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  1. Flops and Fouls

    Much has been said about flopping and freethrows and fouls. Working definitions are definitely in order.

    In basketball, a foul is an infraction of the rules more serious than a violation. Most fouls occur as a result of illegal personal contact with an opponent and/or unsportsmanlike behavior. (Wikipedia)

    A flop is an intentional fall by a player after little or no physical contact by an opposing player in order to draw a personal foul call by an official against the opponent. (Ibid)

    If a player is in the act of shooting when fouled, or when the fouling player's team is in penalty, freethrows are awarded to the fouled player.

    If we were playing in an ordinary pickup game, you call fouls on the opposing players as you see it and normally the other guys, while resentful, will just let it slide and get back to you by calling their own fouls as they see it.

    In an organized game with game officials drawing fouls is sometimes employed as a tactic especially when a team is down. When you draw a foul you stop the clock, and if the other team is in penalty, you get a chance to score on freethrows without the clock moving.

    This is where it gets contentious.

    Some players argue over "superstar" calls, or calls supposedly made to favor the superstars in a given league / tournament. One sportswriter once famously said that when Michael Jordan was playing for Chicago, and the game is on the line, and of course the Bulls go to Jordan, do not even exhale in his direction. Gary Payton of Seattle and Bryon Russel of Utah can both attest to this personally.

    In the UAAP the Ateneo, especially during its 5-Peat title reign, was often seen as benefiting a lot from superstar calls, with some quarters going to the extent of claiming the entire Ateneo squad must have been made up of superstars at the rate they often got the benefit of fouls called on opponents.

    Ask an Ateneo fan though and they will likely tell you that the entire UAAP had it in for them during their dynasty years and had so many non-calls against Ateneo opponents it is a wonder they won five straight championships.

    In the ongoing Season 77 wars this came into focus in the aftermath of the Ateneo-UE game in Round 1. Kiefer Ravena, the current Ateneo superstar, was given 25 freethrows out of 45 total given to the Ateneo as a team. UE in that game was given 30 freethrows. "That is just too many for both sides," rued current league commissioner Andy Jao, a long-time fixture of Philippine basketball. 64 fouls total were called in that game. Ravena would score 19 of his career-high 38 points from the stripe.

    Roi Sumang, the UE superstar, joined the ruing. "Ganun talaga, parang sobrang respect ng refs kapag Ateneo at Lasalle," he said after that game. Sumang scored 30 points in this game, in a shootout with Ravena.

    Let's focus on Ravena, since apparently this all came to a head with what he did in the UE game. Throughout Round 1, Ravena had 77 freethrow attempts, and so far after 10 games he's been given 91 freethrows.

    Using simple arithmetic that means Ravena averaged 11 freethrow attempts per game in Round 1. Since then he's only been given 14 freethrows over three games so far in Round 2. That means he's getting less than five freethrow attempts per game so far in Round 2. That's quite a drastic cut, from 11 to five, a greater than 50% drop.

    There are a few explanations for this:

    1) I'll start with the conspiracy theory first since that seems to be the most popular. Ravena was flopping like a fool throughout Round 1. The referees were all buying it, so they kept giving him freethrows. No less than the Commissioner, after the UE game, decided that was the last straw, and he's cracked down on the flops, hence the drastic drop in freethrows for Ravena so far in Round 2.

    2) Ravena himself has changed his style of play in Round 2. He's driving less and settling for jumpers more. Maybe there is some truth to this. Ravena after 10 games is shooting under 36% from the field and under 30% from three-point range, and far and away leads the leagues in shots attempted. There's less chances of getting fouled if you settle for jumpshots instead of attacking the basket.

    3) Defenses have finally adjusted to Ravena. Paolo Javelona perhaps best personifies this. His NU Bulldogs swept Ravena and the Ateneo for a second straight season, with a 60-64 victory in Round 1, and a dominating 66-76 walloping just over this weekend. In both games Javelona and the rest of the NU defense found ways to take away Ravena's first step, clog the driving lanes, jam the passing lanes, and generally just plain make life miserable for him. Ravena has shot a combined 10-41 from the field in two Season 77 games versus NU.

    Have other players gotten ...
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    Philippine Basketball
  2. FIBA World Cup: Will the Americans' Luck Run Out in Spain?

    From the 1950s to the 1980s, when only amateur players were permitted to suit up in FIBA-sanctioned world competitions, the United States was represented by players from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) – and not the star athletes from the topnotch National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) schools in the country – during the World Basketball Championship (now known as the FIBA World Cup starting in the 2014 edition in Madrid, Spain from August 30-September 14).

    The Americans topped the 2nd WBC in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1954 behind a team called the Peoria (Illinois) Caterpillars, a talented and experienced group which had not only captured the 1954 AAU national title but had also secured top AAU honors in 1952 and 1953.

