Archive for the ‘ PBA ’ Category

Gary David is my MVP

The PBA MVP may be the most misleading MVP award in all of Philippine basketball; mainly because there has never been an archetypal PBA MVP and really, the most valuable players from conference to conference are the imports. 

The award, as a concept, is impossible to put in a box. You will never find a consensus definition of it. Parang love lang.  We each have our own understanding.

It can be given to the leader of the best team that year (Alapag 2011), or to the best player on the best team (Johnny Abarrientos 1996), or to the season’s best player (e.g. Kelly Williams 2008), or to the second best (Willie Miller 2007)[1], to the most popular (James Yap 2006)[2], to the most dominant (Asi Taulava 2003, Danny Ildefonso 2000, 2001), or to the “Dahil Wala Lang Mapagbigyan Ng Award” MVP (Willie Miller, who by the way averaged 9ppg in 2002)[3].

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“AH! MALAS! PUMASOK TIRA KO!”

The PBA Most Valuable Player is construed in a different manner every year. The award adapts. It changes essence. The only premise is that the winner has to be valuable in his own way. He has to belong to a winning team and be essential to the team’s success. His team ultimately has to win enough games.

How many is enough? You ask.

 Well, every winner of the award has either brought his team to at least two playoff appearances or won a championship that year.

Gary David failed to do either this year. That’s why I understand why he shouldn’t win the Dekada ’70-Mano Po-like race to the MVP against Mark Caguioa. Gets ko. Ginebra won enough, Powerade didn’t (Powerade finished with a 14-18 W-L record in all of the eliminations this year). In fact, Mark “The Spark” had my vote a few days ago. I even almost wrote an “It’s about damn time Mark Caguioa is MVP” article.

But it felt like I was forcing the award on Mark. Kasi parang ibibigay mo lang sa kanya. Pimples literally popped all over my face every time I try to unearth sound reasons why he should win. “Bakit ba dapat si Mark Caguioa ang MVP?” I asked myself.  Ultimately, the overriding sentiment is that Powerade didn’t win enough; that’s why we’re giving the MVP to the second best player of the season whose team went to the playoffs in all of the three conferences.

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PBA fans who make fan arts like this one are DA BEST!

But I want my MVP to take it — to grab the award like The Worm grabs rebounds[4]. I want to be gung-ho about my MVP. I want him to own the season.

Despite a losing record, despite only making the playoffs once this season, Gary David flat out owned the season!

The 2011-2012 Powerade Tigers were built like a complicated Ducati Monster, with missing and compromising parts, and with features tailored to a specific type of driver, and Gary David happened to be the only person who could have driven the motorcycle to a win in a race against F1 racecars. Only Gary David’s greatness could have lifted the Tigers’ inept lineup this season. No one else’s confidence and self-belief could have fooled Will Antonio, Rudy Lingganay, Celino Cruz, Francis Allera and co. into believing they could win any game.

And that’s Gary David’s amazing impact. He defended like Melo[5], and he was never a good passer nor a good playmaker, but he made his teammates play loose and confident because they knew they had a shot at beating anyone. Going into a game with Gary David on your side is like going into a 2-against-5 bar fight with an MMA fighter. Beyond the 25ppg average (Last time a local averaged at least 25 a game over a full season? Alvin Patrimonio back in 1992) and the way he stretches the floor and attracts attention, that’s Gary’s true value and that’s why he’s head and shoulders above the second best player this year.

Ten years from now, I’m sure we will all remember the 2011-2012 season for Gary David’s Hands-on-Fire Game versus B-MEG, for the game-saving buckets he drained against Rain Or Shine, for the 19 straight games he scored 20 or more, for the “I’m gonna say Cinderella run because it simply was a Cinderella run” run by Powerade in the Philippine Cup. Everyone fed off of his energy — including AKTV and PBA’s ratings. An afterthought turned iconic player produced iconic moments and a watershed year for the whole League. Ten years from now, this season’s top-of-mind player will be Gary David. No effin doubt.

