Who’s your MVP? ‘The Beard’ or ‘The Greek Freak’?

NBA

Playing with contrasting styles on both ends, Giannis Antetokounmpo and James Harden are now in a two-way race for this season’s NBA MVP award.

With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks are now at the top of the NBA standings with a 57-19 record. On the other hand, after a dismal start of the season, reigning MVP James Harden is towing the Rockets in the midst of a tough Western Conference.

With both of these superstars making a strong push for the award, FOX Sports Philippines examines on each candidate.

The case for James Harden

Averaging 36.2 points per game, the reigning MVP has posted the highest point average in the league since the 1987 season, where Michael Jordan notched 37.1.

Harden possesses a lethal offensive arsenal to say the least — from his stepback treys, forays to the basket, and his passing ability — he can certainly do it all. Add along to the guard-friendly system Coach Mike D’Antoni has put into place, Harden has been putting up historic numbers ever since.

NBA-Harden

Having to deal with injuries to some of his key teammates, particularly with fellow star Chris Paul, ‘The Beard’ has put the Rockets on his back. At one point, Harden scored at least 30 markers in 32 straight games, averaging 41.1 points per game in that stretch on 44.1-percent overall shooting.

Pundits may critique his defense or high-usage, high-volume shot making, but without his efforts, who knows where the Rockets are right now.

The case for Giannis Antetokounmpo  

Much of Milwaukee’s success this season can be attributed to Antetokounmpo’s leap to stardom. With averages of 27.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.0 assists per game, the ‘Greek Freak’ has undoubtedly became the best player of the best team this 2019 season. The former lottery pick became just the second player in NBA history to tally norms of at least 27 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists per game since Oscar Robertson in the 1962 season.

Not only is his presence felt on offense, Antetokounmpo does it as well on the defensive side of the floor very well, especially since he’s averaged 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per contest so far. His combination of length and athleticism made him into one of the league’s fearsome defenders, and he’s one of the favorites to possibly take home the Defensive Player of the Year award.

NBA-Giannis

With all of these gifts rolled into one, ‘The Greek Freak’ has emerged as the Eastern Conference’s best player. He didn’t have to carry the load as much as Harden’s, but he has brought the Bucks higher and faster than expected, which will definitely be looked at by the voters.

Overall, it’s hard to choose between who’s the better between these two superstars. However, with the MVP award being usually defined as the best player of the best team, Giannis Antetokounmpo gets my nod here.

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4 Pinoy ballers who tried their luck in the NBA before

With basketball as the country’s number one sport, reaching the NBA stage has always been every Filipino’s dream.

But despite being a basketball-crazy country, it’s unfortunate that no homegrown Filipino has reached to as far as the NBA. Many have tried and failed, but Filipino fans remain hopeful nonetheless.

That said, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look at some notable players who have tried their luck going to the NBA.

Japeth Aguilar

Before becoming one of Ginebra’s top players today, Aguilar did try his luck in the NBA in as early as his college days, where he transferred from Ateneo to Western Kentucky back in 2007.

Aguilar eventually became the first Philippine-born player to receive a workout invitation from an NBA team in the New Orleans Hornets, but he was deemed as too raw back then. He soon became a practice player for G-League team Sta. Cruz Warriors in 2012 before coming back home for good in 2013.

Ray Parks Jr.

After achieving much success in the UAAP, Ray Parks Jr. decided to follow his father’s footsteps by carving out a path to the NBA. He was invited over to play for the Mavericks in the Summer League, and he’s made the most out of his limited playing time, posting norms of 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in six games.

In the 2015 NBA G-League Draft, he was selected 25th overall with the Texas Legends, and he averaged 4.6 points, 1.9 rebounds in 32 games. He tried his luck once again the year after, only to get waived by the Westchester Knicks before coming back in the Philippines.

Kiefer Ravena

Coming out of the UAAP, Ravena was touted as one of the country’s top young prospects after enjoying a decorated career with the Ateneo Blue Eagles where he won two titles and two MVP nods.

Similar to Parks, Ravena also made his way to the Texas Legends as a practice player, but the former Blue Eagle wasn’t utilized much, however, and he did not join in the succeeding G-League Draft.