    Team USA, however, claimed a second championship in Madrid, Spain in 1986 behind an NCAA Division I selection that included future National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues, Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr (now the head coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors), Brian Shaw (currently the Denver Nuggets bench boss), Kenny Smith and “The Admiral” David Robinson from the U.S. Naval Academy.

    In 1992, or two years after the FIBA instituted the “open basketball” policy that allowed professionals to play in its games, the Americans employed an all-pro roster for the first time ever to the Barcelona Olympics. That old medal-winning unit was known as the Dream Team composed of the superstars from the National Basketball Association (NBA) that included future Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing.

    Two years later (1994), the U.S. sent another all-NBA team (known as Dream Team II) to the World Basketball Championship. That contingent, which was called Dream Team II, merrily captured the gold medal behind future Hall of Famers Reggie Miller, Dominique Wilkins, Joe Dumars and Alonzo Mourning (inducted earlier this month), enigmatic Shawn Kemp, pesky point guard Kevin Johnson (now the city mayor of Sacramento, the California capital), and “The Diesel” Shaquille O’Neal, the tournament Most Valuable Player who’s now a minority owner with the Sacramento Kings and will be a cinch for selection to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 (following a five-year wait) as a first-year eligible candidate.

    With an NBA work stoppage (lockout) in the summer of 1998, USA Basketball was forced to send a hodgepodge team of players from the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), professionals playing overseas and two players from NCAA Division I schools to that year’s WBC in Athens, Greece. Head coach was Rudy Tomjanovich of the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

    In the 2002 WBC, before a home crowd in Indianapolis, the Yanks reverted to an all-NBA lineup but the team that included Reggie Miller, Paul Pierce, Shawn Marion, Elton Brand, Andre Miller, Jermaine O’Neal and Baron Davis disappointingly lost thrice against Argentina, Yugoslavia and Spain (in the fifth-place game) to fall to its lowest-ever tournament finish of sixth place with a 6-3 overall record.

    Four years later, in Saitama, Japan, the WBC cast featured 24 national teams from the previous 16.

    Team USA again employed an all-NBA unit to represent the country in the 2006 WBC. The Americans were beaten by Greece, 101-95, during the knockout semifinals and later settled for the bronze medal with a 96-81 thrashing of 2004 Olympic champion Argentina.

    Spain, despite the absence of tournament MVP Pau Gasol, who sat out the championship game due to a foot injury, blasted favored Greece, 70-47, in the finals for its first and only World diadem so far.

    Entering the Final Four, Spain, Greece, the U.S. and Argentina all carried identical 7-0 records – a first in World annals.

    The 2006 U.S. World team was mentored by the venerable Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University. Among his players were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson and Dwyane Wade.

    The third-place finish would mark the last time that Coach K would suffer an international defeat as his teams would later capture the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 World Basketball Championship and 2012 London Olympics with a perfect win-lost record each time.

    The 2010 WBC tournament in Istanbul, Turkey, was a Kevin Durant show as the Oklahoma City Thunder star propelled Team USA to a gold-
    medal finish and an unblemished 9-0 record. The springy 6-9 Durant was “Captain America” with a USA World record-setting 22.8-point average (the third highest in the tournament behind Argentina’s Luis Scola, 27.1 ppg, and New Zealand’s Kirk Penney, 24.7 ppg in six games) along with 6.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists every ...
  3. FIBA World Cup: Second Only to the Olympics?

    While it pales in comparison to the Summer Olympics in terms of prestige, spectacularity and popularity, the FIBA Basketball World Cup (formerly known as the FIBA World Basketball Championship until the upcoming 17th edition) will always remain as the second-best attraction in the international basketball scene.

    At least that’s the way the United States has treated the quadrennial tournament in the past and even in current times as shown by the 11th-hour withdrawals of several National Basketball Association (NBA) stars for participation in the 2014 World Cup in Madrid, Spain from August 30-September 14.

    Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and league scoring champion, is out.
    So are Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers and Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves out of Team USA.

    Various reasons for their withdrawals have been cited, including some that are hard to believe.

    There were the phantom injuries (like Griffin’s suddenly-discovered back problems); lack-of-energy issues (mentally and physically fatigued Durant); and contract woes (Love, who is set to be traded officially by Minnesota in the next few days that would allow him to join Cavaliers returnee LeBron James at Cleveland in the 2014-15 NBA wars, and Durant, who has an upcoming $320 million shoe endorsement deal with Under Armour following the expiration of his contract with Nike and an option to become an NBA free agent in the summer of 2015).

    In the case of Durant, let’s just say that his decision to quit the team might have something to do with the gruesome lower leg injury sustained by Indiana Pacers hotshot Paul George during a Team USA intra-squad scrimmage last August 1.