And if anyone argues that Powerade didn’t win enough, I agree with you. Pero dapat mas ma-appreciate niyo ‘yung pagBUHAT na ginawa ni Gary Davidthis season. After all, he brought a used-to-be cellar-dwelling lineup to the Philippine Cup Finals. Against any local who played exceptional in an import-laden conference, shouldn’t we give more weight to that?

I thought so.


[1] Second to Mark Caguioa who averaged 24.6 ppg 5rpg and 4apg in only 30 games that season.

[2] This had a “Pacquiao win over Marquez” feeling over it. The popular choice won. People were even crediting half the award to Kris Aquino.

[3] If you’re counting at home, Willie Miller won two asterisk MVP’s. This one had a humongous asterisk on it. Teams had 2 imports that year because the League’s best formed the Hapee Toothpaste candidates’ guest team for our national team.

[4] I almost put “grab the award like he’s grabbing Kate Upton’s bosoms”. I figured you’d have to be gentler.

[5] Powerade Assistant Coach Charles Tiu admits that Gary David sometimes takes possessions off on defense for him to have energy on offense — a trade-off they don’t mind. I don’t either.

My meaningful convo with Jojo Lastimosa’s alter-ego

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Apparently, Jojo Lastimosa, a.k.a. “The Fourth Quarter Man”, has an alter-ego who comes up clutch on Twitter to save your boring, “I’d rather touch myself” nights. Go, try to blabber with him and you’d find out that he takes the stupidest questions from the most foolish people like me.

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Don’t you think Jolas had enough machismo to be the lead guy of Hagibis? Imagine the leather vest on him. Imagine a customized 1/4 leather shorts on his sexy legs. Malamang laglag na panti ni Tita Baby mo kung nangyari yun.

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There was only one problem though, the gloves wouldn’t fit him.

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Kung kasing-laki lang ng kamay ni Jolas ang kamay ni James —- tapos na. It’s over. Sexy legs + sexy hands = Totoy Mola!!!

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There just has to be some type of workout to get those legs right? Right?

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Nice, but naughty.

Follow @NotJolas!

Jackson LeVroman Gave Up On Ginebra

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 and 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.[1] He gave up on his team the way Bron did the Cavs.

But it wasn’t like the lead was insurmountable. Vroman threw in the towel with barely 6 minutes left in the game and Ginebra down 94-79. No doubt —- if there was a team that could pull off a Lazarus-like stunt, it was Ginebra; the team known for never giving up, the team who never said ‘die’. The Barangay crowd was still into the game. They were still hoping for a miracle, an occurrence they know full well could happen considering what they’ve seen in the past and that residues of Jawo’s spunk were still evident on the team.

But an awkward marriage squashed all hopes of a comeback, even before BGK trailed by half a month, even before Game 4 started, maybe when Jackson Vroman officially replaced Chris Alexander.

I can only imagine the pain Ginebra fans brought home that night. Tangina, masakit talaga.[2] 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 him for Vroman in Game 4 and the 18 offensive rebounds they gave up should have been easily cut in half.

Alexander certainly was the better fit for BGK in that series, 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, the only thing as questionable as Piolo’s sexuality that time was Alexander’s conditioning. Chris Alexander didn’t move like an import at all and his lack of energy was a stark contrast with Barangay Ginebra Basketball. To put it accurately, he was a black Adam Parada. [3]

Honestly, Ginebra fans, would you want 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 (a.k.a. black Adam Parada). They just picked the wrong guy to replace him.

A proof that he played in the NBA. But who in his right mind would buy this jersey-card?

But who can blame them? Jackson Vroman was a legit NBA player. A 31st overall draft choice by the Chicago Bulls in 2004 (notably ahead of Trevor Ariza at 43rd), the 6’10” forward played relatively decent NBA minutes. Vroman was also an accomplished club player in Iran, winning national and Asian Championships[4]. 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.

