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  1. NBA on Christmas Day

    For the seventh year in a row, five games are slated to be played in the U.S. National Basketball Basketball Association (NBA) on Christmas Day.

    The festive quintuple bill starts at high noon (or December 26, 1:00 a.m., Manila time) with an Eastern Conference duel between the Washington Wizards and New York Knickerbockers at the Madison Square Garden. It will mark the Knicks’ 50th Christmas Day appearance.

    Other Christmas Day games include:

    + Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and scoring champion Kevin Durant and cat-quick guard Russell Westbrook are back in the pink health as the Oklahoma City Thunder travel to San Antonio to face ageless Tim Duncan the defending league titlist Spurs (3:30 a.m., MT). A year ago, Westbrook registered a triple-double (14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) as Oklahoma City pulled off a 123-94 win over New York, which played without injured Carmelo Anthony.

    Westbrook thus became the fifth player to record a triple-double on Christmas Day in NBA history. The other were LeBron James (Miami vs. LA Lakers, 2010), Billy Cunningham (Philadelphia vs. Detroit, 1970), John Havlicek (Boston vs. New York, 1967) and Oscar (The Big O) Robertson, who turned in the trick four times (Cincinnati vs. Seattle, 1967; Cincinnati vs. St. Louis, 1963; Cincinnati vs. LA Lakers, 1961; and Cincinnati vs. Detroit, 1960).

    + King James returns to South Beach for the first time since leaving the Miami Heat last summer following four fruitful seasons that resulted in four NBA Finals trips and a pair of league championships as his hometown (and original NBA employer) Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Florida squad (6:00 a.m.);

    + Comebacking Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls host Kobe Bryant and the struggling Los Angeles Lakers in the Tinseltown boys’ lone trip to the Windy City this season (9:00 a.m.); and

    + The league-leading Golden State Warriors, built around the majors’ highest-scoring tandem in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and rookie NBA head coach Steve Kerr, clash with the Blake Griffin- and Chris Paul-bannered the Los Angeles Clippers in an all-Pacific Division duel at the Staples Center, where the Clippers are the Lakers’ co-tenants (11:30 a.m.).

    For the Lakers, this will be their 16th straight Christmas Day contest but the first on the road in six years. In 2013, with Bryant out with an injury, the Lakers lost to Miami, 101-95, at the Staples Center. (The Lakers and Clippers are co-tenants at the Staples Center). Overall, the Lakers are 21-19 on Christmas Day, including 13-10 at home.

    A healthy Bryant will be making his 16th Christmas appearance, the most by any player in league history. Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, Dolph Schayes and Shaquille O’Neal (now a minority owner with the Sacramento Kings) share second place with 13 each.

    The New York Knickerbockers, one of only three founding NBA franchises still in existence 9the others being the Boston Celtics and Golden State (formerly Philadelphia then San Francisco) Warriors, own the all-time NBA mark for most Christmas Day appearances with 50, including this year’s game against the Wizards.

    While the Gotham City outfit is a frosty 22-27 during the holiday, its 22 victories are the most ever by any NBA franchise, one more that the Lakers’ output.

    Meanwhile, Bryant remains the NBA’s No. 1 scorer in Christmas games – despite last year’s absence – with 383 points, surpassing Oscar (The Big O) Robertson’s 377 in 12 appearances (31.4 ppg) and O’Neal’s 372 in 13 games (28.6 ppg).

    Bryant is averaging at a 25.5-point clip on Christmas Day.

    It has been an annual ritual for the NBA to schedule games on Christmas since 1947, or one year after it was established initially as the Basketball Association of America.

    The first NBA game played on December 25 came in 1947 when the New York Knicks whipped the Providence Steamrollers, 89-75, at the old Madison Square Garden.

    Since the time, the NBA has scheduled games every year on Christmas Day, except in 1998 when a lockout (or labor dispute) canceled half of the 1998-99 regular season.
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  2. Philippine Cup BPC Race

    Every player will tell you that the individual awards are nice but their main goal is to win a championship. Still, there is something mighty nice about getting that trophy for yourself. It is a recognition of all and sundry of your accomplishments. And who does not appreciate being appreciated? Let's take a look at the Top 10 PBA Players in the ongoing Philippine Cup:

    1. Junemar Fajardo, Center, San Miguel Beer

    18.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.3 blocks per game

    The man they call "The Kracken" is having arguably the best season of his career, and he just came fresh off an MVP season. More than the numbers, Fajardo has shown new wrinkles to his game, including a turnaround jumper from the post, and a much-improved transition game. He is without a doubt now the best player in the league, not just the best big man, and arguably one of the top players in Asia.

