Last Saturday, on a rainy day across entire metropolis with Typhoon Lando bound to hit Luzon bringing heavy rains and gusty winds over the horizon. It was an opportunity for me to do something I haven’t done in the last three years. Watch my beloved UST Growling Tigers live in action.
The 2014-15 NBA season came to an end today as the Golden State Warriors were crowned the 2015 NBA Champions after knocking off the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The Warriors ended a long 40 year franchise title drought when Rick Barry and his squad led the franchise to a championship back in 1975. Now, the Bay Area and countless Warriors fans from around the world are celebrating the success of the team.
Stephen Curry who was the league’s Most Valuable Player made history during the playoffs. He shot and made the most threes in a playoff run. He also became the first guy to face and defeat all 4 players alongside himself on the All-NBA First Team. Anthony Davis in Round 1, Marc Gasol in Round 2, James Harden in the Western Conference Finals and now LeBron James in the NBA Finals. Capping off a memorable season for a player that went through adversity to start his career and now has tasted championship gold.
But Curry wasn’t alone in his quest for a championship. As a matter fact, the entire Warriors squad went through the journey as a team. Klay Thompson, his fellow Splash Brother and All-Star made them the most prolific three point shooting combo in NBA history as well as giving a huge effort on the defensive end. Draymond Green, who gave toughness and versatility to the squad going through a massive improvement from the previous season. The eventual Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala who took a leap of faith during the regular season when he resorted himself to the bench. Eventually, picking up his stride in the playoffs and the Finals to make big plays. Everybody else on the roster also picked up their strive all season long, veterans such as Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa as well as the young players such as Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli.
Steve Kerr in his first year as a head coach in the NBA, has to be given a ton of credit. He led them to a 67-15 record with almost the same core group from the previous season. He has done an amazing job coaching the team all season long.
The Warriors basically shattered the long standing myth in basketball that “Jump shooting teams don’t win titles.” Their barrage from the three point line has been a sight to see for any fan. I have to admit, they still cause me nightmares to this day, 19 days after they took my team the Houston Rockets out in the Western Conference Finals with that prolific shooting display. But despite the fact, I did not root for them in this series. They truly deserved to win the championship.
As for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the men on the receiving end of the celebration on their home floor. We have to give them the props and the respect they deserve. First with LeBron James.
I have to go on record to say that for the time he donned a Miami Heat jersey, I loathed him after he made “The Decision” to leave Cleveland for Miami where he won 2 NBA championships with the South Florida franchise. Sure, I got a ton of heat from a lot of legitimate LeBron fans over the matter. When he decided to come back to Cleveland this season. I was happy, but not too excited about what he might do now he’s back. But after what I saw during the season to the NBA Finals, and looking back at what he has done during his career. He made me into a believer again. He willed his team through thick and thin during the course of the season. And after enduring a season of which my squad were the villains of the league, now I completely understand what it feels like to see your squad on the receiving end of all the criticism and hate from the fans.
The 51 year long title drought that the city of Cleveland has endured may have not ended. But the Cavaliers roster fought valiantly in this series. They went through adversity all season long. From going 19-20 to start the season. Going through roster changes during the season. Faced injuries to key players in their rotation during the season and the playoffs. Gotta give props to their coach David Blatt who with Kerr was also a rookie head coach in the NBA after plying his trade overseas.That despite the disadvantages they have during the course of the series. Sure, the rest of the Cavaliers roster had sporadic moments. However, they made this series a enjoyable affair for the fan.
And that concludes the 2014-15 NBA season. Once again, congratulations to the Warriors on winning the NBA championship and ending their 40 year title drought.
Kudos to the Cavaliers for a great season and a well-fought NBA Finals series.
I’m really glad that this roller-coaster of a season has come to an end. Took a lot out of me to be quite honest. This has been a fun season to watch. So until then, NBA basketball will be back in October for the 2015-16 NBA season. And I end by saying.
Savor the moment Dub Nation. But Red Nation will be back for vengeance next season.
Today, the 2014-15 Houston Rockets season came to a bittersweet end as the Golden State Warriors advance to the NBA Finals to face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Well, with this one it’s time for me to ponder back on what happened over the last year. After all, it’s been four months since I last posted an entry here.