But the replacement showed signs of trouble like a dozen Janet Jackson nip-slips as early as Game 1. If you are a Ginebra fan, the following must have annoyed you about Jackson Vroman: a) he missed too many free throws and lacked confidence to make some b) always complained about calls looking like Chot Reyes in the process c) 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 like KC’s half-revelation of Piolo’s true sexuality. He was methodically broken down —- thawed by Reavis, then chopped by Pingris, and most surprisingly, (drum roll please…) cooked by Yancy De Ocampo![5] And finally in Game 4, Jackson LeVroman gives up. While getting brutally outplayed by the Llamados and after laying yet another egg in the 4th quarter, he taps out. He 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 —- just like myself and the girl who busted me.[6] 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 of that. It’s just effin sad and frustrating to see a guy you barely have a connection with to ruin everything, to quit on you, to quit on the whole Barangay.

So what now? What’s the use of looking back and criticizing when you can do nothing about it?

Well for one, Vroman’s case shows you how hard it is to get a quality import. If you’re the Ginebra scouting team you think that you’ve exhausted every way possible to verify Vroman’s credibility, and that happened. You can scout someone’s game as much as you like but who thought that his character could inexplicably suck as much as it did. There’s just no way a scout can be sure of what a player is made of.

In contrast, Vroman’s case also tells the Ginebra management that it can always do a better job at picking an import. Jackson Vroman obviously didn’t know what he signed up for. He had no idea how ruthless BGK fans can be; that they can eviscerate your insides with criticisms and insults. He was ignorant of the truth that the PBA is way more physical than the NBA or the Euroleague. Maybe Ginebra management should have classes for new imports —- think of it, Introduction to Barangay Ginebra Culture. O ‘di ba?

Jackson Vroman. This is for the Ginebra fans, PACK YOU KA SA EART!!!


[1] This is the first of three times in this article that I’d be questioning Piolo’s manhood or lack thereof.

[2] I felt their pain. I cried when the Lakers eliminated my T’Wolves back in ’04, all because of freaking Kareem Rush!

[3] If there was a Worst Import Ever Award in the PBA, Adam Parada would be tied with Davonn Harp! Wait, Harp wasn’t an import! My bad!

[4] The positive for all Pinoys here is that Gilas players know kung sino asar-talo when they face Lebanon.

[5] Yancy De Ocampo was the second most impressive local in that series behind Marc Pingris. That’s how well he played; or if you’re a pessimist, that’s how much he sucked before!

[6] Bitter much???? Hahahaha That was for you ******

The Real Reason Behind Talk ‘n Text’s Success

Ever since Talk n’ Text traded for Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes in what seemed like an Ocean’s 13 heist, I started to develop the belief that the Tropang Texters should win every conference —- import or no import. Like most sour-graping PBA fans, I thought that TNT was too talented not to win every championship from then on. They have it good unlike the conduit teams of the PBA and they have it better than the League’s elite; it’s just unfair. Cut my dislike for the Miami Heat in half and there you have my feelings for MVP’s baby. Chot Reyes’ team has two former MVP’s in Alapag and Williams, Finals MVP’s in Jason Castro (the team’s best player as we speak and arguably the PBA’s best combo guard) and Larry Fonacier, First Team All-Defenders in Ryan Reyes and Harvey Carey, the League’s best scoring big man in Ranidel De Ocampo, one of the most athletic and an All-Star caliber player in Jared Dillinger (surefire star with another team), elite big man Ali Peek and The Potential — Japeth Aguilar. You just drowned! That’s a 10-man deep lineup; and when teams go to the Indianapolis Speedway with them, just like what Powerade did in the recent Philippine Cup Finals, they end up getting left in the dust[1]. So the elimination round and the semis are just formalities for TNT, right?

The Skip Bayless in me wants to say yes but the Jason Webb in me says NO; because basketball history shows that there have been an inordinate number of teams that were superiorly talented but did fail to meet expectations[2]. Therefore the notion I ignorantly developed, that TNT should win every championship possible, is erroneous and mythical.

The evidences follow.

Some of Sheed's deeds that season: was called for an NBA-high 41 technical fouls, threw a towel at Sabonis' face and charged at head coach Mike Dunleavy.