    2. Calvin Abueva, Forward, Alaska

    17.4 points, 13 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals per game

    People sometimes wonder about Abueva's real size. His numbers suggest he must be at least 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. In reality he is closer to 6-foot-2 and 190. You have to wonder how someone like that gets a 20-20 in any game, and yet he's done it a couple times in his young career. Abueva has become the engine powering the Alaska early offense and secondary break, and he remains the player with the best motor in the league.

    3. Greg Slaughter, Center, Ginebra

    15.6 points, 13 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1 block per game

    The reigning Rookie Of the Year is once again putting up great numbers. Too bad he fizzled when his Gin Kings needed him most, scoring only eight points and struggling against the TNT frontline in their do-or-die loss to the Texters, ousting them from further contention. Still, Slaughter is arguably among the top 3 centers in the PBA, and teams not named San Miguel would trade half their rosters to get him.

    4. Arwind Santos, Forward, San Miguel Beer

    15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.5 blocks per game

    Speaking of MVP, the Beermen boast of two on their starting unit. Santos provides a lot of stability and support to his burgeoning center Fajardo, and puts up MVP-level numbers himself for the best team in the tournament. Santos will once again be called upon to steady the SMB ship once the Best-of-7 semifinals versus TNT gets going next week.

    5. Cliff Hodge, Forward, Meralco

    13.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 bloack per game

    Playing well for a mediocre team, Hodge has made the most of his opportunity, and he's put up the numbers to back it up. He is probably among the Top 5 most underrated players in the league, but his motor is probably second only to Abueva's. At only 6-foot-3, Hodge fights tooth and nail to clean up the boards for the Bolts, and provides them elite athleticism at both forward spots.

    6. Alex Cabagnot, Guard, GlobalPort / San Miguel

    15.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5 assists, 1.1 steals per game

    Cabagnot was enjoying a renaissance of sorts with GlobalPort prior to the trade that sent him back to the SMB fold. He was among the Top 5 guards of this conference and was getting every opportunity to showcase his considerable talent. With the Beermen he will have to be more of a facilitator, which will definitely affect his numbers, but if that means winning the championship then trust him to get the job done.

    7. Japheth Aguilar, Forward, Ginebra

    14.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks per game

    Aguilar is without a doubt the most athletically gifted player in the league. He has freakish leaping and running ability in a 6-foot-9 frame, and his length is enough to disrupt any shot he does not block. But questions remain as to his guts, if he has the killer instinct to move from being just another athletic player to being a true elite go-to guy. His disappointing performance in their do-or-die versus TNT suggests much remains to be done in spite of his numbers.

    8. Asi Taulava, Center, NLEX

    16.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists per game

    Talk about immortals. Taulava is the oldest player in the league. That he is still among the Top 10 players says a lot about his dedication and passion. He is no longer the roaring freight train he was 10 years ago, but he is still a very productive player who can take on the best PBA big man toe to toe.

    9. Paul Lee, Guard, Rain Or Shine

    15.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists per game

    The real reason the Elasto Painters are a top team is because of the playmaking prowess of the Lethal Weapon. Seriously, this is a team that on paper doesn't look like much. But they've been to two straight Finals and ...
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  3. NBA: K. K. K

    The U.S. National Basketball Association has its own K. K. K. by way of the top three career scorers in the pro league’s 69-year regular-season history – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and now, Kobe Bryant.

    Abdul-Jabbar, who started his distinguished NBA tenure in 1969-70 under his Catholic name Ferdinand Lewis (Lew) Alcindor, is the all-time leading scorer in regular play with 38,387 points.

    The 7-2 product of the University of Los Angeles at California (UCLA or the college that Benjie Paras’ son Kobe has committed to attend in 2016-17) labored with the Milwaukee Bucks (1969-75) and Los Angeles Lakers (1975-89) in 1,560 games and 20 seasons to get that many points and the NBA distinction.

    Kareem, who converted to Islam in the summer of 1971 following an NBA title finish with the Bucks, made it the top of the scoring ladder by surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 31,419 career points (in 14 seasons and 1,045 games with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Lakers from 1959-73) on April 5, 1984 while donning the Lakers uniform.

    Before a crowd of 18,389 at the Thomas and Mack Center at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, the Utah Jazz’ home-away-from-home facility that season, Abdul-Jabbar needed 22 points to eclipse Chamberlain’s league mark and he did accomplish the feat (just 11 days before his 37th birthday) with his trademark “skyhook” shot (for his 21st and 22nd points) early in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 129-115 victory over 7-4 mastodon Mark Eaton and the Jazz.