It all began with how the season before this one ended, when Damian Lillard sent the Rockets and Red Nation home early with a three point dagger that broke a lot of hearts. I have to admit, I was severely heartbroken afterwards. It was tough to end a season like that. I had to go all-black on all my social media accounts afterwards.
Anyways, then came an off-season to “remember”. Rockets unloaded a lot of players like Jeremy Lin (to the Lakers) and Omer Asik (to the Pelicans) in the chase for Miami’s Chris Bosh who was a free agent. Unfortunately (Fortunately), that didn’t pan out as Bosh decided to stay with the Heat for a hefty contract. Then came the bolting of Chandler Parsons to Dallas after the Rockets did not match the Mavericks offer sheet.
But for all the significant roster subtractions, Rockets brought in Trevor Ariza who last played for the Wizards and entered into a second stint in a Rockets uniform after spending a full year back in 2009-10. They also brought in the veteran Jason Terry. They drafted Clint Capela and Nick Johnson in the draft. They brought in Kostas Papanikolaou and Joey Dorsey from the Euroleague.
No one knew what was going to happen next. Pre-season predictions by the media gave the Rockets the 7th or 8th seed in the Western Conference and a first round exit to match.
Before you knew it, in October, the season was rolling along. These Rockets surprised us all, they went 6-0 to start the season good enough for a share of the lead in the Western Conference. Then the streak was snapped against Golden State. They finished November at 13-4. Then in December they made some roster changes. Gone were Tarik Black, Francisco Garcia and playoff hero Troy Daniels. But they brought in Corey Brewer from the Timberwolves and signed Josh Smith after being waived from Detroit. They finished 2014 with a 22-9 record. Come 2015, they finished January at 33-15. They made roster changes as they brought in Pablo Prigioni and K.J. McDaniels. Gone was another fan favorite in Isaiah Canaan. James Harden was named to the All-Star Game and later became a starter after vote-winner Kobe Bryant went down with an injury. He played well in the All-Star game, he took part in the Three Point Shootout in a losing effort. Patrick Beverley won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. While Kostas Papanikolaou had been given a stint in the Rising Stars Challenge. February ended with the Rockets at 40-18. Then in March, they ended at 50-24 at the same time clinched a playoff berth. Then on the last day of the regular season. They managed to win the Southwest Division title for the first time ever and finished at 56-26. Good enough for the #2 seed in the Western Conference.
All the while, this team was carried by James Harden who came out and led the Rockets through some tough stretches all season long. Attacking the rim, scoring stepback jumpers, lighting it up from three point range, distributing the rock at will to put up a legendary run in the race for the season MVP while stepping up on the defensive end. Then everyone on the roster chipped in to the cause with the “Headband of Brothers” in Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Jason Terry. Donatas Motiejunas had a breakout season. Trevor Ariza was a defensive force. Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley had some good games when on the floor. The Rockets also became the most prolific three point shooting team in NBA history as they made 933 three pointers during the season.
But this season came along with adversity as they were riddled with injuries all season long. Dwight Howard missed half of the regular season to multiple injuries. Patrick Beverley was in and out of the line-up before eventually losing him to a wrist injury. Donatas Motiejunas also went down before the playoffs. Terrence Jones missed significant time. And of course, there were some terrible defeats along the way.
Also came the media and other NBA fans’ displeasure of what the Rockets have accomplished all season. Turning them into the league’s villains after that title has been settling in Miami the last four season.
All was now set for the Rockets playoff run to begin when they opened the post-season faced off against I-45 and Texas triangle rivals in the 7th seeded Dallas Mavericks. The Rockets took care of business in the first two games at home. Then in Game 3, James Harden put up a master performance to send the Mavericks to a 3-0 hole. Dallas would respond in Game 4, but the lack of synergy within the Mavericks team caught up as the Rockets took the series for their first playoff series win since 2009.
