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  1. End of Summer

    With the start of the rainy season according to our weather bureau and the start of classes this week, that brings the summer to an official end. That means in about a month's time the college basketball season will once again commence. But not before the summer basketball tournaments wrap up though. Fr Martin and Fil Oil would have completed their respective quarterfinals by the time most of you read this. No surprises are expected, with the likes of the Ateneo, San Beda, San Sebastian, National University and maybe Far Eastern University and De La Salle somewhere in the mixed bag of teams who will compete for the two summer titles.

    Interestingly enough, the two great rivals - the Ateneo and Lasalle - may yet end up disputing both summer titles. Ateneo was playing Perpetual Help in the Gabby Severino Quarterfinals of the Fr Martin Cup at the sweltering San Beda gym in Mendiola as of this writing. Ateneo will be taking on FEU tomorrow in the Fil Oil at the Arena. Lasalle will take on University of the East in the Fr Martin quarters later this afternoon, while the Green Archers face a much tougher foe in San Sebastian in the Fil Oil quarters tomorrow afternoon. This would be a first in recent summer tournament history and would be a fitting finale for both tournaments.

    As much as that would be ideal for the rabid partisans of both schools, it will also be a boon for tournament organizers. Ateneo-Lasalle championship fights are always a blockbuster. For the record, Lasalle beat the Ateneo for the fifth straight year during their elimination round encounter in the Fil Oil just last weekend 62-59 behind the game-long heroics of prize rookie Jeron Teng. Teng, the 6-foot-2 swingman who set the new Tiong Lian single-game scoring record last season, led the Archers with 17 points, including a high-pressure three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.

    His feats eclipsed the comeback game of star-crossed Blue Eagle swingman Ryan Buenafe. Still overweight, the 6-foot-2 Buenafe, himself a former high school superstar out of San Sebastian, lead the Blue Eagles with 21 points on 62% shooting. Were it not for a last-second play gone awry with Kiefer Ravena, Buenafe might have salvaged this win for the Ateneo. Still, it was a good game for the man who lost a year in the UAAP due to some off-court drama best left to a Law & Order episode.

    San Beda has not escaped the publicity light themselves this summer. At the start of the summer preseason tournaments, the Red Lions were pretty much penciled in as the incoming NCAA champions. After all they did have the formidable duo of 6-foot-8 African import Ola Adeogun and 6-foot-3 Filipino-American swingman Julius "Juice" Armon. Having these two expatriates in the roster all but guaranteed that the Red Lions would be completing their second 3-Peat, a la Chicago Bulls in the Michael Jordan era. Armon however did not return with the team from their annual summer training in the United States. Some reports have it that Armon decided to forego with a college stint and go straight to the PBA D League when he returns to the Philippines.

    Adeogun has not been spared the nagging bite of uncertainty. Some arcane NCAA rule or other supposedly disqualifies an NCAA athlete from competing in his sport if he has been meted a venue ban in any of the other events. So if a basketball player gets into some kind of trouble at say a volleyball event. and that trouble results in him getting banned from watching any of the other NCAA events, that supposedly disqualifies him from participation in basketball or any other NCAA sport. Does that sound like someone we know? This of course is up for definitive clarification in the coming weeks in that oracular assembly known as the NCAA Policy Board. What happens next is anybody's guess. But one might be tempted to ask who, if any, would benefit from Adeogun being unable to play in the NCAA next season? Ask the nine other NCAA teams.

    Even in the face of these manpower developments, the Red Lions are going into the Fil Oil quarterfinals tomorrow an unbeaten team. They have a battle-tested and veteran core who can win it all with or without Adeogun. We will see the Red Lions in the semifinals of this tournament for sure. Check that, we will see them in the Finals. And they may yet arrange a rematch with the Blue Eagles if the Ateneo holds up its end and makes it all the way themselves.

