Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coach Rio vs The Plane. #BeatCoachRio

Unreal. Just saw the YouTube video of Coach Rio vs The Plane. Hahahaha yes, Coach Rio with his afro and a Cessna with its propellers. One on one. Man against machine. I can’t imagine what it’s like to sprint side-by-side with a plane on an open field. Ang alam ko lang, the adrenaline rush must have been off the charts.

Sort of like the rush of trying to catch the last departing plane out of an island.

Imagine what it’s like, to foolishly miss boarding time, then sprint on the NAIA runway, like freakin’ Usain Bolt, or like a speeding Coach Rio, to catch a flight.

I’m genuinely happy for this man. He’s quite the success story. Living proof that one can achieve so much by staying true to his passion. I see him during RunRio events. He normally chugs around the race route on his scooter. Runners greet him. He normally waves back. He makes people run. These are people who never used to run. People like me. Now I run. Maybe not as fast as the Afro Man. But, certainly, I can now identify with the enthusiasm he always runs with. Nakakahawa. Some say the afro is his signature. I say his passion for running is his signature.

So Coach Rio vs The Plane, hahaha runner against an airplane – riot, is another intriguing project. I honestly don’t know what this YouTube stunt will lead to on June 5 at the Bonifacio Global City (back of Terra 28th Park). Will he race against a plane again? Will he dare other runners to do the same? Whatever #BeatCoachRio is, however insane it might be, it will surely be another milestone in the career of a running visionary. MH

Video 1 - Video 2 -

What if...New York Spurs. OMG!

Spurs basketball x Knicks everything = Knicksanity.


If there's a burgeoning clamor to #FreeNoyBaclao, shouldn't there also be a rising #FreeRicoMaierhofer movement?

Agreed, Maierhofer plays behind talented, experienced, muscle-bound forwards on Ginebra's stacked rotation. Granted, Maierhofer gives up 300 pounds to anyone he collides with. But I just honestly miss watching him play. Plus, he should get 500 bonus points for being the only Ginebra player who tweets #AnimoGinKings before and after games. MH

Green Archers: Freedom from the Press. by Nikko Ramos.

By Nikko Ramos (@NikkoRMS)

The Pumarens are gone. All of them. No more Dindo pacing the sidelines, no more Derek sitting conveniently behind the bench on the first row “watching.” No more Franz three rows behind him, the mystique of his four-peat radiating to the players. No more full court press. Now it’s not guaranteed that new head honcho Gee Abanilla won’t raise two fists to call out the familiar stifling Archer backcourt trap every now and then. But as far as running it for the full 40 minutes? Those days are done.

It stopped working last year. No final four for DLSU. Season wasted. Alumni disappointed. Fanbase hungry for change. Enter Gee, Jun Limpot and a brand-new staff, brand-new mentality and brand-new jolt of hope. Granted, last year’s lineup might not have been the best group to run the Pumaren system.

La Salle waited years for Norbert Torres to be eligible. They anticipated Arnold Van Opstal’s high school graduation since he was in Grade 7. Those two big men were too different from the usual La Salle big men, but were too good, too hyped, and frankly, too big to pass up. These two talented, athletic prospects often looked Javale-esque in their rookie year, lost in a system that was never designed for guys their size.

This year, if the preseason tournament is any indication, those bigs finally have a coach and a system that are prioritizing entry passes to the post. Torres has been straight up beasting on the block for La Salle, looking like Mr. Hyde compared to the jumpshot-settling Dr. Jekyll of last season. Arnold Van Opsta a.k.a. AVO, they say, has improved his back-to-the-basket game as well and will see more touches than his pulot-mintis campaign in Season 74.

Come to think of it, aside from last year’s Ateneo Blue Eagles (who, honestly, could beat that pioneer Shopinas team), La Salle has the most complete-looking roster in recent history. On paper, some UAAP teams might be willing to trade their starters for DLSU’s second five: Vosotros, Tampus, Webb, Mendoza and Paredes. That group will be backing up Revilla, Dela Paz, Teng, Torres and Van Opstal. Add rookie Tallo in the mix and swingman Marata and you have 12 guys who can start (It is worth noting however that you probably won’t see Joseph Marata in a La Salle jersey this season unless he wears it to the mall or something. Why? Don’t know either).