    At the end of the day, though, my take is that the players do not think that the World Cup games are that important enough to risk their NBA contracts.

    Remember, this is not an Olympic competition, when Team USA usually draws its biggest stars.

    That’s why James, who returned to his original NBA employer and hometown club Cleveland Cavaliers last July on a two-year, $42.1-million pact following four seasons and four Finals appearances (including a pair of championships in 2012 and 2013) with the Miami Heat, and Carmelo Anthony, an erstwhile free agent like LeBron who re-signed with the New York Knicks on a maximum five-year, $124-million deal, are sitting out the World Cup, too, but have made themselves available for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Be that as it may, Team USA is bidding to retain the World crown for the first time ever in its history.

    And it is just important for the Yanks to secure the gold medal any which way as only the tournament titlist will qualify automatically for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

    A non-golden finish means that the U.S. will have to see action in the Tournament of the Americas next year to earn an Olympic berth.

    Earning a slot for the Rio games won’t be a hard task as several Olympic berths are at stake in the TOA but the preparations that USA Basketball will have to contend with for the continental tournament can be time-consuming and likely it will again seek the services of NBA players to get the job done.

    That’s one problem USA Basketball would rather avoid.
  4. FIBA Basketball: Yesterday When I Was Young

    During my heyday as a Baby Boomer, only athletes of amateur status were allowed to see action in the Summer or Winter Olympics and the various international sporting events.

    That includes events sanctioned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the world’s basketball-governing association.
    The United States, of course, was virtually unchallenged in men’s or women’s basketball.

    In most high-profile international competitions during the time, the Americans were represented by their best collegiate players – except in the first few decades of the FIBA World Basketball Championship (which has since been renamed to FIBA Basketball World Cup starting this year’s 17th edition in Spain from August 30-September 14), where the Stars and Stripes squad was bannered by players from the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and not from the top-tier National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) league.

    Back then, Canada provided some excitement but the other teams from North and South America were hardly a factor in terms of material and strength.

    Offering some resistance were the old Soviet Union, which banked on a huge reservoir of talents from its various republics (including Baltic state Lithuania), and the former Yugoslavia, which was bannered by its stars from Serbia and Croatia before the latter and several other republics gained their independence decades later.

    The two European heavyweights at the time relied massively on their much-experienced “semi-professional” cagers.
    Regardless, all the international roundball greats from the forties to the late seventies were mainly of the “homegrown” variety or of pure-breed nationality.

    Hybrid-type athletes, or those holding dual citizenships, were a rarity. Likewise, eligibility to compete in FIBA-sanctioned tournaments was usually based on a player’s nationality at birth.

    However, the FIBA liberalized its rules on player eligibility in the early 1980s. It was to be the first of two major policies that the FIBA would implement in the succeeding years. (The second is the “open basketball” policy that the FIBA introduced in 1990. This allowed the professionals to play in its games. The Philippines sent an all-professional team from the Philippine Basketball Association for the first time ever in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing where the Robert Jaworski-coached Filipinos settled for the silver medal behind host China.)

    On player eligibility, the FIBA introduced a “naturalization” scheme that allowed its members to employ no more than two players of different countries of origin on their national teams during various international competitions, whether it was regional in nature or world-class such as the Summer Olympics or World Basketball Championship.

    There’s one restriction, though. The naturalized player must not have suited up previously for his country of origin in any FIBA-organized event.
    The Philippines took advantage of this policy for the first time in mid-December 1985 when the country fielded in Americans Jeff Moore and Dennis Still as its naturalized players during that year’s Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) tournament (later to be known as the FIBA Asia Championship) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    A third naturalized player, American Arthur (Chip) Engelland (who’s now an assistant coach with the U.S. National Basketball Association champion San Antonio Spurs) also was ready to suit up for the Philippine national unit that was coached by American Ron Jacobs if not for the limit of two “naturalized” players.

    Backstopped by the two gigantic Americans, the Philippines beat perennial powerhouses South Korea (second) and People’s Republic of China (third) en route to capturing the 1985 Asian diadem with a perfect win-loss record.

    The team’s homegrown players included Avelino (Samboy) Lim Jr., Allan Caidic, Franz Pumaren and Hector Calma.

    The prize for winning the prestigious biennial event was a ticket to the 1986 World Basketball Championship in Madrid, Spain. No thanks to the political turmoil in Manila (EDSA Revolution I), however, the Philippines skipped the quadrennial competitions.

    In the last two decades or so, the country has been recruiting overseas-born players with Filipino lineage for the national team.

    The FIBA, at the start of the 21st century, had also reduced its limit on naturalized players to just one per national team.