Johnny Abarrientos

We all know that Johnny Abarrientos is one of the PBA’s greatest players of all time, but did you know that he was heavily recruited by an NBA scout in the 90s?

Charlotte Hornets consultant Joe Bettancourt had a first look at the former FEU standout and he offered the latter first, an invitation to the Hornets’ training camp, and second, a 10-day contract.

Tim Cone and the rest of the Alaska franchise gave Abarrientos their blessing, but a follow-up call from Bettancourt never came. Turns out, the Hornets made a key move by trading for NBA champion BJ Armstrong to man the point guard spot for Charlotte.

 

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FIBA World Cup: What has to work for Gilas Pilipinas in Group D?

Gilas Pilipinas is set to play in the upcoming World Cup in China, and they’ll have their work cut out for them as they face Serbia, Italy and Angola in Group D.

While coming in as heavy underdogs, games are yet to be played. Thankfully, the Yeng Guiao-mentored team will have ample time to prepare, especially with the full support of the SBP and PBA.

RELATED – Chot Reyes likes Gilas Pilipinas’ chances vs. Angola, Italy, but says intensive build-up crucial

Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look on some key performance indicators that Gilas would have to work on in order to have a chance in going far in the World Cup.

Paul Lee (Photo from FIBA)

Consistent three-point shooting

With the way the game is played today, especially in the international level, consistency in three-point shooting often spells the difference between winning and losing.

In the recently-concluded Asian Qualifiers, Gilas ended the tourney with an okay 31.2-percent from outside while Italy, Serbia, and Angola finished with percentages of 37.6, 35.6, and 29.3 respectively. With a boatload of shooters at his disposal, head coach Yeng Guiao would have the daunting task of maximizing these players in order to keep up with some of the world’s best.

Andray Blatche (Photo from FIBA)

Getting more boards

Perhaps this is probably one of the most overlooked aspects for the Philippines since the team is not really known for its height and heft over the years. But now with the presence of June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Andray Blatche, the team has improved mightily on that regard.

Comparing their counterparts in Group D, Gilas Pilipinas looks to hold the edge as they have tallied an average of 40.3 rebounds per game, albeit in the Asian Qualifiers. Angola, Italy, and Serbia ended up with norms of 38.9, 37.0, and 36.5, respectively. However, the team will have its hands full in imposing their physicality against much better competition. But as long as the roster is healthy, it’s fair to say that Gilas can keep up against the best of them on that regard.

Yeng Guiao (Photo from FIBA)

Cutting down on fouls

While the FIBA game allows more physicality nowadays, adjusting to how fouls are called will also be the key for Gilas’ success as minimizing those would give fewer chances for their opponents to score.

Which is why it was a bit alarming when Philippines topped the list in the Asian Qualifiers with around 22.3 fouls per game while Angola, Italy, and Serbia averaged 21.5, 21.3, and 20.9 respectively. The Philippines would have to hasten their adjustment to the calls via FIBA rules but overall, with the national squad’s improved length and chemistry, for sure the transition will be seamless just in time for the World Cup.

RELATED – Dream player matchups for Gilas Pilipinas in Group D of World Cup

RELATED – Down memory lane: Gilas Pilipinas’ stint in the 2014 FIBA World Cup

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Ceres-Negros FC set to conduct monthly free football clinics for the youth

To bring the Filipinos much closer to the beautiful game, Ceres-Negros FC has committed to conduct monthly free clinics for underprivileged kids as they go around in different parts of the country.

The Negros-based football team started doing so when they hosted a football clinic last Sunday at Boys Town in Marikina City. Around 50 kids were able to participate as most of them were just in their slippers or were barefoot.

Ceres coaches Frank Muescan, Jing Jambre, and Solomon Valerio took turns in teaching the kids the basics of football. Footballs, shoes, and jersey shirts were given away as well, as mentioned by team manager Miguel Atayde.

Atayde’s main purpose in this initiative is to bring Filipinos much closer to the game of football, and it all starts by dispelling the notion that football is only for the elite.

“That’s the idea of bringing the poor closer to football. We will donate football, rubber shoes, and jersey shirts next training,” said Atayde.