But as we all know, rosters don’t win UAAP titles. Coaches do. Yup. Over the past four seasons, Norman Black has had star players, but his system made so-so role players play huge. This is the challenge La Salle faces. They now have their trusted veterans, their big name sophomores, and another pair of heralded rookies. They finally have a coaching style that matches their players’ styles and skills. Will it translate to wins? Or will they choke and frantically scan the room, search to see if that poor old scapegoat “adjustment period” is around and blame it for another substandard season?

In all fairness to Coach Gee Abanilla, if he’s able to lead La Salle to a winning record, he should consider it mission accomplished. That would mean a Final Four spot, maybe a four-seed at the least. For a first-year coach, that should be commended. Unfortunately, it won’t be. La Salle demands more. And for good reason. They have a complete team. They have a pro-level coach. They also however, are still enchanted, maybe even mortified, by that mystique Franz Pumaren and his clan radiates.

Yet La Salle is now Abanilla’s team. They’re a perfect match. Gee is motivated, everything to gain, everything to lose. La Salle is hungry, excited, driven again.

These Archers are now free from the press. But they’re now bound by the pressure, imprisoned by expectations, full court trapped by ambition. Maybe this new situation finally lights the fuse. Maybe this uncertainty finally launches the title drive of the decade. With Ateneo threatening to trump the Archers’ Four-Peat with a fifth straight chip this season, Taft is anxious. For another championship. For a return to dominance. For four straight of their own. NR

Gaconatics Worldwide.

Resistance is futile. Support the @Gaconatics worldwide movement.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Asi Taulava - The Rock stays strong. by Jutt Sulit.

By Jutt Sulit (@juttsulit)

Nino Canaleta was ready for his final dunk of the 2012 PBA Slam Dunk Contest. He lined up three persons under the basket. As if jumping over three average-sized people wasn’t enough, at the end of that line was the 6-foot-9 Asi Taulava. After a short gather, Cañaleta leaped off his left foot, extended his right leg, hit his crotch on Asi’s head, and made the dunk. As expected, it was a perfect 50.

As Canaleta received his 5th Slam Dunk King Trophy, he was asked how he came up with the idea of the dunk. He replied, “Yung plano naming aalis si Asi, hindi umalis!”

That’s Asi Taulava. There’s no getting rid of him. There’s no bringing him down.

You need proof?

In the early months of the year 2000, Asi was deported due to insufficient proof of his Filipino blood. Now, I’m not entirely confident about this but I vaguely remember him making a McArthur-esque statement that he will be back. True enough, he was back the following year and continued his PBA career.

More than that, he became part of Team Pilipinas from 2002 up until 2011. 9 years. Someone who got deported because he wasn’t Filipino played for our national team for 9 years.

You just can’t bring a stubborn man down.

In the game between Gilas and the Malaysians in August 2011, a certain Kwaang Yoong Jing, according to Asi, “grabbed, squeezed and punched” his balls. And no, he was not talking about the basketball. He fell to his knees for a second then quickly jumped back to his feet and unleashed a 1-2 punch combo right on the Malaysian’s face. Now I know punches belong to the boxing ring, but if someone GSP-ed (Grabbed- Squeezed-Punched) your balls, medyo hindi nga naman nakakatuwa ‘yon. Props to Asi. Not even a GSP could keep him down for three seconds.

When Team Pilipinas faced Yao Ming and the Chinese squad, Taulava went for a jumper right at the top of the key. Yao blocked it face-to-face and sent it back past half-court. What did Asi do? He hustled to get the ball back and went straight to attacking Yao’s defense again. Fine, he eventually passed the ball two dribbles into his drive. But you get the point, right?

