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
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
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.
Renaldo Balkman is a world-class basketball talent who has had previous stops with the Denver Nuggets and the New York Knicks. He is a superb athlete and shows a complete skill set, to go with his relentlessness and tenacity on the court. Unfortunately, it has not been that hard to set him off.
Even before this Commissioners Cup conference got started, Balkman had already shown what his temper was like when he had a run-in against the Alaska Aces in an out-of-town pre-tournament game. Ironically it was against Alaska anew that this latest incident occurred.
It all started when he was whistled for a foul against Alaska import Robert Dozier. Dozier had sealed him off under the basket, got a good entry pass and was about to score on him when Balkman grabbed him and was naturally whistled for a foul. He then complained vigorously about that call, also making contact with the referee that whistled him for the foul and remonstrating with the official. From this writer's vantage point near the baseline area where that last bit of action took place, I certainly could not see what Balkman was complaining about. He let Dozier get good position on him, and when Dozier was about to score, Balkman did the only thing any player in that position would do, he fouled the guy.
I seem to recall that Cyrus Baguio was also in that play somehow. I think he was grabbing at Balkman's arm afte Balkman had been whistled for the foul, probably because Baguio didn't hear the whistle right away and thought Balkman had gotten the steal off his teammate Dozier. That might have been what Balkman was complaining about to the referee. Still, getting in the ref's face is hardly the thing to do.
Petron assistant coach Biboy Ravanes walked onto the court to try and calm Balkman down since the referee looked good and set to hit Balkman with a technical foul. Balkman pushed Ravanes away. Then his teammate Ronald Tubid, a veteran in the league, also tried to get between Balkman and the referee, and Balkman pushed Tubid away too. Balkman then went up to another referee still apparently wanting to get in someone's face. Tubid and then Alex Cabagnot still were trying to restrain him, with Cabagnot even pleading with the ref with both his hands up.
Finally superstar teammate Arwind Santos got between Balkman and the other referee, with Tubid and Cabagnot still there trying desperately not to have their talented import tossed by the officials. Balkman then turned his ire on Santos and got into a yelling match with his own teammate. Then something just snapped and Balkman grabbed Santos by the throat in an apparent attempt to choke his own teammte. Santos wasn't about to have any of that and promptly grabbed Balkman's throat right back. At that point the entire Petron coaching staff left their bench to restrain their own guys, with no less than big man Dorian Pena physically separating his two quarelling teammates.
At this point the game was already out of reach of Petron, but after that incident it was clear the Blazers would be out of it in mroe ways than one, eventually losing to the Aces 83-73. Balkman, who was averaging 28 points epr game to lead the conference, was held to a paltry six points in this contest, explaining why he just plain went postal even against his own teammates.
That game was not the only thing Petron lost however. Yesterday, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud came down hard on the naturalized Puerto Rican, banning him from the PBA for life and imposing a P250,000 (a little over $6,000) fine. Salud banished Balkman for "going after the referees, ignoring and refusing to be pacified by the Petron coaching staff and his teammates and for choking teammate Arwind Santos" according to one report.
"I also took into consideration Balkman’s evident disregard for … the host country’s sensibilities highlighted by his choking act on-court, in full public view, of his own teammate,” the Commissioner said in one statement. “Stiff as it may be, this decision upholds the tenets of contextual accountability and the overall interest of the league and its fans,” the statement added. Balkman's case was not helped by previous incidents including the out-of-town game and a FIBA Americas game where he got into an altercation with a Venezuelan player.
Frankly this action taken by the Commissioner is one I applaud. There should be no room in the PBA for this kind of thuggery. That he got into a couple of referees' faces might, just might, be understandable, and I might even understand how he'd refuse to be restrained by his own coaches and teammates. A lot of guys get like that when they are having a bad game and/or they are getting the shit kicked out of them with all sorts of stunts by opposing defenses. Choking your own teammate though is the last straw. It is a good thing Salud kicked him out and kicked
Consultants are a funny thing. Whenever I hear someone say their occupation is "consultant", at the very least I roll my eyes, and most times I just want to punch their faces to pulp. Isn't that right, Praxedes?
Consultants are basically people who to me are a waste of an organization's money. These are guys who come in and basically have the ear of the top bosses, but have no real duties or reponsibilities to the company. They are not an organic part of the company, and sometimes run afoul of the people who have worked in the company for years, and who know the company inside and out.
This brings us to two guys curently serving as consultants to PBA teams: Joe Lipa of Globalport, and Rajko Toroman of Barako Bull. Unlike consultants in the business and corporate world, these two gentlemen are a different sort of consultant.
In the Globalport-Barako game last night which Barako won in overtime 98-88, both of these men were the ones giving instructions and drawing up plays in the critical last minute and a half of regulation and crucial stretches of overtime.
Lipa was clearly telling their import Justin Williams and the rest of the Batang Pier what to do on defense after a Globalport turnover. That should have been the job of head coach Junel Baculi, who was not even in the camera frame at that critical juncture. Baculi did not even have enough presence of mind to call a timeout as soon as Barako's Joshua Urbiztondo, one of the game's heroes, nailed a three-pointer to bring the Barakos within 83-86 after being down as 76-86 at around the two-minute mark.
On the other side, Toroman was the one who drew up the last play that allowed Mark Macapagal to get a perfect lateral inbound pass from the baseline, fake Williams off, then take a side step and three-pointer that sent to game into overtime at 86-all. Again, the Barako head coach, Bong Ramos, was nowhere to be seen in that last huddle, and with the game on the line to boot.
If corporate and business consultants were anywhere as involved and invested as Lipa and Toroman, consultants in general would probably enjoy a much better reputation.
Both Lipa and Toroman are long in the tooth in terms of basketball wisdom and experience. Toroman was the man who dethroned Chinas as Asia's basketball powerhouse, when he mentored the Iranian national squad to the FIBA Asia championships and the Olympic slot that went with it back in 2008. That was quite a feat considering China was still anchored on former 7-foot-6 NBA All Star Yao Ming. He steered the Smart Gilas squad to a fourth-place finish in the Manila edition of the FIBA Asia championship two years ago.
Lipa for his part is the only coach to have led the University of the Philippines to its lone UAAP title, back in 1986 with a team anchored on legends Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc, and then-MVP and current NU head coach Eric Altamirano. He also handled the national team that included Paras, Magsanoc, Alvin Patrimonio and Jerry Codinera for at least half of the 1980's.
These two are referred to as "active consultants", which should make Baculi and Ramos wonder as to their job security. Norman Black, current TNT head coach, was a consultant for the Tropang Texters when Chot Reyes was still their head coach, and he was not as engaged during game time as Lipa and Toroman are now. Toroman was even interviewed by the press after the Barako victory, as if he was the head coach.
"It is a miracle we won tonight," he said. "Our plan before the game was not to give Sol Mercado penetrations and outside shots to Gary David and Willie Miller. Our plan was to let Japeth (Aguilar) shoot the ball," the Serbian explained. That plan almost cost them the game, as Aguilar shot well from the field and finished with 23 points, none however in overtime. "Luckily Mark (Macapagal) made the last shot to force overtime," he added.
What would be a real miracle is if Baculi and Ramos keep their jobs until the end of the year.