Category Archives: NBA

Will Jackson ‘Phil’ the void in Hollywood?

The Los Angeles Lakers have fired Mike Brown. After a disastrous start (0-8 in pre-season and 0-3 in the regular season; they’re now 2-4), the Golden Team’s glitter was tarnished. Dispensing of their head coach was the right act.

“Mike Brown was never the right coach to handle such a star-studded lineup,” said Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, whom I often consult about NBA matters.

Star-studded? Absolutely. This team possesses an A-list of superstars: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) and Steve Nash. If they were actors on the Academy Awards stage, they’d all be Oscar-winning personalities.

So, what’s wrong? “He (Brown) was supposed to be a good defensive coach, but the Lakers were failing miserably at that department,” said the young Gullas. “From the start I never liked the coaching style of Mike Brown which centered too much on one-on-one plays. On a side note, it just goes to show the greatness of LeBron James for making Mike Brown look good as carried that team to the Finals with himself and some spare parts as teammates.”

Now the question is: Who takes over? In the La La Land that is home to celebrities like Paris Hilton, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tyra Banks, Josh Groban and Kim Kardashian– there is no basketball coach that is more celebrated than Phil Jackson.

From 1989 to 1998, PJ guided MJ and the Chicago Bulls to six NBA rings. Next, he transferred to the LA Lakers and gifted them with five NBA trophies. His 11 NBA titles are the most of any coach — besting the previous record of Red Auerbach. It can be argued that Phil Jackson is one of the — if not THE — greatest basketball coach of all time. As an addendum: prior to coaching, the 6-foot-8 Jackson won two NBA rings (1970 and 1973) as a player for the New York Knicks. This translates to a whopping 13 NBA rings at home.

The next question is: Will Phil do a Hollywood rerun? He’s retired. He’s fishing in Montana. Twice, he’s led the Lakers. Will he return for Part III? And, he’s not that healthy, having had hip and knee replacement surgeries.

Is Phil Jackson unfit and too old – he’s now 67 – to direct his team; becoming, once again, their Steven Spielberg?

Luckily for Kobe & Co., the answer is, like the reelected president would say, “Yes He Can.” Jackson’s girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ EVP of Business Operations and the team owner’s daughter, said this in a recent radio interview:

“He’s got his energy back. As a matter of fact, I overheard him making plans to play tennis when he’s back in Montana with one of his friends. He hasn’t played tennis, I don’t think, in eight years. The knee replacement really is one of those operations that has such a high success rate. … It really is a miracle. It’s one of those things that because of Phil’s schedule he wasn’t able to take the time to get the surgery and do the rehab. Now he’s done it, and I do think he has his energy back. Now how he’s going to spend his time? I don’t know. I’m happy for him, that he’s out of pain, after watching him suffer for the last few years.”

Perfect. The Lakers — following a Hollywood script — lose their first 11 games and, after firing Mike Brown, guess who celebrity storms to rescue the sinking ship? Mr. Jackson.

But what if he declines? “The Top 5 choices would have to be Jerry Sloan, Mike D’ Antoni, Nate McMilan and the Van Gundy Brothers, Jeff and Stan,” said Gullas.

“The best choice is Jerry Sloan. His pick-and-roll offense would look great with Nash and Howard while his pick-and-pop offense would look great with Nash and Pau. I believe if it wasn’t for Jordan, Jerry Sloan would already have a championship or two. Sadly he played in an era together with the greatest basketball player of all time. If the Lakers pick Jerry Sloan, the West better watch out because the Lakers are still the best team, on paper, in the NBA.”

Conclusion: There are plenty of coaching options — but the No. 1 pick is Phil Jackson. And, given the list of superstars on his movie-set, expect the return of the Zen Master.

Sure shot! The A-Team to strike gold

Twenty years ago in Barcelona, a group of giants named Magic, Larry, Michael & Co. won the Olympic gold medal in basketball. Their average winning margin? An unfathomable 43.8 PPG. That was the 1992 Dream Team, acknowledged as the greatest ever cast of athletes assembled—of any sport.

Now, it’s 2012. It’s London. Will Kobe, Kevin, LeBron & Co. become today’s “Avengers” and win gold? Absolutely. As sure as basketball was invented by an American, Team USA will beat Spain, Argentina, France and Russia.

Look at the roster: Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Kobe Bryant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Andre Guodala, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. These are the 12 best ballplayers of our planet’s seven billion inhabitants.