 

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Notable players who have played for numerous NBA franchises

Unlike before, switching teams has been quite the norm in the NBA given the various options out there.

While there are players who’s had the luxury to play for only one team throughout their careers, such is not the case to most people, particularly the role players.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look of notable NBA players who have played for multiple teams.

Jim Jackson (12)

Jackson started out his career with the Dallas Mavericks as an athletic swingman who could wreak havoc on both ends of the floor. However, after five years, the former Ohio State standout would have multiple stops across 11 other teams in the Nets, Sixers, Warriors, Trail Blazers, Hawks, Cavaliers, Heat, Kings, Rockets, Suns, and the Lakers.

After carving out a long and productive NBA career, Jackson is currently a basketball analyst for FOX Sports, where he regularly guests on shows like The Herd and Undisputed.

Ish Smith (10)

The speedy point guard out of Wake Forest has already established himself as one of the league’s top journeymen given he’s spent time with 10 teams so far in his nine-year career. Prior to playing for the Pistons, he has played for the Rockets, Grizzlies, Warriors, Magic, Bucks, Suns, Thunder, Sixers, and the Pelicans.

Not really known as a knockdown shooter, Smith has steadily improved on his game over the past few seasons, especially on the perimeter as he’s shooting a respectable 34-percent from downtown.

Matt Barnes (9)

Entering the league as the 46th overall pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, not many expected that Matt Barnes will enjoy a career spanning to 15 seasons. The Cali native has played for nine teams, including the Clippers, Kings, Knicks, Sixers, Warriors. Suns, Magic, Lakers, and to the Grizzlies before making his way again eventually to the Warriors, where he won his only NBA championship back in the 2017 season.

Barnes is known as hard-nosed 3-and-D guy who can make an impact on both ends of the floor. For his career, he’s averaged 8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. From time to time, he would serve as an analyst for FOX Sports.

Caron Butler (9)

Butler came in to the NBA as a lottery pick for the then-rebuilding Miami Heat back in 2002. The Wisconsin native was a physical swingman who would emerge as one of the league’s underrated players in his prime. He was an NBA champion, two-time NBA All-Star and was part of the All-Rookie Team back then.

Besides the Heat , the 6’7 forward has had stops in Lakers, Wizards, Mavericks, Clippers, Bucks, Thunder, Pistons, and Kings for his 14-year career.

Shaun Livingston (9)

Livingston came into the league by storm due to his length and athleticism for a point guard back in 2004, where he was selected by the Los Angeles Clippers in the lottery. However, after showing glimpses of his oozing potential, disaster struck as he would be sidelined due to a gruesome knee injury.

After bouncing around in the league for quite some time, the Illinois native found his way to the Golden State Warriors, where he won three titles. Overall, Livingston has played for the Clippers, Heat, Thunder, Bobcats, Bucks, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nets, and the Warriors.

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Dream player matchups for Gilas Pilipinas in Group D of World Cup

(UPDATED)

Gilas Pilipinas will take on some of the best teams in the world in the FIBA World Cup in Foshan, China, after being bracketed together with the likes of European powerhouses Italy, Serbia, and a resurgent Angola team in Group D.

ALSO READ: Gilas Pilipinas to clash against Serbia, Italy, Angola in FIBA World Cup

Coach Yeng Guiao will have his work cut out for him particularly in matchups, as the national team will be facing multiple NBA-caliber talents one way or the another.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look on the noteworthy matchups to look out for in the upcoming World Cup for Gilas Pilipinas.

Andray Blatche vs. Nikola Jokic

Gilas Pilipinas-Blatche/Jokic

It’s possible that this is the most fascinating matchup for Team Pilipinas when they get to face Serbia in Group D, as both Blatche and Jokic offer similar skillsets. Both of them are mobile and can handle the ball like a point guard and they can post up well too.

Despite their age disparity, it can be agreed that Blatche can still hang with Jokic if the two ever crossed paths in the big leagues. Perhaps the upcoming World Cup would be a big enough stage for these two to duke it out even if they never faced each other before.

