Two basketball tacticians I conferred with yesterday. JOHNVIC GULLAS, whose family owns the University of the Visayas (UV), stands over 6 feet tall and, during his schooldays, shot eight triples for Sacred Heart (Boys) in one game and nine three-pointers in a Velez College intrams contest. ELMER “BOY” CABAHUG is a celebrity. A former PBA star, he has since led the UV Green Lancers, as head coach, to eight straight CESAFI titles. Here’s my Q & A with the two:
ON L.A. Gullas: The Lakers played the Magic so well that I was not surprised they dominated. Look at Game 3 when the Magic shot a record 75% (first half) but won by only four, 108-104. That shows you that for the Magic to win they have to play at an extraordinary level. The Lakers’ big men exposed Howard’s lack of a low post play. The Lakers defense on the perimeter vs. the Magic was excellent, preventing them from hitting open shots (with Game 3’s exception). Cabahug: It’s all about experience. Orlando is new in the Finals. The crucial games were 2, 3 and 4. The Magic had chances and it could have been 3-1 in their favor. But what LA always does is to ‘take the last shot.’ They control the game’s final outcome, win or lose. They were also very composed in their execution. Their experience made the difference.
ON CRY BABY: Gullas: The Magic surprised me when they beat Cleveland and I’m sure the Lakers (secretly) were relieved. The Magic live and die with Howard (their “cry baby”). Howard had no offensive variety, to speak off; sure, he is big, athletic and could pass to the open man but when he had to create his own shots he couldn’t on a consistent basis. I think it was the series vs. the Celtics when Howard complained and clashed with Stan Van Gundy because he didn’t get the ball in the low post (cry baby). When LA built up a huge lead Game 5, you could see Stan pleading with Howard in the sidelines after Stan sat Howard when he picked up his 5th foul. A leader should lead by example. Sure, he smiled a lot (he claims that’s how he is) but you couldn’t see that in Game 5. Hedo was more consistent; sadly he couldn’t lift the Magic on his own and Rashard was inconsistent. Hedo was the man not Superman.
ON HEDO: Gullas: Hedos’ game reminds me of Detlef Shrempf, a guy who could score, rebound, pass. Turkoglu played so well that I heard the Magic were willing to sign him even if it meant paying the luxury tax (heck, I would too).
ON ARIZA: Gullas: The one Laker that shocked me was Trevor Ariza; he read the Orlando offense so well coming up with key steals and hitting 3-point shots. Sure, Kobe was great but Ariza was exceptional; his defense was expected but his offense was not.
ON COACH PHIL. Gullas: He now has 10 titles which sets him apart from Red. But consider that Boston dominated when there were only a few teams. Now, winning a title is a lot more difficult. Cabahug: Jackson let’s the players do the job. He has the system, which they do during practice and in drills. Is he my favorite coach? Of course. Like Tim Cone during my Alaska days, they have the same mindset. Tim even followed the triangle offense. Phil’s style is to let the players decide. He is always open to suggestions from his players. You can observe it during timeouts and see how the players talk and have an exchange of opinions. I’ve been in basketball since 1985 and he’s the best I’ve seen.
ON KB24: Gullas: I’m happy for Kobe because during his feud with Shaq, it was Shaq that said this and that but Kobe kept mum. And when Shaq won a ring without Kobe he publicly said that Kobe couldn’t do it without him. So, yes, for Kobe this is very satisfying. Cabahug: Kobe was already a great player. But now, he further improved. He matured. He doesn’t force shots like he used to. He’s following the footsteps of MJ. The key to the Lakers’ win was Phil’s rebuilding the team. He knew Kobe, alone, could not win the championship. Without Gasol and Ariza they wouldn’t have won.
ON PRESSURE. Cabahug: In the Finals of any big event, much more the NBA, there is unbelievable pressure. Ang ring gamay na gyud. The pressure is different. And this was why the Lakers succeeded. Orlando was going for history but LA had the experience.
ON CLEVELAND. Cabahug: Would the Cavs have been better? I doubt it. Kobe can match the scoring output of LeBron but, after that, there’s no one else in Cleveland. It’s a one-man show. With LA, there’s Odom, Gason, Ariza and, of course, Kobe the MVP.