Durant? Bryant? James? Those three alone can beat the five-man squad of Tunisia.

“When I think about ’08, we were really good then. But like me, LeBron and D-Will, all of us talk about, you’ve got to think about how much better all of us are now than we were in ’08. All of us as players, we shoot the ball better. Guys are more athletic, guys are more confident. One through 12, no question we’re deeper than we were in ’08.” Who said those words? Chris Paul, the 6-footer point guard.

In Beijing, Team USA won by an average of 32.2 points in the elimination round. In the quarterfinals, they defeated Australia, 116-85. In the semis, Argentina got trounced, 101-81. And, in the finals, it was closer than expected: 118-107 versus Spain.

While 2008 was The Redeem Team, the 2004 squad was The Nightmare Team as the US (with Dwayne Wade, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony) lost to eventual gold medalists Argentina in the semis.

This 2012, the country of Barack Obama wants to ensure that they’re all-smiles during the Awarding.

One man who’ll savor his first time Olympian status is Kevin Durant who, at age 19 four years ago, was not selected. “It was almost end of the world,” said Durant, “especially seeing those guys win it—celebrating the gold in Beijing. I couldn’t stand it.”

LeBron? The 27-year-old has the opportunity to match a record that only one other human being has accomplished: Michael Jordan. In 1992, MJ earned the MVP and Finals MVP awards, the NBA ring plus an Olympic gold medal.

Kobe? He’s the “senior citizen” (oldest player) at age 33.

There are a few notable no-shows: Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard and Miami teammates Wade and Chris Bosh. They’re injured.

Studying the line-up, it’s obvious what Team USA lacks: height. Of the 12, only three players stand 6’10” and taller. Spain has the Big Three: Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka—two brothers who are All-Stars plus a player who led the NBA in blocked shots (3.7/game) last season. Are the Americans concerned? Ever the confident people, they say, No way! As their one true center, 7-foot-1 Tyson Chandler puts it, “we’ve got some hybrids.”

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo answers this lack-of-big-men concern: “People keep throwing Spain in our face, ’What about the Gasols?’ And I say, ’Well, what about the Gasols? Our guys play against them every day. And matchups always go two ways. They have to be able to guard our quickness, our speed, our versatility, and so I’m not really concerned about that.” He added: “There are a lot of 6-9 and 6-10 guys who are much better than 7-footers.”

“The United States will rely on the same formula it did in winning the gold medal in Beijing when it overwhelmed every opponent with its full-court pressure and transition game—until the final, when it took scintillating shooting to hold off Spain,” wrote Fox Sports’ Billy Witz.

Athleticism. Speed. Offense. They’ll spread the court and drive to the basket to create opportunities. Added Matthew Kitchen of NBC Olympics: “You realize how stacked Team USA really is: six rings, six scoring titles, four MVPs, the reigning Sixth Man and Defensive Player of the Year.”

Dream Team Part 2? Yes. The A-Team.

Samsam Gullas: LeBron more like Magic than MJ

Last Friday, Gerald Anthony Gullas was both happy and sad. Happy because, seated beside Rep. Eduardo Gullas, his grandfather whom he fondly calls “Papa Eddie,” he made the announcement that will forever change his life: Samsam will run for Congress next year. Sad? That’s because, as big an NBA fan as he is, the scheduled press conference coincided with Miami Heat’s winning Game 6.

“I watched up to the 3rd quarter but missed the look on LeBron’s face when he finally won his first ring,” he said. Still, “CongresSam” is ecstatic. Last December when the NBA season began, I asked for Samsam’s predictions. His reply: LBJ will be the MVP and MIA will win. He’s two-for-two.

Yesterday, I interviewed Samsam again. A lifelong ballplayer—he regularly practices with the UV varsity squad (he’s the team manager plus the school’s AVP for Finance and Administration)—here’s the full commentary of the young Gullas:

MVP. “LeBron was legendary. With this championship he has put himself in the group together with the Jordans, Magics and Birds of the world. LeBron was aggressive and he showed that he wanted it more this year. The main difference was his improving post game; it was causing all kinds of problems for OKC. If LeBron didn’t score, 9 times out of 10, he would make the right pass. LeBron was just being LeBron. He made the game come to him. He assessed what defensive scheme OKC was running. He has been doing this even while we was with the Cavs but was never surrounded with two other superstars plus very good 3-point shooters.”