    NU may have something to say about that though, as the Bulldogs have proven that they are a legit powerhouse now. Apart from San Beda they are the only other undefeated team in the Fil Oil. With 6-foot-3 swingman Rey Parks and 6-foot-6 center Emmanuel Mbe leading the way, these Bulldogs surely will take major bites out of anybody they face. They outlasted the Golden Stags in a rough and tumble elimination game here, and pulled the same escape act against the well-coached Adamson ...
  2. Worst to get Second Best

    With only seven wins in this lockout-shortened season, the Charlotte Bobcats were looking to get better through the draft, because they certainly weren't going to get better through trades. Unfortunately, although they had the best chance of nabbing the right to pick first overall in the 2012 draft, they will have to settle for picking second overall. Number 1 went to the New Orleans Hornets, previously owned by the NBA itself in the pro ball equivalent of receivership.

    Here's how the first round draft order looks like in order from 1 to 30.

    1. New Orleans Hornets

    2. Charlotte Bobcats

    3. Washington Wizards

    4. Cleveland Cavaliers

    5. Sacramento Kings

    6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Brooklyn Nets)

    7. Golden State Warriors

    8. Toronto Raptors

    9. Detroit Pistons

    10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota Timberwolves)

    11. Portland Trail Blazers

    12. Milwaukee Bucks

    13. Phoenix Suns

    14. Houston Rockets

    15. Philadelphia 76ers

    16. Houston Rockets (via New York Knicks)

    17. Dallas Mavericks

    18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz)

    19. Orlando Magic

    20. Denver Nuggets

    21. Boston Celtics

    22. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers)

    23. Atlanta Hawks

    24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers)

    25. Memphis Grizzlies

    26. Indiana Pacers

    27. Miami Heat

    28. Oklahoma City Thunder

    29. Chicago Bulls

    30. Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio Spurs)

    While the Hornets will undoubtedly select Kentucky's Anthony Davis as the top overall pick of this draft, the Bobcats won't exactly be settling for crumbs. Davis, the 6-foot-10 consensus Number 1 pick, is a pretty obvious choice to go first, and New Orleans can certainly use him. He will bring a lot of athleticism, length and excitement to a frontline struggling to regain its NBA footing after bad management almost killed the franchise. Coming off an NCAA championship, Davis will bring a winner's attitude to one of the worst teams in the NBA.

    After Davis there are several choices still up for grabs for Charlotte, all of whom could become big stars themselves. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis' fellow Kentucky Wildcat, is the best small forward and among the best players in this draft class. At 6-foot-7, Kidd-Gilchrist already has a game that's 97-98% complete, and like Davis he won't need to change positions in the NBA, normally the toughest thing to do for college stars moving up to the next level. As small forwards go he isn't quite the second coming of LeBron James, but he might become a more athletic version of Paul Pierce down the road if he develops a better outside shot. If the Bobcats do get him, he will surely take Derrick Brown's place as the starting small forward.

    Getting bigger is a priority for Charlotte, as they got constantly pounded off both boards last season. 7-foot wide body Desagana Diop and 6-foot-9 Bismack Biyombo are big and strong athletes but they won't be confused for NBA All Stars. Diop is still a heck of a shotblocker, as is 6-foot-10 backup power forward Tyrus Thomas, but the Bobcats need more from the frontline to help space the floor and open things up for the likes of 6-foot-6 off-guard Gerald Henderson and 6-foot-6 swingman Cory Maggette.

    If the Bobcats want to go for more strength inside, 6-foot-9 Thomas Robinson of Kansas is easily the second-best power forward in this draft class behind Davis. He is within 95-97% of Davis' abilities, and seems to be a little naturally stronger. He brings a blue collar work ethic at the 4 spot that NBA teams covet, and at 6-foot-9 can match up well enough size-wise against most NBA forwards. He can play alongside or alternating with Byron Mullens and Derrick Brown, the incumbent Bobcat starting forwards.