The fighting spirit in Asi Taulava is remarkable. After 14 seasons in the league, he can still be a force on the basketball court. Yes, his numbers have gone down dramatically from his prime years. But give the guy a break; he’s freaking 39 years old.

At this point, Asi’s resiliency impresses me the most. It’s not only that he bounces back from whatever keeps him away.

The fact that he deviated from the original plan and decided to stay under the basket for Cañaleta’s final dunk seemed metaphorical.

Hindi umalis eh.

Ayaw umalis.

I don’t think we’re about to see the end of Asi Taulava.

I don’t think Asi’s ready to leave the game any time soon.

Seriously, I think the only way to get rid of Asi right now is to deport him again.

But in these fun times, when resilient Asi remains relevant at 39 years old, who would want to? JS

Monday, May 21, 2012

Gary David is human too. by Corrine Javier.

By Corinne Javier (@crinnne)

Gary David is one of the smartest and quickest players today. Gary’s stats reflect scores that, more often than not, make up almost half the baskets converted by his team. Ultimately, he helps keep the PBA exciting and unpredictable.

People gasp whenever Gary weaves through defenders for that crucial basket. They’re awed. His three-point shots persistently spark hope. It has become evident how his teammates entrust the ball with number 20. Call it automatic or second nature. The prospect that Gary will let Powerade down seems improbable.

However, what inspired to see his game in a different and more “human” perspective was when I saw him in the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center one day. It was early. He was shooting jump shot after jump shot. He was alone. It was the morning after another one of his epic games (I think a win over Talk and Text). He should’ve been relaxing at home. Yet surprisingly, he was the only one from his team doing extra work at that hour.

Why would you need to put extra effort after practice when you just scored almost half the baskets of your team?

I had to look twice to realize that it was indeed Gary David, last night’s star, shooting hoops on an empty Moro Lorenzo basketball court.

At that moment, it dawned on me: Gary is “human”. Lame as it may sound, I see these athletes as such superior beings with talents I will never attain. People might argue that he was just lucky enough to be born with such talent. Yet it is through continuous effort, an insane tendency to go the extra mile which all make him precisely the player the PBA praises today.

Work ethic defines the athlete. Discipline differentiates him.

I genuinely see the value. It cannot be reiterated and hammered more into my head by my coaches. The difference an extra ten minutes of shooting can do for me. Or whatever that “little extra” effort is. I often put off this work because of demands and responsibilities of school. We always talk of going the extra mile, but it often ends there. Everyone can say it, but not everyone can own up to it. Talk is cheap.

My leadership falls short because of work ethic. Seeing how Gary David follows through with his role motivates me to do better. Something about his being “human” somehow pushes him to be better every time.

There is always something else – or something more – one can work on to improve as a player. Gary David has reminded me that success is not achieved overnight. Nobody is simply born with magical skills. I must want it terribly enough to push my mind and body to keep working. It’s easy to quit. It’s easy to succumb to the human in me. CJ

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Others. by Chuck Araneta

A loyal fan braces for the painful end of Chicago's season and the hopeful start of another Alaska campaign.

By Chuck Araneta (@chuck_araneta)

As B-Meg fans celebrated their PBA championship by tweeting, texting, crying and writing emotional articles (I see you, @carlo_pamintuan), I had a different sports experience on that Sunday night.

As everyone went to sleep with dreams of Bowles of Steel, Cap’s tears of joy and Talk N’ Text’s gutsy performance, I trudged to the TV. I prepared myself to watch Game 5 of the NBA first round match-up between the Philadelphia 76ers and my beloved Chicago Bulls.

There was one little problem.

The game, which was supposedly airing on schedule, was unavailable. I waited 10 minutes. Then, 30 minutes.  I followed the running score online. I waited for the game to magically pop-up on the television screen.  By halftime, already 2:00am on my clock, still nothing.

I decided to end my misery and went to bed.

Maybe, even minus Derrick Rose (ACL) and Joakim Noah (ankle), I would wake up to a Chicago upset.

I woke up hours later. No victory. No miracle.

