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  1. Sixty-two

    Sixty-two ?? and counting. Help me if you can for when I turn 64, I hope to break bread with Beatle Paul McCartney.

    As I enter my 62nd year of earthly existence on the 16th of May , allow me to take you to memory lane with some of the most forgettable moments in my life.

    The long and winding road traversed, no matter how difficult and rocky , is what has made me today ? strong ,determined, compassionate and at peace in the face of any adversity or tragedy in life.

    The destination is only the icing on the cake, so to speak.

    All-time great Michael Jordan once admitted in a commercial endorsement for a major U.S. shoe and apparel company that he had missed so many shots during his illustrious National Basketball Association (NBA) tenure.

    The number of times he had failed made him stronger ? what does not kill you makes you stronger, it?s said.

    Eventually Jordan?s storied basketball career was defined by the times he had risen after each fall and succeeded after each failure.

    Then there was this inspiring line from one of the old ?Spiderman? movies that I had watched where Uncle Ben told a young boy by the name of Peter Parker: ?Don?t just follow the path, make your own trail.?

    The words of Michael Jordan and Uncle Ben are what have shaped my life.

    Instead of joining the family?s handicraft business after my school days, I got to craft my own career path. Officially, I became a professional sportswriter on June 5, 1981 when my first materials on basketball, particularly the NBA scene, got published in a weekly sports magazine.

    Thirty-six years later, here I am still churning out one column/article after another.

    While it?s true the monetary benefits gained by a journalist won?t make him a Bill Gates, the ?mental nourishment? aspects of writing simply are immeasurable.

    Believe it or not, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would go into professional writing some day.

    But fate intervened and, by God?s grace, I have succeeded long enough to leave behind a legacy when I shall have crossed the Great Divide.

    It?s worth recalling a few events in my younger days at Xavier School that perhaps played a role in what became of me when I joined the ?real life? after college.

    It was my school mate and friend Samuel Dy Tang who baptized me to the ?NBA world? when he brought various NBA magazines to school for me to read and peruse during break-time. My interest in the American pro game grew quickly. How often I borrowed the printed materials from Sam and brought them home for ?scrutiny? and longer reading.

    We were in our grade school days or early teenaged years and since then, I have been hooked up to NBA chronicling and eventually, through the past decades, mastered on local and international sports in general.

    Another batchmate, Jeffrey Yao, also lent me some NBA materials for which I am truly grateful.

    Those magazines really got me rocking and rolling. During my spare time off classes, I would often take a jeepney ride to Rizal Avenue or the Binondo area (Jim?s Counter was one favorite hangout) to get my fill of various sports magazines that carried NBA stories for several pieces of silver coins.

    At the start of the eighties, vintage play-by-play announcer for Philippine Basketball Association telecasts Dick Ildefonso sought me out for help on the credentials of prospective imports for the league. The man with the silky cool voice subsequently introduced me to the editor-in-chief of a sports weekly magazine, Sports World.

    From there, I graduated to the major leagues like the Philippine Daily Inquirer, where I wrote a twice-a-week column on NBA developments for 16 years (1986-2002); and became the EIC of Tower Sports magazine for more than a decade while moonlighting as a TV analyst for Tiong Lian games from the mid-2000s onwards.

    Youtube.com has some of my TV interviews (the latest being the December 30, 2016 episode of PTV Sports on Channel 4) and gameface.ph has carried scores of my write-ups through the years.

    The Facebook page for a couple of prestigious Chinese-Filipino high school sports leagues, the PCYAA and MASA, were set up several years ago upon my initiative. Both sites remain active to this date.

    For seven years (2006-13), I also was a disc jockey (no joke!) for a Beautiful Sunday program ?Buhay Pinoy Noon at Ngayon? in a government-owned radio station (DZSR Sports Radio) under the monicker Hyper Henry. I played good, old music from the fifties, sixties and seventies and shared stories about life as only a Baby Boomer like me had experienced.

    Songs by the Fabulous Four from Liverpool, England, the Beatles, were my all-time favorites ...
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  2. What Are They Doing, Really? Part 2

    At our most recent lunch over the last weekend, Mr Libog was at it again.

    "O ayan, talo tayo sa Lyceum at UE," he said in between bites of crispy pata and long looks at the waitress of his favorite Filipino restaurant. "Biruin mo, sino ba naman ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo?"