The 2000 Portland Trailblazers came precariously close to the NBA Finals; putting the ’01 version of the team in good position to challenge the Lakers for the Championship once again.  But that year, everyone wanted a bigger piece of the pie (not figurative for Shawn Kemp) and the team ultimately imploded. Rasheed Wallace, their best player, talked smack on the referees —- and against his teammates. In the process, his ego grew larger than the bald spot on his head. Damon Stoudamire was still an inefficient points guard[3]. Up and coming sixth man Bonzi Wells was averaging career highs in points, minutes (yet he wanted more), drug busts and DUI’s.

In the PBA, the San Miguel Beermen/Magnolia Beverage Masters teams from 2007-2010 had only one Ring to show for despite arguably being the most talented team in the PBA during that span of time. Their plan to stock up on talent like the Kapamilya Network ultimately backfired because team roles were left undefined and vague. Practically everyone was a role player and there was no established go-to-guy. Those SMB teams featured bad mixtures of players’ careers going on different directions. There were established current superstars, veterans who still thought they could play and wanted more touches, role players who thought they should start, and young guns who showed potential —- something players couldn’t realize without the ball in their hands.

The lesson for Blazers and SMB Management then, is that you can stock-pile as much talent as you can but if these players always score “Poor” in the “Good Manners and Right Conduct” department, and team roles turn out murky, then the formula you constructed wouldn’t work. Superior talent only puts a team in position to win games (sometimes it doesn’t even result to W’s #2011-2012WashingtonWizards) not championships. A deep lineup or a combination of dynamic talents can only add up to a particular amount of quality basketball played by the whole team. Sometimes, 2+2=3 in basketball or quite simply, the whole being lesser than the some of its parts.

So, if it’s not talent, what pushes a dynasty like TNT to the top? It’s The Secret of Basketball; a secret that only teams that have gone to Mount Olympus know. The secret of basketball (as revealed by Isaiah Thomas in Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball) is that it’s not about basketball.

Ulol, ‘di nga?

Yes IT’s not about basketball. It’s about Ryan Reyes playing with all-heart in Game 2 of last year’s Philippine Cup Finals and then going straight to L.A. still wearing his #10 jersey to attend his brother’s funeral, and then coming back for Game 4. It’s about Ali Peek forgiving the gunman, Kelly Williams’ dedication to recover from idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, Jimmy Alapag slowly giving way to Jason Castro, Larry, Jared and Ranidel’s patience, and it’s about a guy like Gilbert Lao accepting his role[4]. It’s about Chot Reyes berating his players in practice and letting them answer back.

It’s not about basketball.

TNT may be as loaded as Toyota and Crispa, yes, but that’s not the only reason why they are winning. They have won 3 of the last 4 conferences because they hire good-character guys who like each other, work their asses off, know their roles, ignore statistics and value winning above everything else[5]. TNT wins rings because players 1-12 sacrifice to make everybody happy. They’re at where they are right now not because MVP spoils them but because everyone is on the same page. The Tropang Texters know The Secret and they live it well.

I won’t put the last dot on this article without commending Chot Reyes and his equally star-studded coaching staff. When TNT went down 3 games to 1 against the Petron Blaze Boosters in the last Philippine Cup Semis, I wrote this on my Facebook wall:

I’m sorry but TNT Coach is the most overrated in the PBA! Atom bomb has been kicking his butt.

1. Keeps giving excuses: Petron has the 2 best players in the PBA – What do you have? An all-star team!!! Come on!

2. Overuses Alapag: “MVP” was ineffective the whole game (the past year actually) on pick n rolls and was exploited on D.

3. Gets untimely T’s!

PLEASE DON’T MAKE HIM THE GILAS COACH!

Do I take all of those back? No, because he really keeps on giving excuses,  sometimes overuses Alapag and gets untimely T’s. But no matter what people say, he has done what Phil Jackson failed to do in 2004, what Butch van Breda Kolff failed to do with the ’69 Lakers, and what Erik Spoelstra failed to do with last year’s Heat: that is to make so many talented players live out The Secret of Basketball[6]. If anything, his masterful work with TNT is underappreciated.

So when TNT wins its next Championship, you wouldn’t have to Google “TNT complete roster” to find the reason why they won, because you already know the real reason behind their success.