Next up for the Rockets were the 3rd seeded Los Angeles Clippers who came off a thrilling 7 game series to knock off the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. The Clippers stunned the home crowd as the Rockets went flat-footed in Game 1. They evened up the series in Game 2. But suffered two straight losses in Los Angeles as they now trailed 1-3 in the series. They responded in Game 5 to extend the series. In Game 6, Clippers had a 19 point lead in the 3rd quarter, as it looked like they are now setting up for a date with the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. A Game 7 back in Houston was slipping away. Then came one of the most heart raising comebacks in NBA playoff history. As the Rockets went on a 48-17 the rest of the way to force a Game 7 back home. In Game 7, they completed the comeback as Red Nation was given a nostalgic trip to the Clutch City era of the franchise as for the second time in franchise history and the ninth time in NBA history, they came back from a 1-3 deficit to win the series. They also advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 1997.
Then came a date with the best team in the league, the MVP in Stephen Curry, his Splash Brother Klay Thompson and the rest of the Golden State Warriors whom they failed to beat once during the regular season. Rockets fought hard in the first two games in Oakland, but suffered heartbreaking defeats in both games as they only lost a combined 5 points over the Warriors. Then as the series shifted to Houston, the Rockets got caught flat-footed as they fell in Game 3 by 35 points sending them in a 0-3 hole. In Game 4, they finally got over the hump as they forced a Game 5 in Oakland beating the Warriors for the first time this season. Then in Game 5, they had opportunities to steal a victory and send the series to Game 6. It was evenly matched through 3 quarters, but the Warriors proved to be the better team and at the worst moment, James Harden had his biggest cold spell of the season. Ending the Rockets season.
Now here are some thoughts.
Yes, it was indeed a tough and heartbreaking way to bow out. I mean, the emotions of the outcome has been overwhelming to bear and ponder upon. It was not the storybook ending we wished for. The “What if’s” are still in my head. We were 7 wins away from an NBA championship. But when I look back at everything again, I cannot help myself but to be proud of what this team has accomplished this season. This has been the best season the Rockets have ever played out in the 13 years I have been a member/soldier of Red Nation. And to think nobody outside of us in Red Nation thought they would go this far into the season. I’m still glad I get to see them play out until the end of May, because at this point of the year in previous years, the off-season is under way. They overachieved and exceeded expectations.
Give our coach Kevin McHale and his staff a ton of credit. Sure, we’ve been all around his head as fans all season long. But he did a great job this season. He had bright moments this season coaching this squad. Give our general manager Daryl Morey credit. He turned around a tough off-season, by bringing great pieces in-season to get to where we are right.
As for James, Dwight, Josh, Trevor, Jason, Terrence, Corey, Pablo, Patrick, Donatas, Kostas, Clint, Nick, K.J. and Joey. You all made Red Nation proud. Thank you for all that you have done over the past year. Come back stronger next season!
In capping off this entry. I would like to thank all the members of Red Nation that I have met over the years whether its at home in the Philippines, Houston, the rest of Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Norway, or anywhere else around the world. Each and every one of you made it special for me to be a Rockets fan. I had a blast talking to each and every one of you for the team we all love and root for. For sticking through all good and bad that has happened over the past year. Thank you for allowing this crazy 21 year old kid from of all places the Philippines to be a part of a great family. Stay tight, and I’ll see you guys next season.
I lived through three Popes in my lifetime. I was just 8 months old when then Pope now Saint John Paul II visited the Philippines for the second time (first time was in 1981, a good 13 years before I was born in this world) as part of the World Youth Day festivities in Manila. When I was about to turn 11, he passed away and was succeeded by now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 8 years later, he stepped down and passed on the reigns to Pope Francis.
From the time he became the Pope he has gone away from tradition at the same time transcended borders that we people made for ourselves. He loved the children wherever he goes. He reached out to people in sickness. He helped resolved conflicts around the world. He has his words on current issues that every one of us face on a daily basis from poverty to corruption, from LGBT issues to scandals that have rocked the Catholic church over the past couple of years, from technology to climate change. He touched not only Catholics, but also non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists. Even though it’s only been less than two years into his tenure as the leader of the Catholic Church. He has indeed changed a lot of people’s lives, and continues to do so every single day.
When it was announced months ago that he was coming to the Philippines as a part of his trip in Asia, I could not help myself not to miss this opportunity. After all, you don’t often see these events come in your lifetime. I admit, I was not that much serious about planning what to do in that event. I didn’t have much for my own to make a better plan.
