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The best season yet.

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 familyStay tight, and I’ll see you guys next season.

Photo from the Houston Rockets
 
And that ends “The best season yet.” I’ll be on Twitter hiatus starting tomorrow (I’m still thinking about doing the same thing on Facebook as well) to get my own life in check, after all I need this time for my own life to take flight. I’m hoping I’ll be in a better state in life before the following season begins.
 
Until then, I’ll always be a proud Red Nation soldier 
from the Land of the Three Stars and a Sun 24/7/365.
 

13,705 km. Red Nation versus the world.

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.

So first of all, what’s with the 13,705 kilometers? Well, it is the distance from my hometown of Quezon City, Philippines to Houston, Texas. Houston is home to my favorite NBA team for a long time in the Houston Rockets. For all the years I have been a member of Red Nation (for starters it is how Rockets fans are called collectively), I have seen the ups and downs of the franchise. In some times, great moments and sweet victories. Most of the times bitter heartbreaks and tough defeats. Yet despite all of that, even though I am far from Houston, I passionately support this team wherever I go in my life.
 
In a country where the game of basketball is a way of life for many of its citizens, it is no surprise that the NBA has a very huge following here in my home country. However, the Rockets does not have a huge following among Filipino NBA fans. I remember vividly last year, when the announcement came the NBA will be playing a preseason game and the teams playing in it were announced (Rockets and the Indiana Pacers), most Filipino NBA fans wanted another set of teams instead, teams with a huge following. China, who has been hosting NBA preseason games for years since Rockets legend Yao Ming entered the league has been getting the teams with huge fan followings.
 
It is no surprise though, that people root for teams that have either a decorated franchise history or a transcending player/group of players who is/are making a huge difference not only for their team but for the league as well
 
Over 30 NBA games are shown on a weekly basis with the different networks that carry NBA programming. Some of the Red Nation family (especially those from the US) were surprised when I told them about it. The Rockets get a good share of games shown on TV here (Unfortunately for me, I can’t watch them all since I’m missing a network that carries the a good chunk of Rockets games. Still, I get to see on TV at least 50% of the Rockets games in the regular season and most of their playoff games). We also got the NBA Café Manila and recently the NBA Store opened their largest branch outside of the United States (It was always a struggle for me to find Rockets gear since most sports stores sell gear from teams with huge followings in the country, now it will be easy for me to find and avail them). In addition, NBA League Pass was made easily available in the country through mobile phone carrier Globe Telecom with their offering to Postpaid and Prepaid subscribers to make it available.
 
I was at the preseason game when it happened last October 10, 2013 as it was a chance to see my team live and in living color. I remember vividlyDwight Howard got the hostile treatment from the fans in attendance since his former team the LA Lakers have a huge following here. While ex-Rocket now Lakers guard Jeremy Lin got the warm treatment from the crowd, for the obvious fact that we Filipinos hope that someone will make the NBA like Lin who is Asian has done. Filipinos were happy when NBA veteran Andray Blatche was naturalized and donned the PILIPINAS jersey at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. But of course, the dream that still hangs in the minds of Filipino basketball fans is to see a home grown Filipino player to play in the NBA.

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.

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After two months, this blog returns with a new name.

It has been two months since I last wrote something in this blog. When I was reeling from the heartbreak one guy from Portland, Oregon named Damian Lillard ended the playoff run of my beloved team the Houston Rockets. But yeah, I moved on from all of that. Plenty of things happened since. Now, I’m back with a new name and a new look for this blog.

Starting today, this thought ladder I built for the last two years will now be called Manila Red Nation. It’s a simple name but speaks well of who I really am. A Filipino fan of the Houston Rockets. Of course, my blog will not always talk about basketball. It will always be about my thoughts on different things happening in my life and the world around us. As with this entry, it’s a catch-up of what happened since I last wrote here.

As for Lillard and his Portland Trail Blazers, they met their Waterloo in a five game defeat to the eventual NBA Champions, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs dethroned the two-time NBA champions Miami Heat, also in five games to claim their fifth NBA title in franchise history. Though my team failed to win it all this season. At least, the team I picked in the Finals won.

