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Henry Liao

  1. The Ugly Basketball Mercenary

    How precious is the Filipino citizenship of Juan dela Cruz?

    To many, it?s a badge of honor so sacred that he would even be so willing to die for his country.

    Let no one cheapen or trifle with the word ?Filipino.? It is priceless and not for sale to the highest bidder. You may sell your soul to other countries ? I don?t really care ? but do not do it here and insult the intelligence of nationalistic Filipinos by selling the country country down the river for several pieces of silver.

    It is in this scenario that I say: Good riddance to this ugly basketball mercenary. Sure you had played for the national flag for some time but you, too had been handsomely been paid for your services.
    But now, you have opted out of your national obligations for reasons that no sane hoops follower can fathom.
    Was it all about money? And without a contract? You want more moolah to suit up for the national colors after bankrolling $2.5 million in playing 30 games in five months for a Chinese professional team this past campaign? And because it was not here, you opted out?
    For security reasons? Scared because the FIBA Asia Cup (the precursor of the Asian Basketball Confederation then FIBA Asia Championship) is being held in war-torn Lebanon in the next two weeks (August 8-20)?

    An American, of which you truly are, is scared of setting foot on Lebanon soil? But are you not also a Filipino now by virtue of a ?quickie? naturalization act by Congress that cheapen the value of Filipino citizenship? You acquired Filipino citizenship on a silver platter even BEFORE you had first seen the light of day in the Philippines or eaten balut or adobo; you simply visited the Philippine embassy in New York to secure your naturalization papers there perhaps even believing you were going to be the Savior of Philippine Basketball.

    Some ordinary people who were born and lived here for decades needed some time and effort to obtain naturalized Filipino citizenship, but here is somebody who got one in a jiffy, simply for basketball?

    The Filipinos are a brave race. You only have to look up to our battle-scarred soliders out fighting local and foreign extremists in Marawi City for the past three months.

    And now it?s time that this basketball mercenary to show how Filipino you are, you chickened out. What a blast!

    So close to the 16-nation FIBA Asia Cup then this former NBA journeyman pulled the plug from the national team and left it with an empty bag.

    Sure, Filipino-German Christian Karl Standhardinger is his replacement as the team?s naturalized ?import? but I just wonder why the 6-7, 28-year Munich-born frontliner on the PH contingent, which placed fourth in the club-based 39th William Jones Cup competitions won by Canada last July, has been designated as our ?import? if he owned Filipino blood unless he did not declare any Filipino lineage before his 16th birthday, a FIBA policy to prevent teams from circumventing the one-naturalized-player-per-team rule.

    Basketball mercenaries have mushroomed all over the world because of FIBA?s decision to allow one naturalized player per team (it was two in the distant past). Show me your money and give me some love and I?m willing to play for your country without sacrificing my American (or other) citizenship. This is bastardized basketball at its worst.

    Unlike the aforementioned mercenary on the PH team, I like the attitude of his predecessor Marcus Eugene Douthit who, too, acquired Filipino citizenship through a quickie act of Congress. In the case of this 6-11 native of Syracuse, New York did not abandon ship. The Providen College product, who now plays for the Hanoi Buffaloes in the fledgling Thailand Basketball Super League (TBSL), was relieved by the national basketball federation following a four-year stint due to old age (he?s now 37 years old).

    This brings me to another point. If Douthit officially became a naturalized Filipino citizen on March 11, 2011, why did he have to play as an ?import? for Air21 Express in the professional Philippine Basketball Association league during the 2011-12 season?

    Was there a double standard committed? In the past, some players of Chinese descent who later became naturalized Filipino citizens (Fortunato ?Atoy? Co Jr., for example) also played in Asia?s first pro league but they were considered as ?local? players with no restrictions whatsoever. Is not the sauce for the gander also the sauce for the goose?

    Something is strange. I wonder aloud.
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  2. Young Korean Prospect

    With the influx of Koreans matriculating in various schools in the Metro Manila area during the last decade or so, it?s no small wonder that the more athletic ones have also taken up the national pastime of Filipinos that is basketball.

    It did not take long for Korean Youth Basketball to flourish with the establishment of the Lee Sang Myeon Basketball Club. The youth-based club is named the first player of Korean descent to suit in the local National Collegiate Athletic Association during his stint with the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta Altas during the 2000s.

    One of the products of the Lee Sang Myeon Basketball Club is 13-year-old Korean Lim Geon Woo of Montessori De San Juan.

    ?I started playing basketball when I was eight years old,? said Lim, an athletic 5-7, 154-pound forward. ?A lot of my critics discouraged me from playing basketball since I was small and skinny at the time. But I persisted and persevered as my ambition is become the second Korean to play in the National Basketball Association (after 7-foot-3 Ha Seung-jin, who saw action in 46 games with the Portland Blazers from 2004-06).?