    Either Kidd-Gilchrist or Robinson should help in both the scoring and rebounding ends where Charlotte was worst and second-worst overall in the league this past season. They will also help ease the burden of Henderson on the scoring end, and provide able receivers for pointguards DJ Augustin and Kemba Walker.

    A bit of a stretch and a heck of a gamble in terms of big men is Baylor's Perry Jones III. At a long and athletic 6-foot-11, Jones might be an even better player than Davis. Unfortunately for Jones and any team willing to take him, he is sorely lacking in focus and seems to be on the lazy side, relying on nothing more than his freakish athletic abilities than developing his full skill set. In the last college season he had back to back games where he averaged 18 points, ...

    Updated 06-01-2012 at 12:49 AM by gameface_one

    Philippine Basketball , ‎ Others
  3. Old Fashioned Still Works

    San Antonio has won four NBA world championships in the Tim Duncan era, and the all-world big man still isn't done. This year he is chasing down what would be his fifth championship ring, his fourth with his "Texas Triumvirate" of pointguard Tony Parker and swingman Manu Ginobili. Funny how three guys with provenance outside the continental United States where the game was born are once again in contention for the ultimate prize in professional basketball. "I just want to keep winning because I'm already feeling my body telling me it might be time to lay off a bit," Duncan said. He's pushing 40, and that is a dangerous age by NBA standards, not that it shows in his game though. He's still getting rebounds, blocking or altering shots, and taking opposing 5's and 4's to school going box to box and operating in the paint.

    As of this writing they were at 2-0 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the team many experts and pundits believed would finally be making their first trip to the NBA Finals, maybe even win the 2011-2012 world title. Then they ran into the Spurs. That last win by Duncan and Company now have them at a record-setting 20-game winning streak extending back to the regular season, eclipsing the similar 19-game regular-to-post season win streak by the Los Angeles Lakers in their own 2001 title romp. Parker led the way in this game, ably aided by Ginobili and of course Duncan.

    You would not have known it the way head coach Greg Popovich was in Parker's ear at one point late in the third quarter with the Silver and Black ahead by 16 points. He's been yelling at me for 11 years, so what else is new," exclaimed Parker in the post-game interviews with a broad smile. That response drew an equally big smile from Popovich.

    Playing as well as they have in these NBA Playoffs, sweeping easily through the Utah Jazz and another upstart young team in the Los Angeles Clippers, these Spurs practically told the entire NBA, "Don't count us oldtimers out just yet." Utah was somewhat expected given the youth, inexperience and dearth of talent in this present iteration of the once-fearsome Jazz. It was different against the Clippers though, especially since this once sadsack franchise now has a legitimate leader in pointguard Chris Paul, and the emergent mega-athlete Blake Griffin.

    Both teams were swept clear off the floor with a lot of pick-roll, screen-the-screener, backdoor, quick outlet passes, the requisite tough defense and a bunch of other "old school" tricks from the Spurs. "You knew it was coming and you still just stood there and took it and couldn't figure out how to stop it," said one long-time assistant coach on a rival west coast team whose team did not make these playoffs. He may as well have been speaking for the Clippers and Jazz. Oklahoma City is finding out firsthand exactly what this coach was talking about.

    Oklahoma City was no slouch coming into these Western Conference Finals either, losing only once in the previous playoff rounds - to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers - and essentially coming off dominating their own first and second rounds. They've already lost twice in this series versus San Antonio, and are in the unfamiliar spot of being behind in a playoff series. "We just couldn't recover after we fell behind as big as we did, not against this team," said newly-crowned NBA Best 6th Man James Harden.

    Someone should have told the Thunder that facing the Spurs, rejuvenated as they seem to be now, is a totally different proposition from taking down the dysfunctional Lakers. There always seems to be someone to blame on the Lakers, but the Spurs are practically family. Their Big 3 of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have been playing together for a decade or so. None of them know any other team. "I will retire here, we have homes and friends and relationships here," Duncan said in a separate interview.