    The 7-1 Chamberlain, who until now still owns 71 NBA records, including 62 by himself, had held the NBA career scoring record for more than 18 years until fellow Lakers alum Abdul-Jabbar snatched it from him.

    On February 14, 1966, Wilt, while carrying the 76ers colors in his seventh pro season, netted 41 points in a 149-123 win over the Detroit Pistons to move past Bob Pettit (20,880 points in 11 seasons and 792 games with the Milwaukee/St. Louis Hawks from 1954-65) as the NBA’s all-time scoring leader. “The Stilt” finished the game with 20,884.

    Chamberlain became the first of five men in NBA regular-season annals to reach the 30,000-point plateau on February 16, 1972 during the Lakers’ 110-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

    Chamberlain, who died of congestive heart failure on October 12, 1999 at his Bel Air home in Los Angeles, California at age 63, now ranks fifth on the NBA’s all-time regular-season scoring charts.

    To date, “The Mailman” Karl Malone is No. 2 on the all-time list with 36,928 points, stringing them together in 19 seasons and 1,476 games with the Utah Jazz (1985-2003) and LA Lakers from 1985-2004.

    The LA Lakers’ Bryant has moved up to third place, doing it at the expense of His Airness Michael Jordan last December 14 during the Lakers’ 100-94 road victory over the equally woeful Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.

    Kobe needed nine points against the Wolves to climb past Air Jordan’s 32,292 (in 15 seasons and 1,072 games with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards from 1984-2003, while in retirement in 1993-94 and from 1998-2001) into third on the list and the 6-7 son of former NBA journeyman frontliner Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant turned in the trick with a pair of free throws midway through the first half for his eighth and ninth points. He eventually finished with a team-best 26 markers to improve to 32,310.

    It took the 36-year-old Bryant, who has spent his entire 19-year NBA tenure with the Lakers, 1,269 games to dislodge Jordan, though.

    The all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history, Bryant jacked up his career total to 32,331 with 21 scores in the Lakers’ 110-91 road setback to the Indiana Pacers last Dec. 15. On December 20 (Manila time), the Lakers (8-17) will host an Oklahoma City Thunder team that has been rejuvenated with the return of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook from injuries.

    For the record, Jordan still holds the all-time highest scoring average in NBA regular-season history at 30.12 points a game. Chamberlain is a close second with 30.06 clip.
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  4. Its A Team Thing

    Basketball is a team sport. There are five guys making up a side on court at all times. There are easily seven to eleven other guys on the bench. In the pros, there might be two or three guys on the reserve list, quite apart from those with farm teams who can call up any guy any time to be on the regular roster.

    Coaches will set up systems on offense and defense that maximizes the total talent and skill of their guys, especially if they are not a particularly deep, strong, or big team. It is a very simple principle: in team sports the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

    Yes, the minute the team superstar is declared out for the season with an ACL injury, a contender will most likely struggle monumentally to the playoffs only to take an early exit. Yes, some losses, especially superstars, cannot be made up for with the rest of the roster, in spite of the best coaching and even novenas to all the saints. Yes, all you need is one guy not being on the same page to completely undo a carefully laid out plan.

    But the team is still supreme. No matter how good your superstar is he still needs support. That is why the formula has always been to build around your best player. You get one elite player, give him two all star sidekicks, then complete the rotation with four or five good quality role players. Seriously, even Michael Jordan would never have won all those championships if he had been surrounded by say Mike Smrek, Jon Sundvold, Terry Catledge, and Kurt Rambis, no Horace Grant, no Dennis Rodman, no Luc Longley, and especially no Scottie Pippen.

    In the PBA only four teams have ever completed a grand slam title reign. Each and every one of those teams had at least an all star starting five.

    Now if one guy cannot win championships by himself, why is it fans, sportswriters, and even basketball lifers seem to believe that one guy can be blamed for the failings of his team?

    It does not make sense to me. One guy, even if he was the best player of his era, still needs other good players on his side to win championships. But we are quick to blame one guy for the failings of an entire team. Michael Jordan didn't win those championships, his team, the Chicago Bulls did. Yes, he was the superstar, arguably the best player ever, but it is not his name alone in the history books, it is his team. Same goes for the likes of Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, Larry Bird and Bill Russell with the Celtics, Tim Duncan with the Spurs, and LeBron James with the Heat. Those triumphs may have been due in large part to those individuals, but they are attributed wholly to those teams.