Then the 2014 NBA Draft happened. The Cleveland Cavaliers would pick Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins #1 overall in the third time they picked #1 in the last four years. Then LeBron James decided to come home and once again play for his beloved Northeast Ohio when he made his decision to return to the Cavaliers after four years in South Beach where he led them to two NBA titles. That move set off a domino effect on the other free agents across the league. Players moved teams, while some stayed. Notable moves so far were Pau Gasol to the Bulls, Paul Pierce to the Wizards, Jason Kidd to coach the Bucks, Lionel Hollins to coach the Nets. While notable hold-overs were Miami’s Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and New York’s Carmelo Anthony.

As for the Rockets so far, Chandler Parsons left for the Mavericks, Jeremy Lin was traded to the Lakers, Omer Asik was traded to the Pelicans. While some former Rockets returned to the fold with Trevor Ariza (from the Wizards) and Joey Dorsey (last played for FC Barcelona in Spain) returning to the fold. They will also bring Dorsey’s FC Barcelona teammate in Greek player Kostas Papanikolau which the Rockets also hold the rights for. Still, it was painful when Chris Bosh who was deemed to join the Rockets after LeBron’s move decided to stay with the Heat. So far, it’s a strikeout, the team has yet to get a possible third piece to truly contend for the title. But the off-season is far from over. Who knows what may happen.

With LeBron James coming home, it’s an opportunity for me to rekindle the time I supported “The King” during his first stint with the Cavaliers. I admit I was one of those guys who did not like see him leave Cleveland for Miami. For four years, I rooted against him and the Heat. But now that he’s back, apart from the fact that the Rockets will always be my #1 team to root for. I would love for him to lead Cleveland to an NBA championship that has been long overdue.

With NBA off-season in full swing. We also witnessed the first PBA Grand Slam in 16 years with the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers win all three conferences this season. UAAP basketball is back, in my first year to root for the UST Growling Tigers as an alumnus. I do hope the long overdue UAAP basketball title will come to España this year. And our national team Gilas Pilipinas are making their preparations for the upcoming FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. A must-watch will be “The Last Homestand” as Gilas Pilipinas will battle the Fibr All-Stars composed of NBA stars like Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, and many more and will be spearheaded by former NBA coach John Lucas coming up tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Well, that’s enough of the basketball talk, over the last month, I watched the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil to get a taste of what the world’s #1 sport is really like. We’ve seen it all. The defending champions Spain getting knocked out early, Countries from the Americas having a field day in the group stage. The US team winning American hearts. Luis Suarez’s bite costing Uruguay. Colombia’s new ace in James (pronounced Ha-mes) Rodriguez. Brazilian star Neymar getting hurt. The host nation giving up 10 goals in their last two games to settle a disappointing 4th place behind the Netherlands. Argentina’s Lionel Messi winning the Golden Boot. But the tournament belonged to Die Mannschaft as Germany knocked off Argentina for their fourth World Cup title at the world famous Maracaña Stadium in Rio de Janeiro as Mario Götze becomes the 2014 version of Andres Iniesta with an extra time goal that propelled the Germans to the title and denying Argentina the pleasure of winning a World Cup on the soil of their eternal rivals in Brazil.

As for my personal life. Well, I’ll be looking for a job very soon. I just need some inspiration on what I will do in my life in the future. I need a few more stops to get a feel for what I need to do in life. I’d be looking forward to register for the 2016 national elections after failing 2 years ago since I made my move very late. To cap everything off, I’m looking forward to actively blog here once again especially with the new look and new inspiration I’m getting with the name change.

So with all that I have written today. I welcome you to the new face of my thought ladder that is Manila Red Nation.

This blog entry is dedicated to my late grandmother Juliana “Inay Laki” Deriquito-Reyes who passed away last June 13 at the age of 89.

Coming off the shelf!
K-Smoove

0.9 seconds to heartbreak.

“It’s over.”

“I cannot believe it was all over.” 

“Just like that, I’m screwed!”

In that kind of fashion, and way too early than I thought it would and I was not there to see it all. I was away from the buzz of the metropolis. I went to a place with no television screens and computers. All I had, was my phone and went browsing using the mobile internet out of insistence that I cannot miss this game no matter where I am. For after all, the season was on the line. A win would send this series to a 7th game, a loss would send my team home for the early offseason.

I did not saw the shot. As I saw each time I reload the NBA Game Time App just to see the score change every time. When it all mattered, 0.9 seconds was all it took from watching my team play a Game 7 today to right now with compelling thoughts on what just happened to my team.