P.S

To everyone not bored or not pissed enough to read up to this point: Shhhhhh! Don’t send this link to the Miami Heat!!!


[1] The Tigers should have tried to play a slower tempo in at least one of the games of that series just to see if they had a chance at beating TNT that way. They honestly had no chance in beating the Texters in their running game.

[2] Skip Bayless, an ESPN analyst, is as recklessly opinionated as Mo Twister while I consider Jason Webb as the country’s best basketball analyst.

[3] Although Damon Stoudamire could score a bit, it just wasn’t right that he averaged the 2nd most shots taken that season.

[4] Gilber Lao goes way back with Chot Reyes. He was drafted 11th overall by the Coca-Cola Tigers who eventually won the All-Filipino Conference later that year. Over his decade-long career, Lao is averaging 1.10ppg and 1.23 rpg in 8 minutes of playing time. He must be giving TNT big men fits in practice!

[5] A source that has seen them practice on a daily basis had this to say: “Yung body language nila sa practice as if parang playoff game lagi pinaghahandaan. Walang petiks sa kahit anong drill. Parang yun attitude ni MVP na ‘2nd place will never be enough’ nagrurub-off sa kanila. Grabe magtrabaho yun Alapag! Kung ganun best player mo paano pa kaya yun iba?” I can’t help but to compare this to what I saw with the Alaska team a few years ago when I was going to Moro Lorenzo everyday; medyo petiks sila!

[6] The ’69 Lakers team featured Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. They went ahead 2 games to none over the Celtics (featuring 100 year-old player-coach Bill Russel and Don Nelson) but eventually lost at home in Game 7

5-on-5 with Charles Tiu and Tony Dela Cruz (Part 2): 2 glaring PBA Questions

It’s no secret that the talent pool in the collegiate and amateur ranks is the deepest in years. With the influx of young superstars in the UAAP and NCAA and foreign-born Filipinos in the PBDL, competition is at a very high level. When these players eventually enter the PBA, where will they go with the PBA only having 10 teams?

Teams these days have been playing more and more “small-ball”. You actually see 6’2″ to 6’4″ centers and powerforwards that player from the outside. So has the game really evolved or is there simply a lack of BIG MEN?

1. The PBA needs a few more teams. Why? Why not?

TDC: I think the PBA can always use more teams as long as the amount of total teams is an equal number.  We have 10 now but if 2 more were to join i think it would be just the right amount.  12 is the magic number.

Tiu: Somewhere in between – it would be nice to have more teams so the MVP and SMC groups would have less power over the league, plus it would give a lot of other players an opportunity to play professionally. The negative part though is finding a team that will be willing to spend and compete to stay up to par with the other bigger teams – and not just stand to lose their draft picks after a few years.

Bekshoot: I completely agree with Tony Dela Cruz on 12 being the magic number. I think it would create the right balance of power among teams and that it would give non-superstar players opportunities to make names for themselves. The Intals, Yeos, and Simons of the PBA will get enough playing time to show what they are really capable of doing. Having more teams will also create more opportunities for rookies and sophomores. Imagine the time when the players from Sinag-Pilipinas eventually enter the PBA. It would just be too crowded if the number of teams stays at 10.

2. Has the PBA game evolved or is there simply a lack of quality BIG MEN?

TDC: Basketball will always evolve into trends.  I think right now the trend is to run and gun.  You are seeing the development of hybrid players that are tall and can play 3 positions.  When this formula runs its course teams will start to go back to the traditional styles with a big man anchoring the middle not only on defense but offense as well.  When a team or 2 finds success others will follow suit. To me its a style depends on the trends of the time.

Tiu: Yes, the PBA has evolved but it is also because of the lack of true big men! our height has always been an issue but even in the PBA, we see less and less big men who really play back to the basket and post up. Of course, we’ve still got guys like Thoss, Danny I, Kerby, Ranidel, Ali, Asi who can be categorized as the more traditional big men but then you have bigs like Arwind, Joe De Vance, Japeth, Sean Anthony who play in a different style

Bekshoot: The 90’s and the early part of the new millennium had PBA players like Limpot, Aquino, Patrimonio, Codinera, Ildefonso, Seigle, Hawkins, Paras, Menk, Taulava, etc. Now, the PBA has Thoss and uhmmmm, aahhhhh…. help please! Thoss is the only true big man in the PBA that can score on the low post (not high post) on a consistent basis.