Then came his arrival on a cool Thursday night in Manila, as the SriLankan Airlines jet that took Pope Francis and his entourage from Colombo to our nation. Filipinos knew that something special is about to happen over the next five days. And true enough, everything took off from the time he stepped out on the plane and do his work on our home soil. I wanted to be there at his arrival, to do two things in one. One is to continue my hobby of plane spotting with my good friend as the jet that took the Pope was an airline that doesn’t have flights in and out of the country, and seeing the Pope live and in living color. Unfortunately, prior commitments prevented me to do so.
I knew I could not go into every event during his visit to our nation. I live far from his motorcade routes and the places he’s going around Manila. It would be a shame on my end if I did not go to at least one event to see him live in person. I really wanted to live the moment and share my stories for the next generation when the time comes.
So on a cool and rainy Sunday morning, together with my mother we went to one of the events of the Papal Visit, which was held in my Alma Mater of the University of Santo Tomas, which bears significance as it was given the titles “Pontifical” and “The Catholic University of the Philippines”. From a drop-off point, we walked around two kilometers to the university. At first, we’d just settle outside of the university and on to the motorcade route to see the Pope. However, due to my insistence we tried our luck getting inside the university to bear witness to the event.
They closed the gates 30 minutes earlier than expected since people were pushing to get in before the gate closes for good. Fortunately for me and my mother, around 15 minutes after the gates we’re supposedly be closed for good until the event ends. Out of my huge fighting spirit to get inside, contrary to a warning from one of my uncles living around the area of not taking a chance of getting inside. We managed to get inside the campus grounds.
For two hours, we waited for his arrival on campus, I was able to catch up with my once history prof who got in earlier, as well as one of my college batch mates who joined me and my mother at a chance to get in. Then he arrived, he passed by the Arch of the Centuries which has been as old as the university itself, and the very place where as freshmen we are ushered in and as graduating students go out and into what lies in life after college.
Like the millions of people who attended the events of the Papal Visit, I tried my very best to get closer to the Pope. It is no surprise that in our generation, tablets, smartphones and cameras were rampant everywhere during the course of the Papal Visit in Manila. I admit, I had my smartphone ready trying to get a close shot of him for it will be a good memento for not only myself but for my entire family. Unfortunately, that was not to be as I the closest as I was to him was a good 20-30 meters away. I was unable to take a good close shot of the Pope for my own. However, despite the setback, I was able to see him with my very own eyes live and in living color. That was all good and fulfilling for me, as well as for my mother.
Throughout the event, we listened through the select youth that were given a chance to speak to the Pope as well as his message for the youth which was delivered in his native Spanish as it was an impromptu message, far from the original message that was written in English.
Here a few quotes from the event that have left a mark for myself. I’m sure, I’m not alone with these inspirational quotes.
“What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel. The three languages…Can you repeat this? To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony…”
“So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.”
“This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.”
“Today, with so many means of communications, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It is good and it can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information… We run the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with them. We don’t need youth museums but we do need holy young people.”
After the event, me and my mother went home and witnessed the papal mass in Luneta with the rest of my family on television. I thanked her for accompanying me to the event in UST, if it wasn’t for her, I would have missed the opportunity to see the Pope in person. For majority of the events of the Papal Visit, I had to settle on watching the television for it. Even so, each event left an impact on myself. From his arrival until his departure back to the Vatican. From his visit to Malacanang to the mass at Manila Cathedral. From the meeting of families at the Mall of Asia Arena to the meeting with the youth in UST. From the emotional mass on a stormy and tragedy-hit Leyte to the rainy Papal Mass in Luneta in which more than 6 million people bear witness to. From wearing a transparent rain jacket in
Here are a few quotes that have left a mark from the other events of the papal visit.
“So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent…But please know, Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down.” – at the Papal Mass in Tacloban Airport, Leyte
“We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. That is sin: to forget at heart that we are children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world. That is why the message of the Santo Niño is so important. He speaks powerfully to all of us. He reminds us of our deepest identity, of what we are called to be as God’s family.” – at the Papal Mass in the Luneta Grounds
“To dream how will your daughter or son be. It is not possible to have a family without such dreams… When you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love and this energy to love is lost.” – at the Meeting with Families in Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City
The Papal Visit to the Philippines renewed the hope and faith of the Filipino nation to live a life that is full of love and prayer. Pope Francis as he has said many times before asked for prayers for him. Let us never forget the lessons of this visit.