In 0.9 seconds, it was all over. The 2013-14 Houston Rockets season is nothing but history. I did not see what happened afterwards at the Moda Center on the TV screen. I did not  saw the euphoric Portland crowd erupt with joy happiness as their Trail Blazers moved on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 2000. 14 years of heartbreak for them finally ended. I did not saw the words their hero said to one of our guys after the game. I did not saw the whole team get down on their knees in sadness amidst the celebrations. Just like that, I’m a screwed fan.

I saw two scenes on social media, after the game. I kept the lines open even with the loss. Amidst the sadness I was experiencing as a fan.

On one side, people celebrating the Blazers win in that kind of fashion and saying the name of the hero who propelled the team into the second round. People who were glad and ecstatic to see the Rockets season come to an end all for different reasons. Like seeing a guy on the team fall short on the playoffs after his controversial move or the thought they do not like the team in the first place. Some would go out and post/tag me on my wall about what happened like my team got owned/upset, videos of other Rockets fan reactions on the loss and pictures of the game.  

I would not bother myself watching these things. But, I’ll keep it on my wall. Because someday it has it’s purpose. There is a good reason for me to keep it.

Then on the other side, were those who supported the team. The Red Nation! The people who were passionate about the team. Some of them, which I met in the last playoffs that have been fans of the team longer than I am. It was a mutual feeling throughout. Everyone was shocked and saddened with those 0.9 seconds that ended the season for the team we all love and die to root for. None of us thought our season will be ending early. Unfortunately, the basketball gods gave us the heartbreaking truth of not having to witness our team play forward for the season. But without them, I would be all alone in the healing process from this heartbreak. Something I have experienced for most of my years as a fan of the team.

We are all entitled to our own opinions and which teams to root for. You can root for a team that has a documented history and lore. You can root for a team because your favorite player is playing for it. You can root for a team for a lot of other reasons. We have our teams to root for with every season or for the long-term. Sometimes, that passion can lead us to crossing the line on those we trample with whenever our team wins against another team.

It just so happened in my case, I chose a team that did not have a large following in this country. Even with the player changes, the following was growing slowly but still smaller than other followings. I can count my fingers on my friends here who are as passionate to the team as I am. It was a weird feeling when I watched the team play in October last year for the pre-season. The crowd at hand was jeering one guy of the team, while they’re cheering the other guy who was his teammate. I had a thought, how many of these people in attendance were die-hard fans like me? I’m sure most of them came just to be a part of history. To be witness to the first NBA-sanctioned game in the Philippines. I’m sure most of them want another team playing. A team that has a huge following in this country. I can’t blame them for it for we know that this country is more passionate about this sport than any other place on the planet (take Lithuania with us also).

Now, if someone asks me “Are you gonna watch the rest of the Playoffs?”. Well, I will do my own best to keep updated with what’s happening. One thing is for sure though. I would not root for any other team still playing in this playoffs. I could care less, if one team gets the three-peat, or another team getting back on top of the mountain after a bitter loss last season, or another team driven by not just a city but an entire state to their first professional title, or a team whom we least expect to win it all shock the world and pull off a magical run. It’s going to be tough for me to watch a game from here on out until the season comes to an end with the NBA Finals next month.

Just like that, the “our” season is over. The most compelling season I have witnessed in my 12 years as a member of Red Nation is nothing but over. The team admitted on their page that they fell short of the fan base expectations. What most of us who believed, thought would be the rise of the team would turn out to be the collapse of biblical proportions. No one saw we’d go down in Round 1 of the playoffs. Yet we did in a fashion no one saw coming.

Even with all the heartbreak and sorrow, I’m still proud of what I stand for. I will always believe in the team that I have passionately rooted for more than half of my life so far. There will be journeys ahead with this team. Time will eventually heal all the wounds and heartbreaks I am having right now. I have learned a lot of things with every year that passed. I went through good times and experienced plenty of heartbreaks along the way.

It will be a long and cold wait until the next season begins. But, I always believe that one day, this team will raise the championship and I along with everyone in Red Nation will be witness to it.

Regardless, of what the people around me say. And the fact I’m 13,744 km (8,540 mi) away from Houston. My blood is RED, and I’m a member of Red Nation for Life from the Philippines!

Thank You for another season Houston Rockets!
K-Smoove

You win some, you lose some.