    It would be a basketball purist's wet dream if they can set up an NBA Finals date against the Boston Celtics, another team long in the NBA tooth looking to go for at least one more great run at championship glory. They need to get past a much bigger hurdle though, as LeBron James has been more force of nature than NBA superstar in these playoffs, and he is ably supported by an almost-force of nature in Dwayne Wade, with evil genius Pat Riley pulling the strings. It is not helping the Boston cause that Rey Allen is essentially playing on only one good ankle, and Rajon Rondo's got a trick lumbar.

    That the Celtics even got this far in the playoffs in a tough Eastern Conference is already a bit of a miracle. They did it in much the same way the Spurs did, lots of "old school tricks" that were once referred to as "fundamentals of the game". Had they been 100% healthy they may have breezed through their own first two series the way the Spurs did. Instead the stubborn Philadelphia 70-Sixers ...

    Updated 06-01-2012 at 12:47 AM by gameface_one

    Philippine Basketball , ‎ Others
  4. Standards

    There are certain things that come with being a champion, especially if you've built a dynasty. Standards for you are a lot higher, a lot tougher than with everybody else.

    Take the case of the Los Angeles Lakers. In a lockout-shortened 66-game season, the Lakers were 41-25. Any other team would have been happy with that record and the upper-middle playoff seed that went with it. Not the Lakers though. They were ousted in five games by the younger, hungrier and more athletic Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round.

    Let's think about that for a minute... very good regular season record, good playoff seed, made it to the second round of the playoffs. And still a failure by Laker standards.

    That is what happens when your team is the second winningest team in the history of the NBA, when you win NBA titles in bunches, and when Hollywood A-listers are actually decades-long and very knowledgeable fans. Anything less than an NBA championship just isn't the same.

    In the NCAA it is much the same thing for a program like Duke. While much has been said about how the great Dean Smith's North Carolina teams really only won two NCAA titles, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils have won far more, so much so that Duke fans think a mere trip to the Final 4 is inconsequential. Smaller schools like Virginia Commonwealth or George Mason might see the Final 4 as beyond their wildest expectations, but Duke fans need their Blue Devils to at least fight for the national championship.

    John Calipari and his Kentucky Wildcats are now living in that same surreal universe of much-bloated expectations. Calipari has been very good at getting the one-done phenoms from American prep schools, the latest being uber athletic big man Anthony Davis. His latest recruit Nerlens Noel continues this new trend for him. And with all of this of course comes the expectation that Calipari's first NCAA title this year will be the first of many, possibly annual, championships he will bring home to bluegrass country.

    Perhaps nowhere else in the basketball universe is the impossibly high expectation even more unattainable than with USA Basketball, the program and organization in charge of ensuring that the country that invented the game continues to be at the apex of the game. Krzyzewski will be experiencing all of this again in roughly 60-plus days when the 2012 Olympics rolls around in London, England.

    In a country whose average citizen probably thinks the pick-and-roll is a pastry or a quirky cocktail, Krzyzewski will once again have the thankless and unenviable task of making sure the Americans keep their precious Olympic gold medal in men's basketball. After all, they have the best players in the world, NBA superstars, on their roster, who could possibly stop them?

    Well, they were stopped already in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece and the 2002 World Championships in their own basketball-crazy backyard, Indiana. Did we mention that the Women's Program is actually far more successful in recent international play? Still, Krzyzewski, who coached the American back into international glory in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is expected to continue stamping American class on international basketball.

    He'll have less than a full deck with Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Derrick Rose, all shoe-ins for the London roster, all officially and indefinitely sidelined with various injuris sustained in NBA play. Those three represent easily two starters and the sixth man. Krzyzewski is so bereft of talented size he has had to bring in Davis from Kentucky, techncially an incoming college sophomore who is the consensus Number 1 choice in the next NBA draft.

