In the last three plays of this series, it became Duncan-versus-Paul.

    Duncan fouled Paul with just under 13 seconds left. Paul made both freethrows to give his Clippers a 109-107 edge.

    Spurs head coach Greg Popovich calls timeout with only eight seconds to go. They try to run a play for Duncan. He gets fouled by Redick.

    Duncan, just an average freethrow shooter, sometimes below-average, throughout his career, now has to make two freethrows to keep his Spurs alive. He swished them both to knot the count at 109-all.

    It is now Doc Rivers who sues for time. The Clippers get the ball to Paul, who goes right and then takes an awkward-looking fadeaway that somehow banks off the glass and finds the bottom of the net. That would be the final score, 111-109.

    Paul advances into the conference semifinals, where they are now 1-0 against the Houston Rockets.

    Duncan, for what... the sixth time in his career, will not get a back-to-back title.

    Both men each scored 27 points for their respective sides in this game. Paul did it with an iffy hamstring. Duncan did it with one good leg on his 39-year-old body, and he grabbed 11 rebounds while he was at it.

    Paul just turned 30 and has the rest of these playoffs and many more to look forward to.

    Our attention now must rest on Duncan. Duncan, maybe as early as four or five years ago, had a better than even chance of blocking what became Paul's game-winner. But he's put on a lot of miles on those legs. He's put in 18 years in the NBA, all of them with the Black and Silver. That's over 1,500 career games.

    I think it is time to call it a career.

    Sure, maybe a first-round exit isn't the best way to go for a guy like Duncan. But he's already won five NBA championships. In fact the Spurs didn't start winning titles in the NBA until he arrived. He's a two-time MVP. He's been named to the All-NBA First Team 15 times.

    Popovich said in the post-game interview, “I continue to be amazed by Tim Duncan. He was our most consistent player in the playoffs, at 39. He needed a little more help and I feel badly he didn’t get it. He just does it quietly and that’s why we feel badly when we don’t get it done for him.” That's on the record.

    Sure, Pop will likely say Duncan and Ginobili and he and Tony Parker will likely return for one more go at it next season.

    But for cryin' out loud, even if he could, even if his body cooperated 100%, even if he really wants to, why on earth would we let him?

    A lot of great players don't retire when they still have a lot going for them. A lot of guys think they can still get it done, a year or two or more after they should have called it quits for real.

    Remember Michael Jordan in a Wizards uniform? Remember him making the All Star game and promptly muffing a one-hand dunk he could make in his sleep in his last stint with the Bulls? Or how about Magic Johnson some 30 pounds over his ideal playing weight, HIV-stricken, and mounting a woeful comeback? Remember him getting his rear end whupped by the Bulls in the regular season?

    Duncan was in arguably the greatest game 7 I've seen in maybe the last five years. He lost. But to me, that's fine. He went down fighting. He congratulated the winners with the class he's always shown throughout his career. If that doesn't make for a hell of a last scene in the movie of his NBA life I don't know what will.

    Yes, he may have one, maybe two more seasons of continued all star-level production, but that is more of a gamble than anything else. I don't want to see him getting beaten by regular guys on regular plays. I don't want to hold my beating heart in my hands if he should even take a tumble and not be able to get up right away. I don't, most of all, want to see him in street ...
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  2. Happy 8th Anniversary Gameface!

    When I turned eight years old I was a Grade 2 pupil. I'm not quite sure if the same mental-psychological-physical age applies to Web sites. All I know is that the leading and only true hardcore basketball media portal of the Philippines turned eight this month, and it has been a heck of an experience for everyone, from us site owners to the moderators, forum members including players, coaches, team management, school administrators, faculty and staff, students, even captains of industry and head honchos of Top 500 corporations that have made www.gameface.ph one of the country's most popular online communities.

    Gameface has undergone at least three makeovers over the last eight years, and its Forum, the most comprehensive and most professionally moderated such online community, is still the place to be to get the information on basketball that cannot be found elsewhere.

    More than just basketball though, the non-hoops aspects of life in general are also well-represented throughout the site. Everything from local to international news and current affairs, topics philosophical, legal, financial, artistic, gastronomic and controversial are also found in these virtual pages. Gathered from sources both local and international, the current events forum is a treasure trove of some of the best bits of news, analysis and opinions anywhere in the world.

    As it evolved through the last eight years, Gameface has come to take on more of an international outlook, as it strives to attract an even greater variety and higher quality of membership. Filipinos and other fans of Philippine basketball based overseas have come to find in Gameface an online tambayan to meet and interface with fellow hardcore hoop nuts, and just about anybody with an opinion and a mind to share it.