    After Moore and Still, the Philippines had not exercised its option to acquire a naturalized player until the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China. American Marcus Eugene Douthit was the Filipinos’ naturalized player during their fourth-place finish in the Asian tournament.
    Douthit again represented the ...
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  5. UAAP Basketball" Double-double Performers

    Can anyone help me?

    I don’t have the answer to this trivia: Who was the most recent player to register a triple-double in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball competitions?

    Perhaps my friend Pong Ducanes of Imperium Technology Inc. can be of help since he keeps all the UAAP cage stats since the start of the 21st century.

    A triple-double is established when a player gets at least a 10 in any three of the five statistical categories, be it in points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocked shots, during the same game.

    This Hoopster’s interest in triple-double performances in the UAAP cage hostilities came about after a prominent player from the rival league National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) turned in the trick recently.

    Earl Scottie Thompson, a third-year shooting guard with the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta who earned NCAA Most Improved Player honors a year ago, collected 15 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the Altas’ 73-65 victory over the Aguinaldo College Generals last July 11 in Season 90.

    The triple-double feat of 6-foot Thompson, who a year ago earned NCAA Most Improved Player honors despite being plagued by back problems, was the first of its kind in three seasons.

    Bruising frontliner Calvin Abueva, who’s now with the Alaska Aces in the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), amassed 21 scores, 20 boards and 10 dimes during the San Sebastian College Golden Stags’ 77-62 shellacking of the Mapua Institute of Technology Cardinals on September 10, 2012.

    In the ongoing UAAP wars (entering tomorrow's final first-round playdate), there were five instances wherein a player came close to recording a triple-double.

    Mark Juruena of the University of the Philippines got nine points, 10 rebounds and six assists in an 86-75 loss to Ateneo de Manila University last July 23.

    Both Jason Perkins (25/10/4) and Jeron Teng (15/12/4) flirted with a T-D during De La Salle University’s 97-86 setback to arch nemesis Ateneo last July 20. In that same encounter, Blue Eagles playmaker Nico Elorde had nine points, seven reebies and eight assists.

    Ateneo’s meal ticket Kiefer Ravena, the UAAP scoring leader after the first round of the double-round elimination phase with a 23-point average, notched a tournament-best 38 markers (including 19-fo-25 from the foul line), dished out nine assists and plucked down six boards in a come-from-behind 93-91 overtime success against the host University of the East in the only OT game so far in the 2.5-month tournament.
    Meanwhile, there have been 17 instances wherein a player posted a double-double in points and rebounds. (Note that assists have been hard to come by as not once has a player recorded 10 doleouts in a game, the nearest being nine set by Ravena in the OT game against the Red Warriors.

    Here are the double-double performances in the UAAP this season (in descending order):
    1-Charles Mammie, UE – 18 points/13 rebounds vs. Ateneo, 91-93 OT, August 10
    2-Jansen Rios, Adamson – 20 points/10 rebounds vs. UP, 64-77, August 9
    3-Arvin Tolentino, Ateneo – 14 points/12 rebounds vs. UST, 63-61, August 6
    4-Karim Abdul, UST – 19 points/12 rebounds vs. Ateneo, 61-63, August 6
    5-Jeron Teng, DLSU – 25 points/11 rebounds vs. UP, 74-53, August 6
    6-Anthony Hargrove, FEU – 13 points/13 rebounds vs. Ateneo, 78-81, August 3
    7-Alfred Aroga, NU – 18 points/15 rebounds vs. UE, 57-55, August 3
    8-Anthony Hargrove, FEU – 14 points/12 rebounds vs. UE, 73-63, July 30
    9-Norbert Torres, DLSU – 14 points/14 rebounds vs. UE, 60-58, July 27
    10-Chris Newsome, Ateneo – 18 points/12 rebounds vs. UP, 86-75, July 23
    11-Jason Perkins, DLSU – 25 points/10 rebounds vs. Ateneo, 86-97, July 20
    12-Jeron Teng, DLSU – 15 points/12 rebounds vs. Ateneo, 86-97, July 20
    13-Arvin Tolentino, Ateneo – 14 points/10 rebounds vs. DLSU, 97-86, July 20
    14-Jansen Rios, Adamson – 13 points/13 rebounds vs. UE, 72-99, July 19
    15-Alfred Aroga, NU – 16 points/11 rebounds vs. UP, 70-59, July 19
    16-Karim Abdul, UST – 11 points/11 rebounds vs. NU, 40-59, July 13
    17-Jason Perkins, DLSU – 11 points/11 rebounds vs. FEU, 77-82, July 12

    Rios, Tolentino, Abdul, Teng, Hargrove, Aroga, Torres, Newsome and Perkins own a pair of double-doubles. Only Tolentino and Aroga are in their first season.
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