I stayed in my bed, eyes on the ceiling, mind drifting into sports contemplation. I couldn’t help but think about my own madness. I stayed up until two in the morning to try and watch a basketball game. I grit my teeth, fought through sleepiness. I tried to hold on to a belief.  A team with already nothing to lose still faces all the pressure. I hoped they would win.

It’s a strange thing. To cheer for your favorite team even if you know they’re no longer favorites. So the Bulls clinched the top seed in the regular season. That means nothing now. Rose’s torn ACL made it so. Now I’m back to cheering for what will be a middle-of-the-road team. If Rose doesn’t make it all the way back, they’ll exit next year’s first round for sure.

So what now?

I started to think about fans that cheer for teams with fading chances. I thought about fans like me. I thought about teams like that morning’s Bulls. It’s easy to cheer for teams formed to win and built to succeed. It’s not so easy cheering for a crumbling team, one that was initially formed to win and built to win it all.

It’s just as difficult rooting for teams destined to become average. It led me to a contemplation of PBA fans that cheer for Alaska. It led me to an examination of fans…like me. What compels us to support a team like the Aces?

You finish work. You prepare to watch your team play. You expect to see the worst. You get the occasional W. Maybe your team plays above itself. Maybe they’ll snatch an admirable victory. Maybe they’ll flirt with playoff glory.

Why bother with brief moments of euphoria?

Why still cheer?

Because if we don’t, it seems like no one else will.

Cheering for a mediocre, even crappy, team is like eating that last McDo French fry no one has the audacity to take. Those who don’t take that last sacred piece judge those who actually do.

I can count the number of fans who have stayed loyal to the Alaska Aces through thick and thin. I’m one of them.

I cheer for the Chicago Bulls, and I will continue to cheer for them even if they lose the series. I now cheer for the Rose-less, Noah-less Bulls even with the promise of elusive success.

I cheer for the Alaska Aces even though our new Head Coach went 0-24 in the UAAP.
I will support the Aces even with the promise of temporary happiness.

Because I need to.

Because of the blood, sweat and tears that I’ve invested.

I find senselessly waiting for illogical expectations both tantalizing and irresistible. The reward I’ve learned is worth more than the satisfaction gained from supporting a regularly successful team.

I cheer for “The Others” like some of you do. I feel your pain. I know what being on the side less taken is like. Go ahead; support Meralco if your heart tells you do so. Do not sell out. Don’t switch allegiances because it’s the easy thing to do.

Struggling teams need people like us. When the miracle finally happens, we’ll be the happiest witnesses. Trust me. Powerade Tigers fans know this. Someday, Chicago fans will feel it again. Someday, Alaska fans will swear it was truly worth the torturous wait.

We’ve scaled the mountaintop. Chicago and Alaska have stayed on the mountaintop for years. It’s also taking them years just to return. The view from the top is beautiful. It’s fleeting, but beautiful. CA

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From Purefoods to B-MEG. From Fathers to Sons. by Carlo Pamintuan.

By Carlo Pamintuan (@carlo_pamintuan)

Photo by KC Cruz

Was Game 7 between B-MEG and Talk N’ Text just a sports event? Or was it a life experience? I wondered.

I watched the game with my dad at a family friend’s house in Angeles, Pampanga. We braced ourselves for a bitter ride home because Talk N’ Text seemed like they were destined to win another PBA championship. Then, the improbable happened. The Llamados stormed back. We shouted and high fived at every B-Meg stop or conversion. A game, in that highly charged moment, for me, for my dad, definitely no longer felt like just a game.

I’ve been a fan of the Purefoods franchise for as long as I can remember. Like many things in life, it was my father who eased me into the sport. Naturally, I inherited his allegiance.

Living in Pampanga, it was hard for us to watch games live. The cost was steep and the travel made it doubly hard. But even if I only knew the Purefoods TJ Hotdogs through the games I watched or the news articles I read, I felt close to them. It was an inexplicable connection. A huge fraction of my childhood was spent on following Purefoods. A big chunk of life’s lessons, therefore, I learned from the Hotdogs.