“You win some, you lose some.”
Well, this is a line that will sum up what has been a year of stories for me. So of all the possible lines that a person can think of when writing a blog entry, why this one? Well, I’m here to tell you the story of my 2013. Anyways, this is the first time I’m blogging outside of my humble home since I’m spending the next few days in the province, and I apologize that I won’t be able to share photos with this one. So let’s get started.
Well, let’s start first with the second phrase of the line “you lose some.”
Of course, I don’t want to start this one with all the good stuff that has happened over the course of the year. I’m saving that for later. So, I’m starting off with the challenging times during this entire year. 
It was indeed a struggle, especially during the 1st semester of my final year of college life. Well, it was something I had to endure for five months, with all the school work from the thesis, term papers, major examinations as well as those daily routines of classes. It was also a point that pushed me to my breaking point. It was indeed a tough time for me on all aspects: mentally, physically and emotionally. Even those days where I’m not talking to people out of deep frustration. Add to that the competitions where I competed, that took a toll on my body. Though I’m not blaming my choice of competing for all the trouble I got into. It was something I love to do and I will keep on doing. But, the grueling struggle took a huge toll as it affected my performance as I ended with my worst finish to a semester in UST. But I made my vow to bounce back especially on my practicum which I am taking at this moment, but I’m currently on break until the resumption of work 6 days into the new year.
Speaking of practicum, it was indeed a challenging learning process. I was still fortunate that I got into a company I would like to work with. Yes, I’ve learned some hard lessons about working. It was my first experience going to work for something I love to work with. Yeah, there were those days when you were said “You’re not good enough.” But then again, I’m learning from each day I step on the work place. I’m still a long way there, but I’m sure when it all ends. It will all be worth it.
Since I’m a sports junkie, I got to tell something about sports, 2013 was a year where I suffered a lot of sports heartbreaks. From the UST Growling Tigers losing in the UAAP Basketball Finals for the 2nd straight season, this time against the De La Salle Green Archers. To the Houston Rockets bowing out of the 1st round after putting up a fight against the then-defending West Champions Oklahoma City Thunder. To the heartbreaking loss of Petron Blaze against San Mig Coffee in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. To McLaren’s poor performance in 2013 in which Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull defended their titles. To  There have been a lot of heartbreaking moments throughout the year. But of course, there were some great ones along the way which I will tell later in this entry.
 
Also this year has been marked with some moments of near misses. Like my failure to secure a certificate in the Galileo GDS software. As well as the two times I almost won it in individual quiz bee competitions, plus a lot more which I cannot remember. But at the end of the day, I’ve learned from each story.
Well enough of the drama and the challenges, now we move to the first phrase of the line. “You win some!”
Here, I will share some of the great moments of the past year, so here we go:
Well 2013, has also been special for me with all the hardware I was bringing home with all the competitions I’ve competed in the past year. A total of five competitions over the year. Even though I didn’t win in every single competition I competed in, I still brought home either a medal, a trophy or a certificate, even cash money in some competitions. Add to that, the recognition I’ve been getting from the university and the college. It has been a special ride for me and I got to share it with my teammates which is always more to winning. 
In addition, I’ve been getting along with my friends nicely which has been great for me. At least I’m enjoying a lot of great company. As well as getting to meet a lot of people along the way. It has indeed been a very special moment in my life, and I’m always thankful for these moments.
 
Also, in sports there have been some wonderful moments to remember, and one of which was being one of the thousands in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena for the first NBA preseason game to be held in the Philippines between the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers to which the Rockets won by a 30 point margin. It was great seeing my favorite team in action on this historic night. Also, who can forget the run of Gilas Pilipinas in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship at our own soil as we made it all the way to the Finals, though we lost in the Finals to Iran. We booked our ticket to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. Of course it’s worth mentioning that very emotional victory against long-time tormentors South Korea in the semi-finals where after years that the Koreans sent Filipino ballers and hearts crashing, we’ve finally gotten over the hump. In addition, as a big Houston Rockets fan it has been a pleasure that I got to meet members of Red Nation from all over the world! From those living in Houston, as well as those in other places like New York, Taiwan, Norway, Australia, etc. Even some who are from here at home. I hope we’ll have a great season to remember. Hopefully a championship!
 
Well, there’s nothing else for me to say. So to cap this off. I thank each and every one who made my 2013 very special. I’m looking forward to the brand new year in a day and a couple of hours and create a lot of memories not only for myself but for the people around!
 
Thanks for the memories 2013, Hello 2014 very soon!
K-Smoove

A dream is finally realized. The NBA Global Games/Red Nation experience.