RELATED — Standing in Gilas Pilipinas’ way: With or without NBA stars, Serbia still Group D favorites

Troy Rosario vs. Danilo GallinariGilas Pilipinas-Rosario/GallinariHaving bigs that can shoot treys are at a premium nowadays, and both Troy Rosario and Danilo Gallinari fit the bill for their respective teams.

When he gets going, Rosario can be one of the team’s vital cogs as he can spot up and is a mobile defender that can guard multiple positions. Meanwhile, Danilo Gallinari has developed into one of the NBA’s prolific scorers, as he’s currently shooting 44-percent from outside.

RELATED — Standing in Gilas Pilipinas’ Way: Could Gallinari, Belinelli offset Italy’s thin frontline?

Marcio Lassiter vs. Marco BelinelliGilas Pilipinas-Lassiter/BelinelliWe’re probably looking at two of Group D’s top pure shooters in Marcio Lassiter and Marco Belinelli, and both of them have been integral pieces in their respective teams. Lassiter and Belinelli can definitely light it up from deep, and their shooting might spell the difference between winning and losing in their game against each other in Group D.

This match-up will likely be put on hold, as coach Guiao recently confirmed that Lassiter won’t be available for Gilas after suffering an MCL sprain. Gilas’ other premiere shooter Matthew Wright is also currently banged up, but appears to be ready to go if he makes it to the final 12.

June Mar Fajardo vs. Boban Marjanovic

Gilas Pilipinas-Fajardo/MarjanovicOne of the main reasons basketball fans would love to see Team Pilipinas go against Serbia is because of the gigantic matchup bannered by five-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo and NBA veteran Boban Marjanovic.

Both of these seven-footers are very similar when looked closely, as they can bang bodies with the best of them while having a soft touch in finishing around the rim. Not only do they share similar skillsets, both are well-loved by the basketball community because of their humble demeanor.

RELATED — SBP chief Panlilio wary of Gilas’ group in World Cup, vows to bring best talent available

RELATED — Down memory lane: Gilas Pilipinas’ stint in the 2014 FIBA World Cup

 

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Guiao perplexed on why Clarkson still isn’t considered a local

Who doesn’t want to have Jordan Clarkson in the national squad?

Team Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao expressed the same sentiment as the team arrived a few nights ago —fresh from their wins against Qatar and Kazakhstan en route to the World Cup.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has already set in motion an appeal before FIBA’s Eligibility Committee to allow Jordan Clarkson to play for the country especially since he has owned a Philippine passport.

Given that he has already coached Clarkson before in the Asiad, the multi-titled coach remains hopeful that the former will be given the green light by the FIBA board.

By giving Clarkson the go-signal, he and Andray Blatche would form a lethal tandem to banner Team Pilipinas in the upcoming World Cup.

“Perfect yun para sa akin sana, kasi si Jordan Clarkson nakakapaglaro naman ng local sa atin sa Asian Games,” mentioned Guiao.

“Excited siya maglaro ng World Cup. Yun yung sinasabi niya na sana makarating sa World Cup para makapaglaro din siya para sa Pilipinas,” he added.

ALSO READ: Clarkson ‘hyped’ to see Gilas Pilipinas make it to World Cup

The fiery mentor continues to question as to why the Cleveland guard isn’t considered a local given his Filipino lineage. In fact, he can’t help but compare other countries’ situations wherein FIBA has relaxed its rules before.

But as of now, only time will tell if the Eligibility Committee will grant SBP’s request – which is still befuddling to Guiao.

“I don’t see any reason na hindi siya payagan – ang nanay naman niya ay Filipina naman talaga eh,” said the Pampanga native.

“Kung meron man mga ibang player na nakakapaglaro wala ngang blood connection sa mga bansang pinaglalaruan nila eh si Jordan Clarkson pa,” he ended.

RELATED: Through ups and downs, MVP’s support for Gilas never dwindled, says SBP chief Panlilio

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How did Team Pilipinas manage to beat Qatar?

Team Pilipinas remained in contention for a spot in the FIBA World Cup by annihilating Qatar with a score of 84-46 at the Al Gharafa Sports Club in Doha, Qatar on Friday.

Just like in their last matchup, the Yeng Guiao-mentored squad upped their intensity in the second half as they clamped down on defense, outscoring the Qataris by a total of 53-25.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines looks at some of the key performance indicators in relation to the necessary factors for our national team.