Jerry Codiñera taught me it’s important to hone your skills. He was not a 7-footer. He wasn’t very athletic. Yet he became one of the PBA’s best players because he perfected his mid-range jumper and became a defensive perfectionist.

Dindo Pumaren showed me it’s important to be consistent, to look past flashes of brilliance and concentrate on bringing the same effort night in and night out, to be what his team needed him to be.

Rey Evangelista taught me that humility disarms.

But as with any Purefoods fan, I was inevitably drawn to Alvin Patrimonio. How could you not love The Captain? He was a bull strong power forward. He owned a reliable jumper. He had a knack for sinking game winners. He was also the team’s unquestioned leader. And, he was one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

After Cap retired, Purefoods went on to win a couple of championships. But as a long-time fan, I longed for something more. In post-Patrimonio championship games, and I watched all of them, I just can’t seem to remember any life-altering moment. Something was missing.

Apparently, I found it while watching the last 7 minutes of Game 7.

In this particular championship between B-MEG and Talk N’ Text, in this one game, I saw what was perhaps the only basketball moment I’ll ever need to see.

After Denzel Bowles made two free throws -- these were free throws no normal human being should ever make -- to complete B-MEG’s desperate rally and send Game 7 into overtime, I saw Patrimonio rush from the bench. Alvin crashed into Bowles and wrapped his import in the tightest embrace. What kind of Team Manager does that??? Cap was teary-eyed when he bear-hugged Denzel. Cap poured out his emotions on the court. A 4-time MVP expressed his happiness like a child.

I saw it. My dad saw it too.

Suddenly, I remembered why I love this league, why I love this team. My childhood flashed in front of my eyes. I recalled the joys and pains of being a young fan. I recalled the near fistfights with other boys because they said something ill about Cap or the Hotdogs. I remembered the bitter losses to Alaska. I remembered the glorious wins over San Miguel and Ginebra.

I also realized that the old Purefoods spirit is still there. It’s within this B-MEG team, even if the faces have all changed, even if a former tormentor is at the helm.

I knew my dad was just as moved by what we were witnessing. No words were exchanged. While a Captain shared his tears on television, a father offered meaningful silence and a son finally experienced the basketball catharsis he longed for. It was one of the best father and son moments we’ve shared in quite a while.

At that moment, uhm, hindi ako naiyak ha, napuwing lang ako.

Then I looked at my dad. Napuwing din pala siya. CP

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Denzel Bowles and the impact of imports in the PBA. by Jutt Sulit

By Jutt Sulit (@juttsulit)

Jimmy Alapag – reigning MVP, former Rookie of the Year, 2-time Finals MVP.
Jayson Castro – 2-time Finals MVP, reigning Most Improved Player.
Kelly Williams – former Rookie of the Year, former MVP.
Ryan Reyes – former Rookie of the Year, 3-time All Defensive Team.
Larry Fonacier – former Rookie of the Year, former Finals MVP.
Japeth Aguilar – 6’9”.

These players, along with their credentials, banner Talk N’ Text. People say it’s a dynasty in the making. On paper and on the court, TNT is a powerhouse.  But they aren’t invincible, especially when an additional factor comes to play – the import.

I’ve come across one too many people saying that they only watch the PBA when it’s the All-Filipino conference.  Their noble reasoning: imports overshadow the locals and mas enjoy daw kapag walang import.


I think imports play a bigger role in the league than what most of us think. They balance out the competition and allow for the weaker teams to have a shot at the trophy.

Unfortunately, for the weak, imports also solidify the already strong. Case in point, Denzel Bowles. He is the biggest reason why the Llamados are in the PBA Finals right now. I really thought Talk ‘N Text would easily take the championship series. But B-MEG kept on winning. How could I have underestimated a team that took the top seed in the previous conference? Oh yeah, maybe because they got knocked out by the 8th-seeded team. This conference, however, B-MEG got their well-deserved Finals appearance. It’s greatly because of Bowles. Regardless of what happens in game 7, Momma Bowles should be proud.