 

5-on-5 with Tony Dela Cruz and Charles Tiu (Part 1): Gilas 2.0

The Gilas 2.0 program is warming up. Coach Chot Reyes has been assigned as head coach amidst questions on the move being politically motivated. But people are more curious as to the composition of the sequel. So who would you pick as the starters? Who will be picked from the amateur ranks? How would Javale McGee fit in with the team?

1. If you were Chot Reyes (Gilas 2.0 head coach), who would be your regular starters in the 2013 FIBA-Asia Championships?

Tony Dela Cruz (Small Forward, Alaska Aces) : Pass

Charles Tiu (Powerade and Gilas Assistant Coach): Knowing Coach Chot and the International game, chances are he won’t have a fixed starting line-up especially with the talent that he will be handling but here would be my five:
C – Douthit
PF – Kelly Williams
Sf – James Yap/Chris Lutz
Sg – Marcio Lassiter
Pg – Jvee Casio

*Arwind is tempting but we need size at our PF spot and yes, he is a PF and not SF! Gary David and Alex Cabagnot were tough omissions in the first 5! Jimmy might be a good option but another year would mean even more mileage!

Bekshoot: We know that starting 5’s in international competitions are as volatile as DeMarcus Cousins’ temper. Coaches field varying sets of starters almost every game due to player exhaustion (since FIBA tournament schedules require teams to play quite a number of consecutive games), match-up adjustments and strategies (it always happens that coaches “hide” their Aces in the first part of the tournament). That being said, a coach still sticks to a core of players he trusts the most. So this is how my starting 5 would look like if I was Chot Reyes:

C – Marcus Douthit/Javale McGee
PF – Kelly Williams
SF – Chris Lutz
SG – James Yap
PG – Jvee Casio

But the more important group of five is the one that finishes the game. My “finishing” 5:

C- Marcus Douthit/Javale McGee
PF- Ranidel De Ocampo
SF – Chris Lutz
SG – Marcio Lassiter
PG – Jvee Casio

2. Give two of the hottest national team prospects from college or the amateurs. Why these two?

TDC: I think the 1 guy that comes to mind is Aldrich Ramos.  He is obviously tall but he can shoot and put the ball on the floor.  He seems to have a high basketball I.Q. and with a good weight program he will be a tough player to guard.

Tiu: Greg Slaughter and Kiefer Ravena. Greg because he is the only logical back-up for Marcus Douthit at center (Alaska won’t lend thoss). He’s already played internationally and is still improving.

Kiefer because he is just so skilled and talented and he is no doubt the future of Philippine Basketball. In fact, Toroman really wanted to get him to start training with the team as early as last year.

Bekshoot: With the talent that Kiefer Ravena has, I think he should be a lock for one of the spots that Gilas 2.0 will open for the Sinag members. The other prospect should have legitimate size to back up Douthit or McGee. Right now, it’s a toss up between Junmar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter.

3. Considering the pros and cons of Javale McGee’s game, how do you see him fitting in with the Gilas 2.0 team (if he decides to be a naturalized Filipino)?

TDC: I think McGee is a guy that allows Gilas to get out and run.  He definetly can finish around the rim but he can also defend at the rim and clean up the boards to allow the team to start the break.  I think he will struggle if they need him to make jump shots from beyond 12 to 15 feet but Gilas already has several shooters anyways.

Tiu: He would be a good fit – he rebounds well and will protect the paint, block/alter a lot of shots. That is one of our biggest weaknesses especially when we play bigger teams and Javale could help solve that problem. Also, with the talent of our guards and wing players, they have enough talent to just create for him and set him up for some easy dunks

Bekshoot:  I have apprehensions on getting Javale McGee to play for Gilas 2.0. Since finding out how deep MVP’s pockets are, there’s no other reason for McGee to play for us but for money. Secondly, when it gets dirty and Gilas faces adversity, would he play with heart and toughness? And isn’t he one of the most absent-minded players in the world (over Japeth Aguilar)?