I’ve been a member of Red Nation for 11 years now and I have embraced everything about the Houston Rockets ever since. Then one day in February of this year, the dream got closer as the NBA announced that the team alongside the Indiana Pacers will play the very first NBA preseason game in the Philippines. I made my move, saving up and working to get money for the ticket. Then a couple of months later, I went in and purchased my ticket on the very first day it came out to the public. I also got freebies that came along with the ticket and loaded myself with Rockets gear for the big game since it was a perfect time to buy since their gear are plentiful in anticipation of the game.

Finally, on one rainy Thursday afternoon, the dream was realized as the NBA Global Games Philippines 2013 finally came along at the Mall of Asia Arena to grace one of the most passionate countries in the world when it comes to basketball.

I arrived at the arena as soon as gates opened just after 4pm. Then, once inside, I finally got to roam around the arena for the first time in the three times I’ve been at a venue to witness a basketball game. I was with my then schoolmate, once my brother’s classmate and Red Nation buddy Ronny who I haven’t seen in 8 years when were just young kids at school. Then we loaded up with gear to buy, before going to our seats and wait for the game to start.

90 minutes until tipoff
Photo ©Karl Carandang


Some of the players were already practicing once we got in and the arena was loaded with white shirts containing “It’s More Fun in the Philippines” since the Department of Tourism stepped in in and supported the event. Along the way I saw some players from the UAAP near the spot where I was sitting. Then moments before tip-off, the Rockets Launch Crew alongside Clutch the Rockets Bear and Boomer came in for their performances. So yeah, I got to see some great mascots around especially Clutch who is one of the best mascots around the world. Then with less than 20 minutes until tip-off, both teams came out of the tunnel for their pregame warmups.

Rockets Launch Crew

 

Clutch and Boomer
 
 Rockets and Pacers go with their pregame warmups
Photos ©Karl Carandang


As the buzzer sounded, the teams lined up and the starting lineups were introduced as both the Rockets and Pacers played pregame videos alongside the introduction of the starting lineups. After the introductions, the Commissioner himself David Stern was also in Manila to grace the event and gave his gratitude to the crowd in attendance. Then after a few moments, we have tipoff!

Rockets pregame video

 

Pacers pregame video
(I loved the fact they added a local flare in their message for the crowd at hand.)

 

NBA Commissioner David Stern addresses the crowd at the arena
 
We have tipoff from Manila!
Photos ©Karl Carandang
 
As for the game itself, well it was pretty much a one-sided affair as the Rockets never trailed in the game despite comeback bids by the Pacers all game long, as they come up with the win by 20 points 116-96.
 
James Harden led the Rockets with 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals on 6-12 FG shooting. Isareli swingman Omri Casspi added 17 points and 10 rebounds. Lithuanian big man Donatas Motiejunas chipped in 16 points. Chandler Parsons had 15 points, while Jeremy Lin added 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Patrick Beverley added 12 points and Dwight Howard only scored 9 points. 
 
Paul George led the Pacers with 17 points, while David West added 14. Orlando Johnson scored 11. While George Hill and Luis Scola added 10 each. Danny Granger only scored 9 points alongside CJ Watson while big man Roy Hibbert was only limited to 6 points.
 
The final score. Rockets 116-96 Pacers
Photo ©Karl Carandang
 
Box scores:
Houston Rockets (116) – Harden 21, Casspi 17, Motiejunas 16, Parsons 15, Lin 14, Beverley 12, Howard 9, Brooks 5, Jones 5, Brewer 2, Canaan 0, Covington 0
 
Indiana Pacers (96) – George 17, West 14, Johnson 11, G. Hill 10, Scola 10, Granger 9, Watson 9, Hibbert 6, Stephenson 4, Armstrong 4, Copeland 2, S. Hill 0, Sloan 0, Butler 0, Mahinmi 0
 
Every timeout, there were performances by Clutch, Boomer, the Rockets Launch Crew and the Pacemates. As well as the fact they were handing out free t-shirts even Clutch gave his Clutch dolls amongst the crowd. There were also fan contests throughout. In addition, they honored NBA legends Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Ron Harper and Jalen Rose who graced the country for the series of events that transpired over the past couple of days. As the final buzzer sounded, the players came out to hand in some freebies to the crowd in attendance.
 
The Indiana Pacemates doing a dance for the crowd.
 