    ?I have worked hard on my game the last few years even as I grew taller and heavier and my skills further enhanced,? added Lim, who was born in Busan to parents Jung Young Mi and Lim Jong Dae.

    Lim?s game has expanded under the tutelage of coach Lee, who took him to his club five years ago.

    With the LSM Basketball Club, which caters to Korean-born students in the Philippines with ages 12 to 15, Lim once chalked up 68 points in a game and earned a number of individual awards along the way. He earned Most Valuable Player and Mythical Five honors in one tournament for his offensive wizardry.

    In an inter-San Juan competition, he knocked in 35 points for his school Montessori de San Juan.

    For a high-scoring marksman like him, it?s ironic that Lim finds more gratification in playing defense. ?It takes a disciplined effort to play defense as defense never rests,? said Lim, ?I have had several games when I could not shoot well but I compensated it with good defense.?

    Lim expectedly is enamored with several prominent players from the professional ranks. Among them are Jayson Castro from TNT, compatriot Lee Sung Jun and Rajon Rondo (New Orleans Pelicans) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) in the NBA.

    ?I like the ?Greek Freak? Antetokounmpo because he?s all-around player,? declared Lim, noting that the Bucks forward became the fifth player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots in the same season during the 2016-17 campaign.

    Lim and the LSMBC team are scheduled to play a series of games in Taiwan this month.
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  3. Is the Triangle Still Relevant Today?

    Is the triangle offense still relevant in today?s basketball scene?

    Modern-day basketball, at least in the sport?s flagship league National Basketball Association, is slowly devaluing the importance of the big men in the middle - the traditional dinosaurs that were the alpha dogs of their teams during the halcyon days of George Mikan, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Nate Thurmond Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O?Neal and even David Robinson ? and turning to a small-ball realignment that has been magnified by the success the Golden State Warriors, who romped away with the NBA crown for a second time in three years during the 2017 playoffs.

    In recent times, much emphasis has been placed on ball movement and teams have relied on the motion offense to ignite their shooting strategies.

    In the NBA, the triangle offense appears to be on the way out as its success is becoming a myth without a team with the right player personnel to implement.

    Phil Jackson, who while employing the triangle won a league-leading 11 championships in the 1990s and 2000s as the top bench tactician of the Chicago Bulls (six) and Los Angeles Lakers (five), imposed the offensive strategy on the woebegone New York Knicks team during his three-year stint as (2014-17) as the club?s president with disastrous results as the Gotham City outfit posted a combined 80-166 record (17-65/32-50/31-51) under Derek Fisher (1.5 seasons), Kurt Rambis (.5) and current head mentor Jeff Hornacek (2016-17).

    What exactly is the triangle offense? Known also as the triple post or sideline triangle, the triangle offense is an offensive strategy in basketball.
    Its basic concepts actually were formulated more than seven decades ago by former college coach Sam Barry at the University of Southern California.

    Barry introduced the triangle offense where players stand in triangular positions on either side of the basketball court to create good spacing between players and allow each one to pass to four teammates.

    Barry?s initial setup employed the simple triangulation setup of the center, who stands at the low post; a forward, who is at the wing; and a guard, who is at the corner, on one side of the court.

    At the other side of this five-player system are the off guard, who stands up at the top of the key, and the ?weaker? forward, who is on the weak-side high post.

    Barry, who was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, ran his version of the triangle with a stocky guard named Morice Fredrick (Tex) Winter.

    When Winter became the head coach at Kansas State University in 1953, he brought Barry?s TO and even made it more complicated with different strategies involving various advantageous moves.

    Winter subsequently immortalized the triangle offense by writing the book ?Triple-Post Offense? in 1962 while at KSU.

    Winter hooked up with the Houston Rockets in the NBA in 1971-72 as their head coach. But after only one and a half seasons at the Rockets helm, he returned to the collegiate coaching ranks.

    Winter did not go back into the NBA until 1985 when he served as an assistant to head coaches Stan Albeck and Doug Collins while with the Chicago Bulls. Through the following years, Winter continued to make refinements on the triangle offense. When Phil Jackson took over the Bulls? head mentoring reins in 1989, he not only installed the offensive strategy full time but also gave it much prominence.

    Jackson hired Winter as one of his assistant coaches during his nine-year stay (1989-9 in Windy City and when the Zen Master joined the Los Angeles Lakers organization in 1999, he also brought along Winter as an assistant. In the next five seasons, the Lakers advanced to the NBA Finals on four occasions and earned three titles along the way behind Shaq and Kobe Bryant.