    I said its only the off-season anyway, plus those were only one-basket losses, no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Plus a player or two who rode the pines last season are now getting some much needed burn.

    He just chortled, swallowing his umpteenth mouthful of the crispy pata. "Kahit na ba summer league lang, gano ba naman kalakas ang Lyceum at UE para talunin tayo? Kahit pa chamba, dalawang chamba 'yan ha, hindi ba nakakaalarma 'yan?"

    I don't really know with him, but the summer leagues, especially the Fil Oil, was never much of an indication of UAAP fortunes as far as I can tell. Lasalle swept the Fil Oil all the way to the championship last year, and then went on to win the Season 79 UAAP diadem as well. But taking a look over the last 10 years, there was never a co-relation between Fil Oil success and UAAP success.

    Even during the 5-Peat reign of the Ateneo, the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin summer tournaments were really just for tuning up for the regular UAAP wars. One might even say the annual US training junket of the Blue Eagles is actually more important in the team calendar, since they would willingly play daily games alternating between the Fil Oil and the Fr Martin just to keep in step with the schedules of those tournaments before they made off for the US. They would then come back just in time for the last few elimination games of the summer tournaments. More often than not they'd make the Finals of either or both tournaments. Heck they even won the now-defunct Nike Summer League in 2008, which was their springboard into the first of their five straight UAAP titles, and the launchpad for Rabeh Al-Hussaini's UAAP stardom.

    So, really, I don't know why Mr Libog was in such a tizzy.

    "Alam mo hindi naman kasi 'yan dapat nangyayari, kahit sa summer, 'yang matalo tayo sa mga patakbuhing teams. Seriously, mukha bang nagfa-Final 4 ang mga 'yan? So bakit tayo natalo sa kanila," he asked rather exasperatedly.

    I said these things were bound to happen. Even back in Magic's day, when the Clippers were a joke of a franchise (the days of Benoit Benjamin and Company), there was one time or two that they upset the Showtime Lakers. "Bilog ang bola," as Wang-bu, Jake Salazar, and other old soul Pinoy basketball sages would say.

    "Hindi kaya the actual fact of the matter is that sadyang mahina ang team natin? And if this is the case, papanong nagkaganun?" He was warming up to something, I could see the signs already.

    "Balikan ko lang 'yung pinagusapan natin dati. Magkano ba ginagastos natin sa team? Every year may US training hindi ba? May gumaling na ba diyan gawa niyang training na 'yan? Si (Frank) Golla ba naging Reynel Hugnatan man lang after niyang mga US training na 'yan? Si Juami (Tiongson) ba naging Terrence Romeo man lang? Hindi naman ah. Magkano ba gastos sa isang biyahe nila? Maybe P4 to 5 million? Just for that trip? Baka annual budget na 'yan ng UST or UE team. And yet in spite of that kind of spending we get beaten by Lyceum and UE. Granted its the off-season, but still." I was sure he wasn't done yet. He was in financial management / cost-benefit mode.

    "Kung ganun kalaki ginagastos mo hindi ba nakakahiya na ang team na hindi gumagastos ng ganun kalaki tinatalo ka? And I don't even buy that excuse that we don't take the off-season all that seriously. Assuming that to be true, during the 5-Peat years I don't think we ever opened the Fil Oil with back to back losses to shit teams. Even when we 'weren't taking this seriously', as you say."

    "So the only logical explanation is mahina ang team natin ngayon. Which brings us back to the question of bakit ba tayo humina. Hindi kaya humina tayo kasi may problema sa recruitment strategy natin? Do we even have a recruitment strategy? Or do we just see who happens to be the UAAP or NCAA Juniors, or Tiong Lian superstar of the moment and just go get that kid, not even thinking to much if he will continue being a star in college?" He's about to get to his usual point.

    "After the 5-Peat we just couldn't seem to get or to hang on to real talent, or we didn't know how to maximize them. Look at New (Chris Newsome). The two years he played he had to take a backseat to Phenom (Kiefer Ravena). Why? Have you seen what New is doing in the PBA? You think Phenom can dunk on an import in traffic? So why did Phenom get to chuck up 30 shots a game while New was second fiddle?"

    "We went out and got CJ Perez, at sa Fr Martin pa lang nagpakita na kagad siya, tapos hindi pala natin naalagaan sa aral. ...
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  3. NBA Playoffs: Are Cavs. Warriors headed to a Historic 3rd Straight Finals Date?