That is not taking away the possibility of an import leading the downfall of a team. Recently, we saw two of the greatest displays of ‘patalo’ imports in Jackson Vroman and Earl Barron. Ginebra lost because Vroman couldn’t control his emotions. Meralco lost because, for some reason, Earl Barron thought he was Michael Jordan. He missed seven straight shots in the crucial minutes of their do-or-die game against B-MEG in the quarterfinals. That includes a three-pointer. We all know what happened after.

Back to the good stuff. More imports might mean more dunks. We’re tired of Asi’s ‘barely making it to the rim’ dunks. We want more Chris King baseline throw-downs – circa 2000 or Urbiztondo to Bowles off-the-backboard alley-oops. When imports are around, we realize it doesn’t hurt to have more than one dunk per game.

It’s also refreshing to see 7-footers who can actually play ball. Truth is we have talented local big men in the league. But some of them probably think they can just come over and dominate because of their height or NCAA Division 1 experience. Thus, they end up sulking on the bench.

The importance of foreign blood in the association is underappreciated. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the All-Filipino conference perfectly well. I just happen to argue that having imports is, aside from fun, advantageous to teams and fans. The only team that may find it disadvantageous is – yes, you guessed it – Talk N’ Text. I believe the presence of imports makes for healthy competition in the league. By ‘healthy competition’, I mean there’s an actual possibility of Talk ‘N Text not winning a Game 7.

That being said, time to pick imports.

Dibs on Lamont Strothers. JS

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sorry PJ Simon. Nice shoes. by Nikko Ramos

By Nikko Ramos (@NikkoRMS)

People say you are what you wear. In the PBA, there seems to be no rule for what players can and can’t wear to a game.

I’ve seen Powerade’s Rudy Lingganay walk into Araneta with a backpack to go with jeans and a graphic tee, looking every bit like a college sophomore on his way home from study group. I’ve also seen baller-celebs like Barako’s Don Allado enter the locker room in crisp, expensive-looking jeans and tailored button-down shirts.

And then, there’s B-MEG supersub PJ Simon. Yup, 91 words before I introduce the star of my article. But that’s the PJ Simon storyline, isn’t it?

It was game three of these Commissioner’s Cup semifinals when I saw Peter June Simon enter the arena. He walked straight into the B-Meg dugout. I could have sworn he just got off a yacht. While many players flash their offcourt Jordans, PJ went for boat shoes. Up top, he had a light blue, long sleeved shirt, with top two buttons opened and sleeves rolled to achieve that “rolled, not folded ‘cos I’m cool like that” look. He wore khaki shorts that finished above the knee. To finish the yachtsman look, he had a fancy-schmancy non-athletic duffel bag in hand.

PJ looked like John F. Kennedy on a sailing trip with the fam at Cape Cod. Or maybe he looked like the stereotypical rich-dude bad-guy on your favorite teleserye. JC Intal was wearing something similar. But JC’s height and build would still scream “athlete” even if he borrowed Bianca Gonzalez’s gowns for kicks. But not PJ.

You are what you wear. Is it true? If it is, PJ Simon dresses like a rich kid born into fortune, like a bachelor who takes his yacht out to sea with his arm around a new supermodel every week. So maybe we’re not what we wear. Perhaps he watched a Gossip Girl summer episode, saw Chuck Bass in a long sleeved shirt, khaki shorts and deck shoes and thought, “Ayos yun ah.”

For basketball players, they are how they arrive. Some get there early enough to show off the new pair of sponsored sunglasses they’ve been tweeting for days. Some intentionally enter another gate to meet adoring fans. Simon, on the other hand, greets no one, and goes straight to the locker room. The only reason he stops? It’s not to sign autographs or death-stare opponents. It’s because some young misguided courtside reporter who saw a similar preppy outfit earlier confuses him with JC Intal (Sorry PJ).

Even in boat shoes, a long sleeved shirt and khaki shorts,I mistook PJ for someone else. That’s my bad. That’s his story.

