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  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. The Trade

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming the NBA franchise for milestone events in the Internet Age.

    First there was "The Decision". Then came "The Return". Now we have "The Trade".

    The first two events centered around LeBron James, without a doubt the biggest damn star in all of Cleveland sports history, no disrespect meant to Mr James Brown.

    That third event though, that is something that has gotten quite the buzz.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes:

    Kyrie Irving, the top pick of the 2011 NBA Rookie Draft, an All Star and USA Basketball stalwart, asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him a couple months back, reportedly because he "wanted to be more of the focal point" according to media articles and features.

    Fair enough, a man can certainly make his own decisions regarding his career.

    Fast forward to less than a few hours ago (as of this writing) and that trade has been consummated.

    Who did Cleveland get for Irving?

    Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 draft pick.

    Thomas, picked 60th and last in the same draft where Irving went first overall, became a bona fide superstar last season, at one point averaging 30 points per game and eventually settling down to a little over 28 ppg.

    Had this been a one-for-one trade nobody would be talking about it much. After all, it was basically score-first superstar point guards swapping places.

    But the Celtics threw in Crowder, a lottery draftee, who is one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defender at both forward spots. They also threw in Zizic, still a work in progress as another 7-foot project but one with pretty good upside according to scouts.

    But the ultimate throw-in is that 2018 unprotected draft pick.

    Praxedes, do you know how Boston got that pick?

    They got that pick during their massive housecleaning that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Yes, those Brooklyn Nets, a team so bad that draft pick could easily be a Top 5 player in a draft year projected to be top heavy with the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Mohamed Bamba among those the Cavaliers could take.

    For one Kyrie Irving.

    Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems to think Irving is worth it. "You want a high quality player you have to pay a high price," he said in one interview.

    But is this a price that is too high?

    Ainge has built a reputation as an executive who has generally managed talent very well in Boston and everywhere else he's been. How did Cleveland get him to give up so much for Irving?

    Truth be told Irving and Thomas are certainly one of a type: score-first, clutch-shooting point guards who need the ball in their hands a lot, and both aren't exactly known for their defense. Irving in particular put up career numbers last season with over 25 ppg while shooting a little over 40% from three-range. He hit the title-clinching three in Game 7 of their historic resurrection from 1-3 down to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

    Yet his defensive metrics can charitably be described as "mediocre".

    Thomas for his part went on a tear last season and might have made even more noise is the playoffs were it not for a hip injury.

    For all his greatness, Thomas is still just 5-foot-9, and players that small tend not to last very long, playing at that level, in the league.

    So it was the throw-ins that really made this a fleecing for Cleveland, fleecing the fleecer as it were.

    And as fate would have it, or maybe it really was part of the plan, Cleveland and Boston take on each other on opening night this October 17.

    I guess, Praxedes, we will find out right away who really fleeced who then, eh?
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