Farewell Denzel Bowles, I Hope You Don’t Come Back

 

There was too much pressure. The moment scared the shit out of him. His wits were just blown outside The Big Dome. His face, stricken with so much fear, reminded me of Primrose Everdeen’s (after she got chosen as District 12’s tribute at the Reaping). Only this time, there was no Katniss to step in for him.

Unfortunately, unlike Dirk, Denzel Bowles doesn’t hum David Hasselhoff songs at the freethrow line. It was he, the 15-foot line, 21,046 live pairs of eyes on him, and the chance to send Game 7 of the PBA Finals to overtime. It can’t get any bigger than that. The result of one miss? Disaster. Heartbreak. Depression for B-Meg Planet. The Llamados’ championship dreams would instantly crumble like an Uno-Stacko.

I bet you expected him to miss. I did too. Tim Cone did. Only a man as brave as Andres Bonifacio could make those freethrows. Only a man as audacious as Larry Flint could lose himself in that moment. Young Denzel Bowles was bound to miss.

But he didn’t.

Somehow, some way, he made those freethrows.

It turns out that despite the scared look, Denzel Bowles was as brave as Andres Bonifacio, and as audacious as Larry Flint.

2 ginormous freethrows at the end of regulation and a couple of jumpers in OT put Denzel Bowles on the map. It was, by far, the biggest triumph of his career. He led the Llamados past a Machine, past a Dynasty. He now belongs to the pantheon of PBA imports. Billy Ray Bates. Norman Black. David Thirdkill. Tonny Harris. Kenny Redfield. Lamont Strothers. Sean Chambers. Denzel Bowles.

More importantly, he shot his way to NBA training camp invites from the Spurs, Warriors and Raptors. It was his size, his ability to make medium-range j’s, his capability to understand such an idiosyncratic offensive scheme, and most of all, his heart and character that triggered NBA scouts to ring him up.

Farewell Denzel Bowles, I hope you don’t come back.

Random Moments of Inspiration: Barefoot Basketball and Sex

After about 37 minutes of shifting tabs in my Safari; from stalking this girl on Facebook, to anxiously anticipating some Jessica Sanchez news on Twitter, and painstakingly waiting for the Youjizz load bar to come full, I decided to start researching for THIS article. I typed ‘barefoot basketball’ on the Google toolbar, landed on Barefootcanada.org, and came up with this video of a sixteen year-old Pinoy in the U.S. explaining how he grew up playing basketball with his bare feet:

For Bien, the time he migrated to the U.S. didn’t change the way he played ball. It was still his bare feet and (this time) cold asphalt. He grew up dribbling and shooting without any protection from the hard floor, so the habit stuck with him like John Lloyd’s you-know-what getting stuck inside Shaina’s cha-ching. It was just hard to remove!

Bien reminds me of the first and only time I played barefoot basketball. But the reason for doing so was different. I played ball once with my bare feet because one random afternoon all the kids on the court did so. And so I removed my Jordans and jumped off the cliff.

And you thought this happened almost a dozen years ago. No. It was just last year. I was a full-grown 23 year-old man getting his feet black with kids who looked like half his age. I felt like Steve Carell in the 40 year-old Virgin. Damn, should’ve done it 4,380 days ago. It was anything but a feeling of regret though. I was in fact, experiencing an odd combination of various feelings —- of being a bit out-of-place, of finally doing what I’ve wanted to do for the last 15 years, of pain and pleasure. I now realize that the things I felt that time and the smile I wore after, were all too familiar —- that smile was the same smile I saw in the bathroom mirror after the first time I had sex. Ganon pala kasarap maglaro nang nakapaa.

Barefoot basketball hurts, but it feels so damn good —- just like sex.

P.S.

Mom, sorry. Baby boy isn’t a virgin anymore. Hope you’re not surprised! hahaha

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

ANTHONY DAVIS IS THE SUREFIRE #1 PICK IN THE 2012 NBA DRAFT

Anthony Davis  #23 Freshman 6-10

 14.3 ppg  10.0 rpg  4.6 bpg

University of Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is a game-changer. And calling him a player that can sway the fortunes of the franchise that will take him at #1 in the 2012 NBA Draft is by no means a stretch like his arms. You’ll understand me if you’ve seen him play. If you’re not convinced by that video up there then watch him carry his #1-seed Wildcats through March Madness.

At 6-10 and 220 pounds, Davis has a body that looks skinny but makes opponents feel otherwise. His “lack of strength” is compensated by exquisite timing, feline jumping ability, and out-of-this-world length. Get this: the kid has a 7-4 wingspan! 7-4! Davis’ arms seem like stretched clay dough stuck to his broad shoulders! His arms, stretching up as high as the Empire State, make it tough for opposing post players to get a shot over him even if Davis has lost ground. He’s arguably the best shot-blocker in the last decade with 154 denied attempts at the basket (NCAA tournament teams Creighton and Belmont have 154 blocked shots combined!).

Scotty Thurman concurs and even puts his name with the GREATS.

Arkansas former star player SCOTTY THURMAN via Washington Post:

Davis is a little bit different monster. College basketball, since the days of Alonzo Mourning, has not had a shot blocker like this. Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing — he is in that class. You talk about the shots he’s blocked, how about the number of shots he has changed? A lot of guys don’t even think about shooting.

Let me add to that. Anthony Davis can defend the pick-and-roll as well as KG. What makes KG a great pick-and-roll defender is that he can switch to the quicker guard and make him back off and not take a shot; and then he switches back to his man in a heartbeat. The consensus best collegiate player can do all that.

Back-to-back NCAA tourney Champion Head Coach Billy Donovan says that Davis even gets to his players’ minds.

Multi-titled Florida Head Coach BILLY DONOVAN:

As a coach, when you are preparing for Kentucky, you can talk about Davis and his shot-blocking ability. But it’s one of those things, unless you have played against it a couple times, it really can take you off-guard. Because you think you can get the ball up on the glass, you think you can get it over him, and that’s the worst thing.

Even though he is a bit raw on offense, all signs point to him eventually scoring at least 15 a game in the NBA. Unibrow A.D. has good form on his jumpshot and soft touch on his hookshots.

Barring any Paul Pierce or Len Bias-like accidents (knock on wood), Anthony Davis is 99.99% the first draft choice in June because he’s the type of player that you don’t draft based on needs (unless you have Dwight Howard). You just snag him!

When I watch him play I experience a familiar feeling of giddiness for what the future holds for this freak of nature; I realize it’s the same feeling I had when I saw Kiefer Ravena play for the first time when he was just barely a teenager.

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.