Sure, there have been unpleasant experiences and reactions during the course of his visit. Yet, the radiant optimism that this event brought on will forever be on the lives of the people who bear witness to these five days in our nation.
These fateful five days will live on for the rest of my lifetime. I will tell stories of these days for generations to come. This experience will also be an inspiration for myself in my future endeavors in life. We won’t know if he’ll be able to come visit our nation again, but as he said.
“Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God… …God reveals himself through surprises.”
I am forever thankful and grateful for this once in a lifetime experience.
Your radiant smile will forever live on with us all. You truly are the real MVP! Our “Most Valuable Pope“
Today is the right time to put the inspiration onto clockwork and lay it all down. I am going to break the wall on this one.
This season, the dynamics have changed for the Rockets. They have taken over from the Miami Heat who lost LeBron James to free agency when he decided to return home with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season as the most despised team in the NBA today. It may not be at the same level as the Heat have encountered in the last four years, but the hate is real on all sides from both the media and the fans.
Think about it, both of their superstars have been heavily criticized by the general NBA concensus. James Harden who has been called out as a star who can’t play defense. Yes, YouTube has that script covered with a viral video about his documented defensive lapses. Dwight Howard who has gotten the ire of fans especially of those from Los Angeles and Orlando has been called out for not being too serious in-game. At the start of the season, fans picked up immediately when Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant called him out for being “soft” as the Rockets were cruising to victory in LA.
But not only the superstars has gotten the ire of fans and the media, guys like Patrick Beverley who has been called “dirty”, who can forget especially those from Oklahoma City, when he caused Thunder star point guard Russell Westbrook to miss the rest of the playoffs that disrupted the Thunder’s title hopes in 2013. Trevor Ariza, after he was acquired by the squad was called by most NBA fans a “downgrade” after the Rockets let previous starting forward Chandler Parsons walk off north to the Dallas Mavericks. And finally, recent acquisition Josh Smith who was waived by the Detroit Pistons has been ridiculed for his poor shot selection.
The criticism doesn’t only extend to the players, it also extends to the coach and the front office. Head Coach Kevin McHale who has yet to lead the team out of the second round has been criticized for his poor player rotation options especially in key situation, which personally I find it fair enough. Finally the General Manager in Daryl Morey who has been the “god” in the NBA when it comes to using analytics to determine the player personnel to join the squad. It has been ridiculed from traditional player recruitment where they look more into the background and pedigree of a player before pursuing an offer for their services.
With all the criticism and hate this team has endured throughout the off season and into the current season. I could have left and supported a team with a large following. I could have made more friends who share the same passion with the team as I do. I could share moments good or bad with a lot of people. I could have avoided all the earth shattering criticism and hate pointed out on the team. I could have said “I’m not from Houston, I’ll root for someone else.” and join the train to a beloved team today (say Warriors, Thunder, Mavericks, Raptors, Bulls, you name it).
But in the end, I will stay on with this team and I will seize the moment. This is the first time I will ever experience my team this ridiculed and criticized by many fans on a massive scale. So I will enjoy it while it lasts. Right now, the team has been playing great basketball, they have kept in touch with the best teams in a highly stacked Western Conference. This team faced the injury bug early into the brand new season and have shown resilience by winning games. Sure there have been a few terrible losses, but it’s part of the grind of a 82 game season.
James Harden has been playing like an MVP so far this season as he leads the league in scoring, and has significantly improved on his defensive game thanks in part to his stint at the FIBA World Cup with Team USA. Dwight Howard has been playing well and staving off the injury bug wisely. Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer have been doing it on the defensive end as well as hitting their three point shots. Donatas Motiejunas has been a revelation all season long as he gave up shooting threes for an improved and high percentage post game. If the team can get contributions from Jason Terry, Josh Smith, Kostas Papanikolaou, Isaiah Canaan, Nick Johnson and Joey Dorsey. This could be one of the teams to beat come playoff time.