Torrid outside shooting

Team Pilipinas finally shook its cobwebs as they have posted their best three-point percentage since the fourth window.

Against the Qataris, Team Pilipinas shot a total of 15 out of 30 from distance, good for 50-percent. Local floor spacers like Lassiter, Lee, Rosario, and Castro have all knocked down at least two treys in this game.

Stifling defense


Defense has been the name of the game for Team Pilipinas as they held Qatar to just 46 points on 28-percent shooting from the field. Only Erfan Saeed was able to score in double digits, but he had to work hard for his points given he’s only three out of 13 from the field.

Not only did Team Pilipinas forced Qatar to take bad shots, they also forced 12 turnovers as well en route to 14 points off turnovers. Their pressure on defense has clearly stymied Qatar as they grabbed 11 steals and swatted nine shots in the process. Poy Erram came up big with four rejections, while Blatche added two shot blocks.

Andray Blatche’s near triple-double


The former NBA journeyman made his triumphant return as he tallied a strong 17-point, 15-rebound double-double last night. He even added seven dimes, showing everyone as to why he will be a vital cog for our run in the ongoing FIBA Asia Qualifiers.

Overall, Blatche looked like his old self with his multiple forays to the basket and his activity on defense. He will have to do that once again as they try to win one more game against Kazakhstan on Sunday, February 24.

(Images from FIBA)
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FIBA WCQ: Keys to the game for Team Pilipinas against Qatar

Team Pilipinas is set to face Qatar tomorrow in the upcoming sixth window of the FIBA Asia Qualifiers, but with higher stakes this time around.

Despite beating them in a close-door affair last September 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with a score of 92-81, the Guiao-mentored squad shouldn’t be complacent as losing might derail the team’s chances in making it to the World Cup.

Today, FOX Sports Philippines takes a look at some key factors that may spell the difference between winning and losing for Team Pilipinas.

Starting out strong

In their previous matchup, Qatar was able to jump out to an early advantage by leading by as much as 17, especially in the first half. Despite Philippines’ furious late comeback, the team can’t afford to be down by double digits early since it may bite them in the end.

With a rejigged roster and a newly-installed coaching staff for Qatar, Team Pilipinas will have its hands full in figuring out how to do so.

“Yung scouting natin is really based on their changing of the coach, kasi di mo yan mai-scout base sa last game natin dito na yung coach nila pa yung American coach. I think they have a different coach now, I don’t think they have the same system. So ‘yun lang ang challenge satin, how to scout them with their new coach. Yun lang ang concern,” explained Guiao.

Perimeter shooting

Shooting lights-out from deep has always been a must for Team Pilipinas given our relatively lack of height compared to our international counterparts.

Last time around, the Guiao-mentored ballclub shot a putrid nine-percent from three with floor spacers Matthew Wright, Asi Taulava, and Marcio Lassiter making only one each. By improving on that facet, driving lanes will be much more open for our slashers in Scottie Thompson, Jayson Castro, and even Thirdy Ravena.

Utilizing Andray Blatche

It’s no coincidence that Gilas Pilipinas is having a harder time without Andray Blatche. With his gravity down low and superb perimeter skills for a big man, perhaps he may be what the doctor ordered for the national team in the sixth window.

The troika of Blatche, Fajardo, and Aguilar could make life miserable for Qatar’s frontline given their combined height and heft. Add along to the fact that Blatche is well-conditioned, expect Team Pilipinas to be much more potent on both ends of the floor.

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Guiao praises Blatche for picking up pace faster than usual

Having someone like Andray Blatche is a luxury for any team, but that may come with reservations. Take it from Team Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao, who is trying to make the most of their limited practice time together.

Blatche was finally able to participate in his first Team Pilipinas’ practice last Monday night, and Guiao quickly heaped praise on the former’s ability to mesh right away with his teammates.

“He’s picked up on the pace really quick. I think he’s just doing fine with the absorption of the system, the patterns, and getting to know the rest of the guys,” beamed the national team coach.

A key factor as to why Blatche was able to adapt faster than expected is because of his attendance to NLEX and Rain or Shine’s practices multiple times since they run similar systems.