    Sure, he will still have reigning NBA MVP LeBron James and scoring champion Kevin Durant, as well as James' Miami Heat running mate Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and maybe even Andrew Bynum and Blake Griffin. That is a roster no other international team could match on a talent-for-talent scale. "America is the worst team tactically, but when James or Wade or Bryant drive or want to score, what can you do?" asked former Smart Gilas head coach Rajko Toroman at dinner one evening. It is a rhetorical question. Or is it?

    That same thing could be said of the Lakers, Duke, Kentucky, maybe even Talk N Text, Ateneo and San Beda in the local scene. But everybody knows any team can beat any other team at any given time. Bilog nga naman ang bola. Holding up even a known and proven team to standards that are already unreasonably high can only result in added and unnecessary pressure. When it all adds up, failure becomes magnified out of all proportion as well.

    This is when fans have to realize that expectations can weigh down a team. The least they can do is wisen up and relieve the burden by first unburdening themselves.
  5. Squires in shining armor

    Squires in shining armor

    by: Sanita Valparaíso
    Blogueros de Filipinas S.A.

    Manila fascinates me. Five years ago I found myself in this place and that first visit craved for more. I like the people and its history.

    Manila is Intramuros, or Intramuros is a reflection of the city's past. I live in the present and I see the city as it is now but the tell-tale signs in the surroundings carry me to live in the past, and this experience is a fascination to me.

    The baluarte, the basílicas and cathedrals, the old colegíos, and the sport of basketball, I like them all in Intramuros. I am a basketball buff and any thud of a ball would always catch my attention so that I skipped the Fort Santiago itinerary upon noticing the Squires in practice at its gym in Colegío de San Juan de Letran. The team is widely considered as the best in the Philippines today.

    Body stretching, weightlifting, plyometrics, drills and scrimmages-- these stuffs I also saw in Europe. Philippine basketball has improved by leaps and bounds these days, and these Squires know that they are in the right track to greatness. I whiled my day watching the boys playing hoops inside that building with championship banners hanging around and trophies flaunted at the entrance way.

    There is one player whose play and athleticism impressed me much. His name is JJ Abao, a 6-1 swingman. But in all indications, this 17-year-old cager can practically play all positions in the hardcourt. With a 40-inch vertical elevation, this aggressive and fighting hoopster could be the rebirth of then-promising Shawn Kemp, albeit the smaller version. At his Facebook account in which I was privileged to see, the JJ Abao of three years ago was a natural power forward with mastery in controlling rebounds. He banged bodies with Porter(Cebu City) and the latter's teammate Julius Cadavis(Cebu City), and these two Cebuanos were both beaten in the paint, not to mention the bitter defeat to the hands of the victorious Cagayan de Oro quintet during the hotly contested 24th Season Milo Pasarelle (14-under) National Championship in Baguio in the northern part of the Islands. The diminutive (Dennis) Rodman-like rebounder from CDO also locked horns with another tall and hefty forwards of NCR team, but at this time losing the Gold Medal to the much bigger team of Gelo Vito, and Andre Paras and Marcial of La Salle GH. These three behemoths took turns in tiring JJ Abao in the paint.

    As there would only be one small rebounder in NBA as embodied in one and only Dennis Rodman, the same is true in high school basketball. At a visit in Milo BEST(Basketball Efficiency and Scientific Training), the director recalled the feats of his illustrious alumni, and he was proud of them. JJ Abao is now playing with the Letran Squires, Gelo Vito in La Salle Greenies, Kevin Porter in Ateneo Blue Eagles, Julius Cadavis in Arellano Chiefs, and both Andre Paras and Marcial in the elite team of La Salle Greenies.

    The Real Madrid is now turning its look on Filipino athletes. Be in basketball or in soccer football, the rich team in Europe is interested in moulding Filipino breeds to play in the ACB and JJ Abao is one of them.

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