PJ is never the most intimidating presence. He never scares off opponents with his appearance. He doesn’t strut like a star. He has had to count on sneakiness to be effective. Often overlooked. Often underestimated.

The spotlight is often on megastars like James Yap. PJ? The guy I was surprised to see in Cape Cod boat shoes. The guy I inexcusably mixed up with someone else. You don’t talk about PJ until he takes and makes that dagger three to end a team’s season.

Don’t be misled by the Chuck Bass/JFK vibe.

I believe PJ is a simple guy.

I believe his game isn’t so simple to stop.

But -- if PJ Simon really owns a yacht, then forget everything I just said. NR

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tim Cone continues to win. My heart continues to break. by Polo Bustamante

On the eve of a possible B-MEG championship, an Alaska fan shares his deep, deep pain.

By Polo Bustamante (@polo_bustamante)

I want Talk N’ Text to win. Because I dislike the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs.

I refuse to call them B-MEG to preserve my original aversion. I enjoyed the beating that 8th seed Powerade handed them last conference. I hope Talk N’ Text gets their act straight so that they can beat Purefoods.

I want Talk ‘N Text to win. Because of my history as an Alaska Fan.

I remember how Purefoods import Kenny Redfield destroyed Jolas and the Milkmen in the 1994 Commissioner’s Cup. I rememer how Alaska battled a tough Hotdog team led by Cap, Jerry Codinera and Dindo Pumaren in the 1996 All-Filipino Cup.

It goes that far.

Yet my most painful memories are the most recent ones.

I was confident that the Aces would win the 2002 Governor’s Cup. How could they lose? They led 2-0 and won Game 6. Momentum was on their side right? Wrong. The Hotdogs drubbed the Aces. They cruised to a 20-point win. Derrick “The Flight” Brown dunked all over my team.

Of course, who could forget the 2010 All-Filipino Cup? In Game 2 of the Finals, referee Maui Maurillo called a foul on JDV and practically handed the Hotdogs the win and the championship. Okay, some Aces were also to blame for that one. But it still sucks balls to lose to Purefoods. It stings even more to have been swept by them.

But the question begs to be answered.

Why do I still abhor the Hotdogs?

I want Purefoods to lose because they’re coached by Earl Timothy Cone. I hope Tim sweats it out before winning another championship. Especially after what he did to the Alaska Franchise.

And here’s where I get emotional.

It hurt that Cone left. Real deep. It really felt like he gave up on the team. I’m sure he had his reasons. I’m in no position to question his motives. But when he left, he dealt the death sentence to the franchise. The Aces are now in limbo.

The worst part; Tim brought his necktie to one of Alaska’s bitter rivals. Hell, I would have felt better if he ended up coaching La Salle (and I’m from Ateneo).

I want Tim to look back and realize that the greatest heights of his career happened with Alaska. It would kill me to watch James Yap and Marc Pingris shower Coach Tim with Gatorade. I don’t know if the collision with referee Art Herrera was Murphy’s Law in action. I just decided to take it as an omen.

Tim Cone WAS Alaska. He was the face of the Aces. He was the one constant in a league full of changes. He coached my all-time favorite player, Jojo Lastimosa. He coached my favorite Blue Eagle LA Tenorio. He introduced the Triangle Offense. He started a winning tradition. He made me cheer for my favorite coach.

And then, he left.

I want Talk ‘N Text to win. Because I want Tim Cone back.

Damned Hotdogs.

Damned heartbreak. PB

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jackson LeVroman gave up on Ginebra. by Robi Raya

By Robi Raya (@DaRealRobiRaya)

It was probably the 429th time that BGK import Jackson Vroman utilized his arms the way Italian ballers use theirs to say, “Screw you ref!” But something was different this time; he knew the ref was right. The naturalized Lebanese was just called for his graduating foul. By looking at how he half-heartedly protested against the call, it was as if he fouled himself out of the game. Vroman wanted no part of the ass-whoopin that the Llamados were handing out, just like Piolo wanted no part of KC. Vroman gave up on his team the way ‘Bron gave up on the Cavs.