    "It's been a slow but steady rise I think," said Joseph W Buduan, the chief editor of www.gameface.ph, and one of the original site founders. "It started out as an online tambayan, but now the number and diversity of the membership is just astounding," he added.

    True enough the humble beginnings of www.gameface.ph were inauspicious. There was no fanfare when it came online in August of 2005. There was just a handful of members, a lot of them migrants from other online communities. Within a year though the community had grown to a couple hundred distinct members and the daily distinct hit count was climbing to five digits. Soon Gameface mainstays were being invited to guest on sports talk shows and to interviews for the mainstream media. By 2006 Gameface was already a fledgling media organization getting credentials for all of the main basketball events on the calendar from the PBA to the UAAP to the occasional visit from the NBA and FIBA.

    Gameface has also gone into the other media as well. Basketbolista was the print offspring of the site and covered basketball from every corner of the Globe beginning 2008, including leagues in Europe and the smaller collegiate leagues with only the hardest of hardcore followings in the Philippines. Gameface partnered with the Makisig Network in 2009 to produce Basketball Crazy, the liveliest hour of basketball in Philippine television. Syndicated reruns of Basketball Crazy continue to be enjoyed by hoops-insane Filipinos in parts of the Middle East and mainland Asia. In 2010 Gameface produced Gameface Radio over at 92.3 FM and we were one of the last media outfits to have a comprehensive interview with the late and much-lamented Bobby Parks, arguably the best import to ever play on Philippine hardcourts.

    Now in the middle of the current UAAP, NCAA and NAASCU basketball seasons, and the start of the PBA Governors Cup, Gameface is once again right in the thick of the hoop wars. We are looking forward to providing even greater depth and quality of basketball coverage far into the future.
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  3. Seeing Stars 2013

    In less than a month the annual midseason classic called the NBA All Star Weekend will be upon us once again. Some of the most stellar names from both the West and the East will once again thrill us with their skills and utter disregard for the concept of defense. Of course no one actually comes to the All Star extravaganza expecting a clinic on how the game should be played. They can get that just by watching say the San Antonio Spurs or the Boston Celtics on any given night. What the fans do come for, and this year they will be coming to the great city of Houston, Texas on February 17, are dunks, fancy passes, long long long three-pointers and a few as much hotdog and showboat as the stars can deliver.

    In fan balloting so far no surprises are evident. Fans vote for the five starters (nominally by position, but really two backcourt and three frontcourt players) - a center, two forwards and two guards - while whoever is selected as coach will pick seven other players to make up the bench regardless of position. Bench players used to be picked position-wise as well, i.e. another center, two more forwards, two more guards and two utility guys regardless of position. Fan voting has never been a barometer of talent and skill so much as popularity, hence Yao Ming getting the most votes for a couple of years running thanks to the online votes of those milllions of Chinese fans.

    This year the two players widely regarded as the two who dispute the title of best player in the world are the top two vote getters: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers (with over 1,170,00-plus votes) and Lebron James of the Miami Heat (behind Bryant by only some 20,000 votes at still over 1,100,000 total votes). Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a little over 1,000,000 votes is followed by Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks at third and fourth place respectively.

    Rounding out the respective starting fives are: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, and another Laker in Dwight Howard for the West, then Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, another Heat in Dwayne Wade, and another Celtic in Kevin Garnett for the East. As it was for the Top 2 vote getters, so the rest of the starting units do not show any surprises.

    Allow me however to say that if any changes were to be made, and if I were the omnipotent Hoops God, I'd replace the West's starting center. Howard is playing on an inexplicably awful Lakers team ths season, and is clearly not at 100% capacity after back surgery in the offseason. If anybody deserves to start at center for the West it is none other than the venerable Tim Duncan of the Spurs. At 36 years young Duncan is nearly as old as sin in NBA years. But he has put together his usual boringly productive and efficient season while making sure his Spurs remain among the top teams out west.

    As for the reserves, those would be up to the coaches of course. Although right off the top of my head I'd automatically have Chris Bosh of Miami, Tyson Chandler of New York, Paul Pierce of Boston, Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks and Carlos Boozer of the Chicago Bulls completing the East roster. That would make for a high-skill and balanced roster for the East. It should be interesting to see how Anthony and Garnett will get along after their chippy game a few weeks back that saw Anthony get suspended one game by the league. Rondo will also be interesting to watch since he will start alongside Wade and James, two guys he does not really take a fancy to and about which he has not been shy to say so.