But then again, has he played with heart and mental toughness in the NBA? No. So if he’s able to average a double-double and deny more than two shots a game in the NBA how much more can he get playing against Asians? I’ll take pros over the cons any day!

Japeth Aguilar: The Promise

Admit it. We all expected Japeth Aguilar to dominate the PBA someday. His never-before-seen-in-the-UAAP dunks validated that. Despite averaging only 5.7ppg 5.3rpg and 3bpg (2005) with the Blue Eagles, we all knew that it was just a matter of time until he tore up the league. And then we saw him with Courtney Lee at Western Kentucky; we were all salivating back then.

At 6’9”, 225 lbs. Japeth had arms that seemed to go on forever and not to mention, he jumped out of the building. There was simply no Filipino athlete like him ever that had the combination of height, otherworldly length and jumping ability. At that time, he was a 20-10 big man waiting to happen in the PBA. He was so full of promise.

Fast-forward to the present, Japeth Aguilar still has the same height, the same length, and the same leaping ability and has gained a few insignificant pounds. Oh. He still is a promise. After years of being raw, he still hasn’t started to thaw yet. 28 games into his PBA career, Japeth is averaging 8.75ppg, 5.25rpg and 1.75bpg in almost 20 minutes of action —- not exactly the type of numbers we expected.

Coming from a poor stint with Smart-Gilas, it seemed that the former Hilltopper would thrive in Chot Reyes’ pedal-to-the-metal system. Despite getting significant reps from his feiry coach, Japeth has underwhelmed and failed to meet expectations. The reasons for doing so aren’t that hard to see.

Overrated Defender

A big man’s defensive capabilities can be evaluated by looking at three separate and exclusive parts: his ability to provide help defense (block shots from the weak side, pick-and-roll defense, etc.), to defend the post and to rebound the ball.

Some analysts and commentators sugarcoat Japeth Aguilar’s defensive deficiencies by only looking at his shot-blocking prowess. Don’t get me wrong, he may be the league’s second-best shot blocker (next to Arwind Santos) but his inability to defend the post is too glaring. If you’re a keen observer, you’d see the eyes of opposing big men get bigger once they have Japeth on the block. Look at his face and you might liken it to a grade school kid’s who failed to study for a long test; stricken with fear and helplessness. The result: 2 points in the paint (maybe an and-1)!

A major part of being able to defend the post is putting weight against your opponent while he’s backing you down. Obviously, Japeth needs to gain weight and strength fast (TNT import Omar Samhan thinks so too: @OSamhan: I wish Japeth is doing push-ups right now). In addition, he needs to make use of his arms more to make it tougher for opposing big men to put up shots. How do you think Arwind Santos defends the post?

Low Basketball IQ

Although he’s got more problems on defense, Japeth hasn’t shown enough on offense either to stay longer on the court. 9 points in 20 minutes is not bad at all but we all know he can do better (same is true with rebounding).

The problem with him on offense is he either thinks too much or he doesn’t think at all (Doesn’t that sound like Javale McGee? Well, Javale can absolutely be dumb sometimes but he relatively has more game). He takes a jumpshot when the lane is open as the Red Sea. He softly dribble-drives to the basket when the paint is clogged like EDSA traffic and when the jumpshot was available in the first place. Picks and then pops instead of rolling hard to the basket.  He goes for an alley-hoop dunk even if the “lob” was just intended to be an entry pass.

I could go on with the lapses on offense but let me quote Rajko Toroman to sum it all up for you, “If Japeth had Chris Tiu’s brain, he would be in the NBA right now.”

Looking at the kind of player Japeth Aguilar is right now I sometimes resort to the what-ifs. What if he didn’t get injured in Western Kentucky? What if stayed with Ateneo and learned how to be a BIG MAN under Norman Black? No one knows. But with what Japeth physically has and at only 25 y.o., he still is very promising. I think he can still be great someday.