But it wasn’t like the lead was insurmountable. Vroman threw in the towel with barely 6 minutes left. Ginebra was down 94-79. The Ginebra crowd was still into the game. This is the team known for never giving up, the team who never says, “Die”. No doubt ---- if there was a team that could pull off a Lazarus-like stunt, it was Ginebra.

Yet an awkward marriage squashed all hopes of a comeback. It was an unwieldy union formed even before BGK trailed by half a month in Game 4, even before Game 4 of the PBA semifinals started.  When Jackson Vroman officially replaced Chris Alexander, when Vroman and Ginebra were pronounced Import and Team, the pairing seemed destined to crumble.

I can only imagine the pain Ginebra fans brought home that night. Masakit talaga. I can imagine them talking to their bathroom mirrors and asking, “Bakit si Vroman? Dapat kasi hindi nalang pinalitan si Alexander!”  Sure, Alexander would have made a difference in that series. He was bigger than Vroman and his body was made to withstand more pounding from the surprisingly physical Llamados. Theoretically, substitute Alexander for Vroman in Game 4 and the 18 offensive rebounds Ginebra gave up should have been easily cut in half.

Alexander certainly was the better fit for BGK in the series against B-MEG, but I’m not sure if they would even be in the semis with him. I saw him average 14 points and 17 boards in his 3-game stint. Those numbers weren’t bad at all but I highly doubt if he could have sustained them. After all, Alexander’s conditioning was suspect. Chris Alexander didn’t move like an import at all and his lack of energy was a bad fit for Barangay Ginebra Basketball. Think about it: Chris Alexander was a black Adam Parada.

So the what-if/what-could-have-been questions should stop now. If you ask me, Ginebra management made the right decision to replace Chris Alexander. They just picked the wrong guy to replace him.

But this is what drives Ginebra fans insane: Jackson Vroman was a legit NBA player. He was 31st overall draft choice by the Chicago Bulls in 2004 (notably ahead of Trevor Ariza at 43rd). He was a 6’10” forward who played decent NBA minutes. He was also an accomplished club player in Iran, winning national and Asian Championships. More significantly, he led the Kings to an outright semis berth after helping the team win 4 of their last 6 games. So going into the semis, there was little to refute his case.

And then, the problems started:

a) Vroman missed too many free throws and lacked confidence to make some

b) Vroman always complained about calls. He looked like Chot Reyes in the process

c) Vroman was too damn soft for smaller but tougher PBA bruisers.

Alas, these signs exploded in the semis, when stakes were higher and subtle punches were harder. You saw it coming. He was methodically broken down, thawed by Reavis, then chopped by Pingris, and most surprisingly, (drum roll please…) cooked by Yancy De Ocampo!

Finally in Game 4, Jackson LeVroman gave up. While getting brutally outplayed by the Llamados and after producing yet another egg in the 4th quarter, he tapped out. You should’ve seen the look of resignation on his face when he fouled Pingris.

This was a failed marriage even before the engagement. Jackson Vroman and Ginebra Basketball are just not made for each other. The Ginebra way requires you to be tough and strong, fan loving and kind, arrogant yet focused. Jackson Vroman just was every bit the opposite. It’s just effin sad and frustrating to see a guy, someone you barely have a connection with, ruin everything. It’s frustrating to see that he quit on his team. He quit on the whole Barangay.

So what now? What’s the use of looking back and criticizing when you can do nothing about it? Maybe Jackson Vroman didn’t know what he signed up for. Maybe he had no idea how emotional BGK fans are. Maybe he didn’t know how physical the PBA could be. Maybe he had deep personal problems we weren’t aware of.

Ultimately, Vroman’s case shows us how hard it is to get a quality import. You can scout someone’s game as much as you can or get the best recommendations from credible sources. So who expected Vroman’s character to inexplicably disappoint as much as it did? There’s just no way a team scout, or a massive fan base, can know what an import is made of until that import finally reveals his true competitive self. RR