    Are the defending National Basketball Association Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2015 titlist Golden State Warriors headed for an unprecedented third consecutive Finals matchup?

    No two teams in NBA history have ever faced each other in three consecutive championship series.

    Not even the perennial powerhouses Boston Celtics Los Angeles Lakers crossed path three years in a row in the Finals during the storied 1960s.

    Only the Cavs and Warriors remain unbeaten in the ongoing playoffs.

    Cleveland beat Toronto, 109-102, yesterday in Game 4 of their best-of-seven East semifinal duel at the Air Canada Centre for a second straight 4-0 series sweep and a lily-white 8-0 record.

    LeBron James racked up 35 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 46 minutes and Kyrie Irving netted 27 points and nine dimes for the Cavaliers.

    Overall, James posted four-game series averages of 36.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists against Toronto, shooting .573 (43-for-75) from the field and .833 (45-for-54) from the charity stripes.

    In the current playoffs, the do-it-all 6-8 frontliner is norming 34.4 points, 9.0 boards and 7.1 assists in eight appearances.

    Meanwhile, Golden State is up, 3-0, against Utah heading into Game 4 of their West semifinal series Tuesday (Manila time) on the Jazz? home floor.

    The Warriors, who whitewashed Portland, 4-0, in their first-round setto, are 7-0 overall and look to duplicate Cleveland?s feat.

    In the other East semifinal matchup, Bradley Beal collected 29 points and his backcourt mate John Wall collected 27 points, 12 assists and five steals as Washington routed Boston, 121-102, yesterday in Game Four to register its second straight home victory that equalized their best-of-seven series at 2-2.

    In another West semifinal duel between two Texas rivals, Houston whipped San Antonio, 125-104, in Game Four yesterday to even up their series at two wins apiece.

    James Harden netted 28 points and 12 assists, Eric Gordon contributed 22 markers (including 6-of-9 from the three-point territory) and Trevor Ariza got 16 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead seven Rockets with twin-digit scores.

    Game Five will be held on Wednesday May 10 (Manila time) in San Antonio.
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  4. NBA Playoffs: Bad News/Good News

    Bad news for points guards in the ongoing NBA playoffs.

    The bad news: Tony Parker (San Antonio), out for remainder of the postseason with a ruptured left quadriceps tendon; George Hill (Utah), out for Game 2 vs. Washington with soreness in left toe; and Kyle Lowry (Toronto), questionable for Game 3 vs. Cleveland with sprained left ankle.
    Parker suffered the injury during the Spurs? Game 2 victory over the Rockets that evened up their West semifinal series at 1-1.

    Expect no sympathy from opposing players or teams, certainly none from Spider-Man Peter Parker.

    Player injuries to a title-contending team are a great stabilizer, putting in jeopardy the Alamo City outfit's chances to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy for the sixth time in franchise history.

    I picked San Antonio to win all the marbles this year but it could well be crying time this early.

    Parker has never missed an NBA playoff game in his entire 16-year NBA tenure, playing in 221 career postseason contests with the Spurs.

    Parker, who turns 35 on May 170r-year championship veteran who turns 35 on May 17, and reserve guard Manu Ginobili, who turns 40 in July, won four titles together. The duo won their 131st playoff game as teammates in the Game 2 victory over the Rockets, matching the NBA record held by Parker and retired all-time great Tim Duncan.

    Now, even the record-surpassing bid is over.

    Meanwhile, a pair of Kellys squared off in the second quarter of Game Three of the East semifinal duel between and Washington ? Celtics? Olynk and Wizards' Oubre Jr. (recipient of two hard screens by Olynk).

    Oubre took exception to a pair of hard screens by Olynk and pushed him on the chest hard enough to flatten Olynk following the second hard pick.

    It resulted in Oubre?s ejection in the game for Flagrant Foul 2 and forthcoming could be a fine and suspension from the NBA police.


    For a tough hombre like Oubre, enough is enough in a series that has featured a lot of physicality.

    Cleveland's Kevin Love sends Olynk his best regards. The Canadian hustler loves Love's right shoulder so much that he wouldn't let it go after an entanglement in the deciding Game 4 of 2015 East first-round series between Cavs and Celtics and resulted in playoffs-ending separated shoulder injury by Love.