It’s also a testament to his overall professional experience and skillset as well —something that Guiao has been yearning for in quite some time. The fiery mentor believes that having someone like Blatche makes it a whole lot easier for his teams to compete at a high level.

“One reason is on practice this morning with NLEX, we ran the same plays. And then, on Saturday he practiced with Rain or Shine, we ran the same plays. He’s putting in enough time and repetitions for him to be able to memorize the plays,” Guiao detailed.

“Nakita naman natin he’s going to demand the double-team. I don’t think that there’s anybody in the Kazakhstan team or Qatar team that can stop him one-on-one ‘no. We saw what his abilities are —he’s an inside-outside guy. He’s a very versatile player who can shoot and pass. He’s going to be the game changer,” he further explained.

However, they’ll need to ramp up their overall progress as Blatche is set to leave the country soon due to prior commitments. In fact, Guiao lamented that the team still has a long way to go in terms of their gameplay chemistry, but he’ll make sure that the team will make the most of their time together.

“Ang ano ko lang is he’s (Blatche) going to leave on the 11th. My only worry is we will not have the opportunity to practice against any team – tuneup games before Qatar,” Guiao bared.

“Bukas may team practice din ‘yung Gilas. And then pag-alis niya ng 11th, sa 16th na namin siya makakasama. Although once we’re in Qatar, we’ll do twice-a-day practice. We can practice on the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th , before the game on the 21,” he added.

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Justin Brownlee ‘honored’ to be considered as next Team Pilipinas reinforcement

FANS are still left to wonder whether Justin Brownlee is set to don the Philippine jersey soon, especially since his name is being thrown around as one of head coach Yeng Guiao’s naturalized player options.

With him hearing the clamor for his possible inclusion in Team Pilipinas, the Ginebra forward can’t help but feel honored and excited on the possibility.

“Really? Wow, man. That’s a really great coach here in the Philippines and I’m honored that he (Guiao) even mentioned me so if that opportunity ever happens, that would be incredibly great,” said Brownlee after he watched Alab Pilipinas get their first win against the CLS Knights yesterday.

The beloved resident import’s citizenship papers have already been passed in the Philippine Congress, paving a way for his eventual naturalization as a Filipino citizen. Despite being unfamiliar with the process, Brownlee believes that it will come soon and he is willing to take on the challenge in representing the country in future international tourneys.

“It’s just processing from all I know. I’m not sure exactly how it’s supposed to be but from what I heard, it’s getting close, but I’m not sure if it’s I’m already playing,” bared the amiable import.

“I would love to. If that opportunity comes, I would love to play – especially being able to represent for the Philippines and play for a coach like Yeng Guiao, who’s an incredible coach here in the Philippines, and some of the players as well in the PBA. It will be fun to team up with some of the guys. If the opportunity comes, it will be great,” he concluded.

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Castro relishes the chance to learn more under Yeng Guiao

EVEN the best point guard of Asia acknowledges that he still has a lot more to learn to improve his game.

Despite performing well within expectations in their loss against Iran last night, Jayson Castro acknowledges that he and the rest of the team would need to get more acclimated with each other to fully maximize their system.

Time is not on their side though, especially given their limited time together. However, the veteran floor general bares that he’ll exercise due diligence on his part as they gun to secure a FIBA World Cup berth come next year.

“Siguro during practice doon ko makikita and at the same time kailangan kong mag-adjust ng mabilis kasi alam ko na may nagawa akong mali so kailangan kong i-correct ‘yun, ” Castro shared with reporters postgame.

“Siyempre ‘yung mga naging na-handle under sa kanya, lahat ng kaya kong [matutunan] na information, nagtatanong ako sa kanila. At the same time, every practice, talagang inaaral ko kung ano ‘yung gusto ni Coach Yeng. So ‘yun, nakapag-adjust naman ako kaagad,” he added.

Ending the fifth window with an 0-2 record have surely dampened Team Pilipinas’ chances in the Qualifiers, but the national team mainstay remains upbeat – especially with the whole unit slowly jelling as time goes by.

For Castro, he promises that the Philippines will do a much better job against their next two assignments in Kazakhstan and Qatar, and it all starts with learning from past mistakes and making the necessary adjustments.