    Following a one-year sabbatical (2004-05), Jackson returned to the Lakers in 2005-06 and he again sought the services of Winter. The Lakers returned to prominence with back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 behind Bryant and big man Pau Gasol.

    Jackson?s offensive philosophy undoubtedly was greatly influenced by his long association with Winter.

    The 95-year-old Winter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011 under the ?contributor? category.
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  4. A Tall Man's Game

    Height is might in basketball, a game best served to tall men and women.

    Since Canadian physical education instructor Dr. James Naismith invented the game in mid-December 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts to keep young students in good physical shape during the cold months (winter) in the United States, international basketball has been dominated by athletes standing 6 feet and four inches on the average and as tall as 7-7.

    A survey conducted on all of the 449 players listed on the opening-day rosters of the 30 member teams in the National Basketball Association during its 2016-17 season showed an average height of 6-7 and an average weight of 221.4 pounds.

    The average NBA guy: Klay Thompson of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors who was listed at 6-7 and 215 pounds.

    The league?s tallest players were 7-3 Boban Marjanovic (Detroit), 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis (New York), 7-3 Edy Tavares (Atlanta), 7-2 Alexis Ajinca (New Orleans) and 7-2 Roy Hibbert (Charlotte).

    In the NBA?s 71-year history (the 72nd renewal will unwrap on October 17, or eight days earlier than a year ago), the tallest player ever was Romania?s 7-7 Gheorghe Muresan (1993-97 Washington Bullets/1998-2000 New Jersey Nets).

    Next was the late Manute Bol (1985-88 Washington Bullets/1988-90 Golden State Warriors/1990-93 Philadelphia 76ers/1994 Miami Heat). A native of Sudan, Bol was officially measured and listed at 7-6.75 tall by the Guinness Book of World Records.

    At 7-6 were Shawn Bradley (1993-95 Philadelphia 76ers/1995-97 New Jersey Nets/Dallas 1997-2005 Dallas Mavericks), who was born to American parents in the former West Germany; Chinese icon Yao Ming (2002-11 Houston Rockets), the tallest player ever to suit up in an NBA All-Star Game and the tallest player ever to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

    At 7-5 were Sim Bhullar (April 2015 Sacramento Kings), a Canadian who was born in Toronto, Ontario and is the first NBA player of Indian descent); Chuck Nevitt (1982-1983, 1988-90 Houston Rockets/1984-85 Los Angeles Lakers/1985-88 Detroit Pistons/1991 Chicago Bulls/1993 San Antonio Spurs); Russian Pavel Podkolzin (2004-06 Dallas Mavericks); and Montenegrin Slavko Vranes (January 2004 Portland; he is said to have grown to 7-6 after his one-game NBA stint).

    It?s a tall story all right but like a 1977 song from American musician-composer Randy Newman, ?Short People? also have their day in the sun, even in the basketball scene.

    You can be six feet tall and yet be considered a ?small? player in a sport lorded over by hefty giants.

    Undersized Hoopsters like us do not stand a chance against a Gregory Slaughter, a 7-foot American-Filipino born in Cleveland, Ohio who played collegiately at the University of the Visayas in Cebu (the hometown of his mother) and later with the Ateneo de Manila University, or a June Mar Fajardo, a 6-11 mastodon from Cebu who is the best player in the local professional league today.

    Then again, there have been local or international competitions in the past for players below six feet.

    Among them was this international basketball tournament half-a-century ago where there was a leveled playing field.

    In 1967, the first Intercontinental basketball tournament was staged in Barcelona, Spain for players 5-11 or under.

    The Philippines finished third behind world powerhouse United States and host Spain.

    The Filipinos, who represented the Asian zone, were bannered by Edgardo Ocampo, Freddie Webb, Guillermo Manotoc, Joaquin Rojas Jr., Ernesto Morales, Danilo Florencio and Narciso Bernardo.

    Our boys defeated Brazil, the South American representative, and France, the European representative.
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  5. LVSL: How's Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi with the Rockets?

    Las Vegas Summer League (seeds 9-24)

    Philadelphia (1-2) vs. LA Lakers (1-2)

    July 13, 10:30 a.m. today Manila time at Thomas and Mack Center.

    No Markelle Fultz (left ankle sprain) for the 76ers but Lonzo Ball could be back for Lakers after missing previous game vs. Sacramento due to a sore groin.

    Earlier result: Denver 87- Houston 81

    Chinese frontliner Zhou Qi, the Rockets' second-round draft pick a year ago, had 4 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes as a starter.

    Overall, the 7-2, 21-year-old Qi, who inked a multi-year rookie pact with the Rockets last month, has averaged 6.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in four games in the LVSL, including a 17-point. 6-rebound effort in 25 minutes in a 102-99 win over Denver in his Rockets debut.
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