    For the West I would need to have the hometown heroes Jeremy Lin and James Harden from the Rockets (of course!), Duncan since it looks like he won't be a starter but should be, Zach Randolph of the Memphis Grizzlies, Lamarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers, Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma and another Grizzly in Marc Gasol. Gasol beats out his older brother Pau and Dirk Nowitzki because he's 100% healthy, which is the same reason the popular Kevin Love is not on my roster because of his recently broken hand. Lin still has about 24 hours to get voted into the starting five, which would make Paul part of the West bench.

    You'll notice I do not have any rookies on either roster, in spite of the terrific play of Damien Lillard of Portland. I also do not have Stephen Curry, David Lee, Monta Ellis and a whole host of other top vote getters. I simply think that for all the showmanship for this particular game that the coaches still need to go for the win, and these rosters have all the elements that will better ensure that. I don't see any of the guys left off actually being much better than the guys I want to play, so no loss there, really.

    Speaking of coaches, Vinny Del Negro of the Clippers and Eric Spoelstra of Miami deserve ...

    Updated 01-16-2013 at 09:49 PM by gameface_one

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  4. Clippers New Kings of LA

    Los Angeles is a basketball town. There's no two ways about it. There is simply no other sport in the city that is as associated with winning and winning big than basketball. From Jerry West to Wilt Chamberlain to Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Magic Johnson to Shaquille O'Neal to Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles has always been associated with basketball greatness.

    Los Angeles is also the only NBA city that has two teams. And while the Lakers and their purple and gold are the dynasty, the Clippers have been associated with nothing but bad tidings since, in the words of one writer, before Milton was Berle. Where the Lakers have 16 NBA championships, the second most in the league behind their famed rival the Boston Celtics, the Clippers have been in and out of the draft lottery so many times they may as well have a VIP Box to the event.

    That is no longer true. In fact, the opposite now holds.

    At 25-6 as of this writing, the Clippers are on top of the NBA standings. Did you feel weird reading that? Because I sure felt weird writing it. I cannot ever recall a time the Clippers were ever leading the NBA standings. Ever. Sure, they've been to the playoffs a couple of times. But compared to the Lakers who seem to make making the playoffs a booked trip every year, the Clippers were seldom if ever mentioned in the same breath as the post-season. Even as the "other" LA team is leading the league, the once-mighty Lakers are at 15-15 as of this writing, having made the worst start ever to the season in franchise history at 1-5.

    This was not how it was supposed to go. After all, the Lakers brought in Dwight Howard, a Defensive Player of the Year, and Steven Nash, an MVP, and they retained both Bryant and Pau Gasol. This was supposed to be a team that would march back into the NBA Finals and reclaim the championship that the LA faithful claim as a birthright. Injuries to some key players however saw the Lakers unable to play together as a full unit throughout the preseason, effectively throwing a wrench in the works.

    As for the Clippers, they went an immaculate 16-0 in December, ending the year with a 17-game winning streak dating back five weeks. Although they lost to the Denver Nuggets 78-92, they still accumulated enough wins in that historic December run to stay on top of the leader board. They matched the 1971-72 Lakers and the 1995-96 San Antonio Spurs as the only NBA teams to ever go a full month undefeated. Even the Celtics, Chicago Bulls of the Michael Jordan era, and other great championship teams have not pulled off such a feat. Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro was part of that 1995-96 Spurs team as part of the starting backcourt along with Avery Johnson. "I never thought I'd be part of something like that again," Del Negro beamed in one interview.

    What they need to watch out for now is once again becoming the sad-sack Clippers of yore. When a franchise is not used to winning, even an amazing run can be offset easily enough by a bad loss, which is the case with their game against Denver. Veteran pointguard Andre Miller led the Denver assault with 12 points and 12 assists, while Danilo Galinary led the Nuggets with 17 points. Four other men scored in double figures for Denver. "It just makes it easier for them, being on a hot streak like that, which is what makes this a huge win for us," Miller said after the game.

    LA however didn't seem that bothered by the loss. "The good thing about the NBA is that you have another game, and another chance to get back on track," said power forward Blake Griffin. One can only hope that those words can be backed up by action, as there is still a lot of history to overcome on the part of LA. As of this writing they were still playing the Golden State Warriors and the Warriors were handing them their arses. As amazing an accomplishment as going 17-0 is, the Clippers need to focus on the end result every NBA team wants: the NBA championship.