    So why is it when the Lakers aren't doing so well this season, the blame is heaped only or primarily on Bryant? He's the league's leading scorer, so he must be doing everything he can. He is paid to lead this team, and to lead it by scoring. A lot. Unfortunately the Lakers have a current record more reminiscent of the Clippers from the 1980's. They are currently at 8-17, the third-worst team in the entire Western Conference.

    Same goes for LA Tenorio and Barangay Ginebra. As of this writing, Ginebra is set to take on Talk N Text tonight at the Big Dome to determine who advances to the semifinals versus either Rain Or Shine or Alaska. Tenorio has had a bad Philippine Cup so far, with a 1.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio. At the start of the conference the Gin Kings were on a five-game roll, but they faltered midway through the eliminations, and were at one point skidding to a four-game losing streak, settling at a poor 6-5 to end the eliminations.

    I am unaware of all the number-crunching the better writers have put together to bolster their cases against both Bryant and Tenorio. All I can say is: those numbers prove nothing not already known.

    Bryant is an aging superstar with arguably one of the weaker Lakers rosters he's ever played on. Sure, he's got all star-types in Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer, but there is only so much the three of them can do. His ball movement-killing tendency to hold on to the ball for 15 seconds of the shot clock is sure not helping, but this is Bryant we're talking about. Do you really want the offense to go through say Nick Young or Jordan Hill? The Lakers will live and die with the guy who guarantees them the billion-dollar TV coverage deals.

    Tenorio supposedly has the best frontline in the PBA with the biggest player in the league, Greg Slaughter, and 6-foot-9 pogo stick Japheth Aguilar. They even have a recent MVP in the venerable Mark Caguioa, and young talents Joseph Yeo and Chris Ellis, with a tough, experienced, and big complementary crew. But this team supposedly runs a lot of the triangle offense that head coach Jeff Cariaso imbibed from long-time mentor Tim Cone. That system is one of the most difficult things to learn in the game, ...
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  5. Hail to the Panalay King!

    The Panalay King strikes once again!

    Amiable Van Halen Parmis, known to prominent hoops personalities in the Visayas and Mindanao landscape as the “Panalay King” for having won numerous basketball championships in various tournaments and leagues outside of Imperial Manila through the years, steered the barnstorming Natumolan Eagles to a “four-peat” recently.

    In the fourth Mayor Paulino Yap Emano’s Cup held in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last December 1-7, the Eagles swept all seven games from the elimination round to the finals to romp away with the title for the fourth year in a row.

    In the finals, Natumolan edged Bongsal, 91-89, and took home P250,000 for its triumphant performance.

    Among the collegiate standouts and ex-professional cagers that donned the Natumolan colors were two-time Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Most Valuable Player Willie Miller, Mark Yee, Reed Juntilla, Dino Daa, Jonathan Fernandez, JR Gerilla, Jovanie Aguilar, Stephen Padilla, Hafer Mondragon and University of the Visayas Green Lancers stars Jun Manzo and Steve Akomo and Cameroonian Akomo’s co-foreign recruit Emanuel Ojoula, a native of Nigeria who is headed for Naga Foundation College

    Parmis, who has collected nearly 80 championship hardware in his humongous trophy case during his six years of X-ing and O-ing, was assisted on the bench by Jojo Belano. Parmis also has been moonlighting as a UV assistant coach for the past three years under former bench boss Felix (Donbel) Belano (Jojo’s younger brother) and now under new head strategist Gary Cortes.

    Yee knocked in 27 points, Juntilla tallied 20, Miller chipped in 14 and Padilla totaled 11 for the high-flying Eagles of Natumolan barangay captain Enan Sabio and his first lady Rita May Sabio. Juntilla, who saw action in the PBA for four seasons (2007-11), was voted the tournament MVP.
    Patrick Cabahug, who played for Air21 in the PBA in 2010-11, topscored for Bongsal with 35 markers.

    Three other ex-PBAers carried the Bongsal colors. Abraham (Abi) Santos, a Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texter in 2006-07, and Frederick (Erick) Rodriguez, a three-year vet (2008-11) in Asia’s first professional cage league, contributed 15 and 10 scores, respectively, Ron Capati, who suited up for Coca-Cola in his lone PBA campaign in 2005-06, had nine points.

    For the 32-year-old Parmis, the sky’s the limit insofar as his coaching career is concerned.

    It seems fair to say that the best has yet to come for this product of Baybay City, Leyte.

    Parmis’ only “problem” at the moment is how to put up a bigger showcase for the growing number of trophies he has earned since 2008.

    Tim Cone, are you listening?
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