NBA legends Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Ron Harper and Jalen Rose.
 
Clutch and Boomer up with their crazy antics during the timeout.
 
Rockets Launch Crew wowing the crowd.
 
Air Clutch and Air Boomer with the Rockets Launch Crew and the Pacemates.
Photos ©Karl Carandang
 
The game also gave me an opportunity to see the players and legends I only see on television live in person. At the same time see both teams play their brand of basketball right before my eyes. From the Rockets players like James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons to the Pacers players like Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and Luis Scola. At the same time, seeing coaches Kevin McHale and Frank Vogel. Even Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Pacers President Larry Bird.
 
James Harden at the line
 
Dwight Howard taking free throws
 
Jeremy Lin at the line
Photos ©Karl Carandang
 
As for the crowd atmosphere, well it’s a different sight. As for most of the game. Filipino basketball fans were not as rabid and wild as if it were a college basketball or PBA game. The crowd was very attentive to every play, every basket, every block, every three pointer that came along during the course of the game. You can even hear the coaches give instructions on their players. I even saw fans of the Pacers who came all the way from Indiana to see their team play here. There was one guy who came to the game with the sign “I Love the Pacers” and at the back “Mahal ko ang Pacers”. An irony about the fan reaction during the the game, there were cheers when Jeremy Lin gets a basket or touches the ball and he was given a nice ovation when his night on the floor was done. While Dwight Howard got jeers whenever he has the ball or takes free throws, when he got his fifth foul, the crowd just went crazy. The Mall of Asia Arena also wasn’t filled to capacity as only around 15,000 were in attendance to watch the game. One factor could be the ticket prices as well as the bad weather around the area. The fans were wearing either Rockets or Pacers gear as well as NBA gear from other teams.
 
Well, the Global Games/Red Nation experience was all worth it. Not only because the Rockets won the game which I would say was a bonus, but the experience of seeing my favorite players and legends from both teams at the same time the once in a blue moon experience of an authentic NBA game on Philippine soil. Well, I would say it would have been better if a Filipino was on an NBA roster and the fans will come out with their all-out support. Similar to what Yao Ming experienced when the NBA came over to China in 2005 and what will Jeremy Lin experience up in Taiwan as both the Rockets and Pacers made their second stop in their NBA Global Games trip. At the same time, they can improve on ticket prices to make the experience affordable to every Filipino, the next time the league decides to come back and play on Philippine soil once again which I believe will happen sooner than many people expect.

To wrap up this entry I would like to thank the NBA and NBA Philippines for bringing the Global Games here in the Philippines. I hope it’s not the last time they will do this on our shores and I always believe that one day, a Filipino player will shine bright in the league. Someday, I will get to watch the NBA in the United States.

 
From a member of Red Nation in the Philippines,
K-Smoove
 
P.S. Is the NBA Cafe at SM Aura in Fort Bonifacio open already?

The monsoon gave me a chance to catch up on things.

This is my 200th blog entry since I opened this blog over a year ago. It’s been almost two months since I last wrote an entry here. Never did I think, that I’m writing this one in the middle of the monsoon rains that is caused by the typhoon up north in Taiwan. Well, the rains caused suspension of classes which opened up time for me to write this one. So yeah, as the title goes, it’s time for me to catch up on some of the things that happened from the time I wrote my last entry almost 6 weeks ago.

We start back on the week after the retreat, least did I expect that the lessons I got from the retreat would not kick in right away. I was hoping to come out swinging afterwards. But it wasn’t easy and I still had difficulty in catching up with things. But yeah, I was reminded that “storms” in our life will come after the retreat and so I calmed down and re-channel my attention on the important matters.

Then later in the week, another competition came along for me, the first one for the year which was the NLEX Tara Na Sa Norte Quiz Bee at the Atrium in Robinson’s Place Ermita Manila. I competed with a pair, which was my recruit from the third year Chamille. 9 schools competed in the competition. Well, it took awhile to finish the competition as there were a lot of controversies with regards with the questions. Despite that, it was a tightly contested battle. In the end however, we came out as champions by a mere solitary point. So we took home the cash prize of P5,000 which we later split as well as a certificate at the same time we had a celebratory meal at Yellow Cab. Then a couple of days later, our victory got put on a tarpaulin outside of our building.