    Therein lies the real challenge for Del Negro, Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers: they have to make it into the playoffs and play good, strong ball to make every other contender accept the fact that they are for real. Every season brings a strong season from a team no one expected to perform all that well. The Houston Rockets in Hakeem Olajuwon's title reign were like that, as were the Memphis Grizzlies the last two seasons. It is all about making the playoffs and actually playing ball so well it either gets you the championship or at least the respect of your peers. "As good a job as Vinny's done for the Clippers, they still need to contend to be taken seriously," said a rival Western Conference team executive.

    Granted these Clippers have a lot of good players on the current roster. Griffin and Paul are All Stars who are joined by players who were also All Stars or nearing that level: Caron Butler, Jamal Crawford, ...

    Updated 01-03-2013 at 09:40 PM by gameface_one

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  5. The Best Player

    One thing about the Christmas holidays it is a time of reunion. Family, relatives, friends, sometimes from way back, somehow find their way home and everybody is catching up and generally having a good time. One thing you can count on with the men in the family and the circle of frineds is that there will always be a discussion over the holidays about some of the neverending arguments in the sporting world.

    As huge basketball fans, my friends, uncles, cousins and neighbors had one running thread in common throughout the Christmas holidays: Who is the best basketball player in the world today? I should clarify that we meant the best active player now, so the retired legends of yore such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Michael Jordan of course do not count.

    Everyone had answers, counter-answers and as soon as the holiday booze was in full pour there were many clever, crass and sometimes even philosophical answers, and yes the occasional near fisticuffs when some of the, um, discussants just plain had too much alcohol in their systems.

    One other point of clarification: we talked only about the players in the NBA, our logic being pretty linear, i.e. the best players in the world are all in the NBA (or want to be) regardless of nationality and thus the best player in the world must be someone plying his trade in the NBA. That automatically excluded the likes of Theodorus Papaloukas of Greece and Fahdi Al Katib of Lebanon (or is it Syria, anyway...).

    Apparently it came down to three players, all of who should be familiar to even the casual basketball fan: Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant. Criteria for judging of course was a merry mix of many things. Some of us trumpeted the numbers like personal statistics such as career averages in points, rebounds, assists, etc. There were some who made championships won a primary factor, and some who added quality of opposition vis-a-vis titles. All of this made some sense and of course made the arguments and counter-arguments not only interesting but really rather fun.

    My personal choice is of course Kobe Bryant, right now the most successful of the three with five championship titles and two Olympic gold medals. Bryant looks like one of those players who will be a one-franchise superstar from draft day to retirement. It helps that he is on the NBA's glamor team, the Los Angeles Lakers. This is the guy who once scored 81 points on the force of sheer will to not let his team lose to the lowly Toronto Raptors. James and Durant, for all their own gifts, have not come close to that personal mark.

    A lot of guys of course chose James because while Kobe was "spoiled" by being with the Lakers, James has pretty much been The Man the moment he entered the league with the draft class of 2003. James, on a mediocre at best Cleveland Cavaliers team, singlehandedly brought his guys to the NBA Finals in 2005 and lost to the clockwork San Antonio Spurs. Whatever else anyone may say about James and the much-publicized "Decision" that brought him to Miami, without him the Cavaliers would never have seen the NBA Finals. James alone made that team competitive.

    When James brought his talents to South Beach, he became The Man in only his second season, finally winning his first NBA championship last season. True, he has Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for teammates, instant and clear upgrades over Boobie Gibson and Anderson Varejao, but when the chips were down it was James that delivered the Crown to Miami.

    And of course some of the guys just had to bring Durant into the conversation. With the craptastic season Bryant and the Lakers have so far endured, it is easy to bring up Durant as an all-world talent, which he truly is. At 6-foot-11 Durant is a freak of nature by any standard, able to put the ball on the floor and pull up from up to 25 feet, swoop in for put-back slams, grab even long rebounds on sheer height and length, and defend anybody from a pointguard to a power forward. He's also led the league in scoring in at least two of the three years. Durant's only missing piece of hardware is the most important: an NBA championship.

    Since Bryant has such a headstart on both James and Durant (he was drafted in 1996 as an 18-year old high school graduate) it would not really be fair to just do a stat count. Having Shaquille O'Neal as his teammate in Los Angeles, including three NBA title teams where O'Neal was the Finals MVP, would also negate any claims of true individual greatness.

    Sheer talent would be a crap shoot as well. All three have nearly equal talent levels in terms of the fundamental skill sets in basketball. All of them can run, jump, change directions, drive, shoot, fly, improvise, pass, rebound and defend. Even though they might not all precisely be at equal levels, none of them have a clear advantage over the others in ...

    Updated 12-28-2012 at 01:18 PM by gameface_one

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