We don’t know yet how our team will fare at the end of the season, we could see them get home court advantage in the playoffs or not, we could see another disappointing first round exit or go all the way to carrying the Larry O’ Brien title to Houston. As anything can happen in our beloved NBA.
We don’t know how long will this moment in the franchise history of the Rockets will last. But right now, I’m savoring the moment.
I hope the rest of the people who are a part of the Red Nation family stay with this team throughout every game, every win and loss that may come the rest of the way. Who knows? The time may come now.
Because it’s simple, it’s real. From 13,705 kilometers away, I’m a soldier of Red Nation and we’re going against the world.
2014 was a year to remember for me. A lot of great things happened throughout the course of the year. Since I’m a bit short on words for this yearly recap. All I did for this year was a collage of some special moments that happened last year.
Good bye 2014, thanks for the memories. Hello 2015!
It has been a eventful 14 months in the history of Philippine basketball. From winning silver at 2013 FIBA Asia Championship on home soil. To those thrilling tune-up games leading up to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. To the eventful return of Philippine basketball on the world map with a gallant performance at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Despite the fact, Gilas Pilipinas won only 1 of 5 games and did not making it to the next round of the tournament finishing 21st in the 24 team tournament. The world was put on notice with what they have accomplished. All the way to Incheon for the Asian Games. Where unfortunately, the team suffered a disastrous finish settling for only 7th place in the tournament.
The tournament was a disaster for the national team. After winning their opening match against India, they suffered a tough loss against Iran where the team kept in close distance with the Iranians. Then into the next stage of the competition, they suffered a shock loss to Qatar. Followed up by another tough loss against the host nation and eventual gold winners Korea. Then a victory that felt like a defeat against Kazakhstan ending the medal hopes of the team. Losing to China and ending the tournament with a win over Mongolia for the 7th place finish.
With a twist of fate, the team that brought a nation together, has completely tore it apart. As the critics emerged blasting the team on every aspect. Majority of the brunt was put on Gilas head coach Chot Reyes. Reyes, who on a press interview blasted naturalized player Marcus Douthit after the loss to Qatar which led Filipino basketball fans to blast him on his own miscues during the course of the tournament. Primarily on the team’s failure to execute in end game situations that has been present even in their stint at the FIBA Basketball World Cup thus leading to the infamous moniker that is “Choke” Reyes. In addition, to his choices on rotating players during the course of the game. Calls for him to vacate his coaching job for the nationals spread like wildfire. Critics wanted to give other great coaches like Tim Cone or Yeng Guiao the opportunity to call the shots for the nationals.
The downfall of the team in the Asiad, unfortunately overshadowed Jimmy Alapag’s farewell run donning a “PILIPINAS” jersey. This after he came out for one last shot with the national team after earlier calling himself to retire after the tournament in Spain. As well as the good name that this team have put on the basketball world map during those eventful days in Sevilla.
This graph pretty much explains how “most” people felt after each tournament that Gilas had played since last year.
Whether Gilas management decides to keep Chot Reyes or choose another coach. So be it as long as it’s for the best interest of the program.
Some of my friends have tasted that genuine joy whenever their team/school won the title.
Prior to writing this one, I have seen a lot of writers and bloggers that have already written their take on this matter. Even so, I will still write this one. The passion is burning high on my body, on my mind and in my heart. So let’s get to it.
For the last six days, Filipinos set aside their differences to unite as one nation in support of a team carrying “PILIPINAS” in their royal blue, white and red jersey. The nation went through a lot over these six days over Sevilla, Spain. From the glimpses of brilliance that shocked the world of basketball to the unimaginable heartbreak when we fell short after a great fight against the countries this team battled. When it all ended with a sweet and hard-earned victory over Senegal. There was pride, hope and optimism running through every Filipino who bare witness to this moment. Whether they were in Sevilla throughout their run, on home soil, or around the world where a Filipino is watching this moment.
Truly this was a team that despite falling short of victories on the win column will be remembered as the team that brought Philippine basketball to where it truly belonged, on the basketball world map.
Let’s run down a few of the memorable tournaments of this run by Gilas Pilipinas at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain.
When Gary David or Japeth Aguilar, despite playing limited minutes giving a boost on the scoreboard whenever they score a basket.