“Confident naman ako. Sa last game though alam kong kaya natin manalo. Kailangan lang natin, ‘yun nga, mga mistake natin ma-correct natin and at the same time, kailangan natin medyo magandang preparation – mas mahaba. Kasi new system, kailangan ng bagong, mahabang preparation para ‘yung offense and defense namin mas organized,” said Castro.

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Undermanned yet unfazed as Iran outlasts Team Pilipinas in big win

MOHAMMAD Jamshidi stepped up big time for Iran as he led the way with 26 points, four rebounds, and seven assists – coming away with a 78-70 win over Team Pilipinas in the fifth window of the ongoing FIBA Asian Qualifiers last night at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

The win catapulted Iran to a 7-3 slate, good for second in Group F while the loss brought Philippines down to the fourth seed with a 5-5 record, especially with Japan winning over Kazakhstan in the game prior.

After trailing by as much as eight points midway in the final period, the Iranians went on to have a dizzying 26-10 run to end the game.

The game was nip and tuck all throughout as both teams took turns in taking the lead. However, mental mistakes piled up for Team Pilipinas – starting from June Mar Fajardo’s missed free throws with 2:20 left to multiple costly errors after Behnam Yakchali hit a highly-contested shot with 42.3 seconds left.

Jamshidi was backstopped by guys like Behnam Yakchali, Meisam Mirzaei, and Rouzbeh Arghavan, who poured in 21,11, and eight markers respectively.

As for Team Pilipinas, they were led by the impressive return of Jayson Castro, who’s had 19 points, five rebounds, and two assists. Supporting him were San Miguel standouts Christian Standhardinger and Marcio Lassiter who tallied 17 and 12 points respectively.

NOTES:

-As mentioned, Iran was able to capitalize on Philippines’ miscues as they were able to edge them with 17 points off turnovers, compared to Philippines’ eight.

-Team Pilipinas was also having trouble keeping Team Melli off the fast break, with the latter scoring 11 of from transition as compared to the only three for our national team.

-Iranian bruisers Mirzaei and Arghavan have given our bigs fits as they controlled the paint, notching 34 markers, compared to 24 only for the Philippines.

-On the flip side, Team Pilipinas was able to knock down a respectable 35-percent from rainbow country while Iran shot an abysmal 19-percent, a far cry from their last game.

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Gregorio cites lessons from AUS brawl as key to handling incident against Jordan

Gregorio

SEEING the Philippines getting involved again in an altercation in the national team’s second tune-up game against the rugged Jordanian team, coach Ryan Gregorio assures that it’s all good and that fans shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

“It’s really just passion for both teams. It’s pretty much part of basketball and I think the decision point was so as not to escalate the situation because the emotions are high,” said Gregorio postgame.

“It is something that us Filipinos know for a fact that the sport that we love is played with so much emotion. Ganun lang ka-simple ‘yon,” he added.

Most of us would remember the ugly incident between our national team and the Australians last July in Bocaue, Bulacan — which brought about multiple suspensions to key players and coaches. However, rather than seeing instances like these as an indictment to the national squad, Gregorio sees this as a perfect situation for everyone to unite and grow.

“At some point, you want to embrace situations like this because it is an instrument for your players to be united.  I’ve been in tense and testy situations and environments before, but never will I espouse violence inside the court. I think it’s the duty of our game officials, our referees, and it’s also up to us as individuals to control ourselves and to keep our emotions in check,” shared the multi-titled PBA mentor.

Furthermore, he and the coaching staff are more than happy on how far the team has come  — citing team chemistry and camaraderie as key contributors in their win against Jordan. With the way the team is going right now, he believes that they’re going to be ready come November 30 and December 3.

He acknowledges that it’s not going to be a walk in the park, though.

“The reason we were outplayed (by Jordan) is because it’s pretty much like a feeling out party for us — we still don’t know how to play with one another and everybody’s adjusting to the system on offense. I don’t think we know that certain physicality is allowed on defense. You know that the room for improvement is still there but at least we’re heading towards the right direction,” explained Gregorio.

“Come November 30 and December 3, we are no longer allowed to lose.”
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