Photo ©Karl Carandang
 
Driven by the recent victory, I slowly made my comeback bid a reality as I was able to find comfort in doing all the necessary schoolwork that I need to accomplish and I was able to contribute better in each project and homework that we have as the days progressed well until the end of the preliminary period of the semester. We also continued with our thesis work within the past couple of weeks. At the same time, my training continued as we prepared for the biggest competition in the semester and the most difficult and challenging quiz bee for the year which is the PHILTOA Quiz Bee exam, so it was me, Chamille and we were joined by Miah who was also a third year student. Then on August 7, we competed at the campus of Lyceum of the Philippines University in Intramuros. Just like the story last year, we all made it through the semi-finals. However, this version of the story had a change from last year. With my back against the wall, I was able to make it through withing the inch of my life to the Final Round on September 7 at the SMX Convention Center because I sat 9th out of the Top 10 that made it through to the Final Round. Unfortunately, my two other teammates were unable to make it through. Yet despite that, they gained experience in competing. We got something special coming up especially with more competitions lined up in the next semester.
 
Meanwhile outside of the life at school, as one of the many hoop junkies in this country, at the start of August, Filipino basketball fans were in for a great treat as the FIBA Asia Championship was held here in the country as three spots were on the line to represent Asia in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2014 in Spain. It was also an opportunity for Filipinos to come out with their full support for the national team which is famously known as Gilas Pilipinas. Filipino basketball fans were not left disappointed as Gilas was able to gain the silver medal which marked the first time the Philippines finished at the podium of the FIBA Asia Championship and secure a ticket to the Basketball World Cup for the first time since 1978 when the country hosted the event. From the early heartbreaking setback against Chinese Taipei, to the chants of “Puso”, “Laban Pilipinas” and “Gary” (David) that rained down at the Mall of Asia Arena, to the emotional semi-final victory against long time archrival-tormentor in South Korea, and giving the eventual champions Iran a good fight for the gold. This tournament will always be remembered by a lot of Filipino basketball fans of this generation.
 
Photo ©Yahoo! Sports
 
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t able to watch a single game live at the Mall of Asia Arena during the duration of the tournament, at the same time I have yet to watch a UST game this season. I also made it a point that I won’t watch an UST-Ateneo game again this season as three of the four games I’ve watched live were this matchup. Also, the Philippines was visited by NBA players from LeBron James in July to Kobe Bryant in August. However, there was one event that I was able to come to and that was the NBA 3X event at the Mall of Asia Music Hall where I saw James Harden and Eric Gordon in person. Fortunately, I was wearing an adidas shoe at the venue, and I was able to get a photo signed by Eric Gordon. Even though I didn’t end up with an autograph of Harden, I walked away happy and at least I got a photo of him.
 
Photos ©Karl Carandang
 
Well, there are still a lot of events coming up, from Derrick Rose coming over to Manila this September to promote for Adidas. As well as the anticipated NBA Global Games Philippines at the Mall of Asia Arena on October 10 as my favorite team the Houston Rockets will battle Eastern Conference finalists the Indiana Pacers in a fun match-up between teams that have loaded up their roster in the off-season as James Harden, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and the rest of the Rockets will battle the likes of Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, David West, Danny Granger and the rest of the Pacers. I’m fortunate that I’ll bear witness to history in the making as this is the first NBA pre-season game to be held in the country.
 
As of this moment, our preliminary examinations has yet to come to an end due to the fact that classes have been suspended due to the inclement weather across Metro Manila and nearby provinces. We’ve already finished four days of exams which also included our mock defense for our Thesis. While some are already done with their exams like my younger brother also in UST, I still have to take two more exams. With every suspension, a day is lost in the preparation time for the competition I’ll be competing in next month, at the same time my fear that there will be classes come October 10 could come true.
But then again, safety is above anything else and the fact that we should look after those that were affected by the widespread flooding. We’ll get through this tragic moment with our heads up high and the sun will rise again. Of course, I send my prayers to those who were gravely affected by the heavy flooding as well as the sinking of a passenger vessel in Cebu almost a week ago.
In the meantime, I’ll do something a Filipino is well know for which is finding happiness in tragic moments by looking back at the Claretian Dictionary from my days in my high school Alma Mater as I write on this Throwback Thursday. Well, the title states that it was time for me to catch up on things and now I did. I hope y’all stay safe and I take a line from the movie 3 Idiots “Aal izz well!”
Laban Pilipinas! Puso!
We will rise again.
K-Smoove