LA Tenorio competing tooth and nail with Puerto Rican NBA veteran J.J. Barea in a showdown of court generals.
Ranidel De Ocampo, Paul Lee and Jeff Chan dropping three point bombs on the scoreboard.
The grit of a Marc Pingris and Jayson Castro who played through the injuries to give everything they have and show the world what “PUSO” means to the Filipino nation.
Gabe Norwood’s work on the defensive end and two Kodak moments when he delivered two highlight reel dunks over Argentina. One of which was over NBA and international veteran Luis Scola.
The overall efficiency that June Mar Fajardo brought throughout the tournament and a inside presence this team lacked in previous tournaments that spanned over generations of basketball.
The play of Andray Blatche, our naturalized NBA player who lit up the scoreboard with three pointers and drives to the basket. He also played through injury showing that he may not be a born Filipino, but his heart and passion showed the grit of a Filipino.
The Captain Jimmy Alapag who played in his final international tournament carrying the PILIPINAS blue, white and red. Dropping three point bombs that were beyond NBA range. The steady play on running the offense and sending us home with our heads up high by nailing clutch free throws in the team’s final game over Senegal.
Of course the coaching staff, led by Coach Chot Reyes together with assistant coaches Norman Black, Jong Uichico, Josh Reyes and consultant Tab Baldwin. It was with their sacrifice of calling the shots for the team that bare fruit. They went through a lot especially in a nation where both players and the coaches are under the microscope at all times.
For everyone following the PBA every conference, they set their differences aside for each other. Imagine this, Alaska fans cheering once again for LA Tenorio. San Mig Coffee fans cheering every Jeff Chan and Paul Lee three point bombs or Gabe Norwood tearing the rim down and stop. San Miguel Beer fans (just like me) cheering a Jimmy Alapag long bomb or Ranidel de Ocampo bucket. Rain or Shine fans cheering on the grit of Marc Pingris.
This team gave the world of basketball something to remember. Who would have thought that this team would compete in close games to some of the world’s best countries when it comes to basketball? Prior to the tournament, people expected Gilas Pilipinas to lose by huge double digit margins. This team proved to the world otherwise.
They only lost by three points in a game that went into overtime, in the very first game of the whole tournament against 16th ranked and 2013 Eurobasket 4th placer Croatia.
They lost twelve points to 5th ranked and one of four tournament wild cards in Greece.
They only lost by four points to 3rd ranked and one-time Olympic champions Argentina.
The biggest heartbreak came when we competed well against 17th ranked and 2013 FIBA Americas runner-up Puerto Rico only to fall short by four points. Sealing our fate of not advancing into the next stage of the competition.
The final game against Senegal is when the door was finally broken as they won in overtime by two points ending their run on a positive note and to the delight of every Filipino as they win a game for the first time at the FIBA Basketball World since 1974. Imagine that, 40 years since the last time a team carrying “PILIPINAS” won on the world stage of basketball.
What also made it special is that this team gained new found respect and along the way. From international sports writers and analysts like ESPN’s Mark Jones, Mike Prada of SB Nation, and NBA writer Couper Moorhead. To Sergio García-Ronrás who is in a way a Spanish equivalent of Grantland writer, Pacific Rims author and Pinoy Hoops host Rafe Bartholomew, who followed this team starting from their tune-ups in Guadalajara, Spain against teams like Angola, Egypt and the Dominican Republic and drove 600 miles to Sevilla to follow the team into every single game of this tournament.
The team also gained the respect also from opposing players and coaches, Argentine coach Julio Lamas was quoted that their game against the Philippines was “the most difficult game he coached” in his coaching career. Puerto Rican point guard J.J. Barea giving props to Gilas guard LA Tenorio. Greek coach Fotios Katsikaris acknowledging the tip he got from his Philippine-based friends about how good the team is.
Also on a personal note for me, there was also a guy who goes by the name of Jason Williams who like me is a huge Houston Rockets fan. From the first game of the team in the tournament, he fell in love with the team. He said to me after the Philippines lost to Puerto Rico that it was like seeing the Rockets misfortunes the past season all over again. But when the win over Senegal came. He gave me a nice shout-out.