    The Celts' six-game playoff winning skein eventually came to a halt as the hosting Wizards reduced their series deficit to 2-1 with a 116-89 rout. John Wall netted 24 points for the Wizards while Boston's Isaiah Thomas, who tallied 33 and 53 markers in the first two games of the series, was held to 13 points on 3-of-8 field shooting.

    Expect more bad blood as the series progresses with Game 4 on Monday May 8 (Manila time) also in Washington.

    Golden State beat Utah, 115-104, to go up 2-0 in their West semifinal series and 6-0 overall in the playoffs as Kevin Durant (25 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists), Stephen Curry ( 23 points and seven assists) and Draymond Green (21 points, five three-pointers, seven rebounds and six assists) each scored 20 points or more.

    Game Three of the Warriors-Jazz duel will be held on Sunday May 7 (Manila time) in Utah.

    On Saturday (Manila time), the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers seek to gain a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern semifinal series against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre and Texas rivals San Antonio and Houston look to break a 1-1 deadlock when the Rockets host Game Three.

    The Cavaliers, who own a nine-game playoff winning streak over two seasons, took the first two games at the Quicken Loans Arena and are headed to a second consecutive four-game series sweep against the Raptors.

    The Rockets stole homecourt advantage from the higher-seeded Spurs with a victory at the AT@T Center in the series opener before San Antonio secured Game 2 for a split at its home floor.
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  5. NBA Playoffs: Is Perfection Possible?

    Since it opened shop in 1946-47 under the Basketball Association of America, the National Basketball Association (which became as such in 1949-50) has yet to witness perfection in the playoffs where one team breezes through one postseason without a single loss.
    Chances are it will never ever happen.

    To register a perfect record in the playoffs, a team must go 16 and 0.

    That?s a four-game sweep in each of the four best-of-seven series. Since 2003, every series throughout the postseason has been a race-to-four-wins duel.

    The closest to NBA playoff perfection came in 2001. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers, who were powered by the Batman-and-Robin tandem of Shaquille O?Neal and recently-retired Kobe Bryant, compiled a 15-1 record in securing the second of their three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002.

    Through the first three rounds of the 2001 playoffs, the fabulous Lakers squad won 11 straight games against the Portland Trail Blazers (3-0 ? the first round was still a best-of-five affair at the time), Sacramento Kings (4-0) and San Antonio Spurs (4-0).

    However, El-Ay subsequently lost in its 12th assignment, which was the opener of the NBA Finals against then-NBA regular-season Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. The gallant troops of Lakers bench boss Phil Jackson, who is the winningest head coach in league annals with 11 rings and is currently the New York Knicks president, dropped a 107-101 overtime decision to the 76ers in Game One of the Finals at the Staples Center.

    Thereafter, the Lakers racked up four consecutive victories, including the last three on the 76ers? home floor, to secure the title series in five games.

    Note that O?Neal and Iverson were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts last September. And Tyronn Lue, now the Cleveland head coach who owns a third championship ring as an NBA rookie coach with the Cavaliers a year ago, was a pesky guard with the Lakers' 2000 and 2001 title units.

    Another instance of near-perfection was the astonishing playoff run of the now-deceased Moses Malone, Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983.

    That year, the Sixers won their first seven outings before winding up with a 12-1 record, including a 4-0 spanking of the LA Lakers in the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

    Along the way, Philly whipped New York, 4-0, and Milwaukee, 4-1, to march into the Finals against the then-reigning NBA titlist Lakers.
    Unlike now, the division winners at the time ? including Philadelphia (Atlanta Division) ? received best-of-three first-round byes.

    Moreover, starting this season, the division winners do not automatically gain a playoff ticket unless they rank among the top eight teams (in terms of win-loss records) in their respective conferences. A division race is only important in cases where the winner owns an identical record with a team from the same or another division within their conference. In that instance, the division leader will have the advantage over the others in the playoff seedings.

    (Such a thing happened in the ongoing NBA playoffs where Miami, the Southeast Division champion, was seeded higher (No. 3) than division rivals Atlanta (No. 4) and Charlotte (No. 6) and Atlantic Division second-placer Boston (No. 5) even though all four teams owned identical 48-34 ledgers.)

    Outside of the 2001 Lakers and 1983 76ers, no other club in NBA history has gone through one playoff campaign without tasting at least two losses.
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