DOMINANCE. “Yes, I expected LeBron James to be dominant in every facet of the game. What I love about LeBron is that he can score 30 points and it would be not the best thing he did for the team. People always compare LeBron to Michael Jordan; I think he’s more of a Magic Johnson. LeBron is bigger, stronger, a better passer, a better ball handler and has more skills than MJ. But what MJ had was HEART. It is unfair to compare the two of them.”

KOBE. “I’m a Laker fan for life. But today, if I were to build a team, I would take LeBron as my franchise player. He does everything: score, rebound, pass and, most importantly, defend. Kobe will always be the better offensive player; LeBron is just the better all-around player.”

RESILIENCE. “Miami learned from last year’s loss. Erik Spoelstra said it best when he used a boxing analogy (but before that he said he was a huge Pacquiao fan), We were knocked down so many times, but each time we got up. With Boston they were down 3-2, Indiana 2-1 and OKC 1-0. Playoff basketball is more on making game-time adjustments and off-day adjustments. Credit should be given to Coach Spo, despite being a young coach he is able to adjust.”

TEAM. “LeBron became the beast we thought he would be last year. Wade said that this is LeBron’s team and he accepted the secondary role to perfection. Miami’s role players did well: Chalmers, Battier, Haslem and Miller. Lastly, credit to Coach Spo, his defensive schemes were a joy to watch. Papa Eddie voted for OKC to win but, as a former coach, he always admired the defensive schemes of Coach Spo.”

BOSH. “Bosh gives the Heat another scorer and one of the league’s best Pick and roll players. When used as a screener in the pick and roll with either Wade or James, it was a deadly combination. Bosh was also able to extend OKC’s defense because he can shoot. Perkins or Ibaka had to leave the paint making it very open for LeBron and Wade to penetrate.”

NEXT SEASON. ““I see Miami winning 1 or 2 more titles, but this year was the best chance for the Heat to win. Rose (Chicago), Ray Allen and other role players of Boston were injured. The West teams will be improving, so next season will be interesting. If OKC learns and takes this loss as the most humbling experience of their lives, they will be very dangerous next year.

“OKC will be contending again, Mavs might get an overhaul from free agency, Spurs will always be ready, and it seems like everyone is forgetting about number 24 in LA. Stay tuned!”

Can Durant and Westbrook do a Bradley?

Don’t believe Bob Arum. Not when he says that his first preference is Pacquiao vs. Marquez Part 4. That’s absurd. There’s unfinished and unsettled Las Vegas business. We want a rematch. Didn’t a huge majority conclude, non-Filipinos included, that our Pinoy won? This controversy has to be settled. Not in the trial court. And, hopefully, not again using the judges’ ball pens.

But why, I ask, isn’t Bob Arum trumpeting a Part 2? Five letters: Money. If Timothy Bradley’s ego bloats and he asks for $15.5 million, for example, then that’s bloated. Arum wants to temper Bradley’s excitement. Its called negotiating tactics. Publicly, he’s saying, “Part 2 is not guaranteed!” but, I’m sure, in talks with the congressman’s camp, that’s the goal.

Don’t you think Manny The Renewed Christian wants justice? And so, in the end of all this posturing, let’s expect another Pacquiao-Bradley (or shall it now be “Bradley-Pacquiao?”). Also, don’t be surprised if my earlier prediction holds true: This November will be Manny’s last hurrah. His legs will turn 34 on December 17 and, having been adjudged as the world’s 2nd highest sports money-earner in 2011 (beating the recently-beaten Tiger Woods), he has more than enough billions to buy Sarangani Bay.

The 3 Rs to watch: Rematch. Revenge. Retire.

MIAMI. It’s been nine long years. Each NBA season, the league’s best ballplayer has dreamed of winning the prize.

LeBron James has everything in life: Three times, “Mr. Basketball” in high school in Ohio. The 1st Round overall NBA pick. Rookie of the Year honors. Three-time MVP awardee. He has two young boys: LeBron James, Jr, age 7, and Bryce Maximus, 5 years old. Endorsements with McDonald’s, Sprite, Nike. He has everything but—

Will it all change tomorrow? Will June 21, 2012 (U.S. time) be that day when the planets (aka “floating balls in space”) realign? When the long-named King will be crowned with a Ring? Yes. Yes. Yes.

In tomorrow’s Game 5, expect thunder and fire to collide. Who’ll win? Abangan. But this one’s for sure: Tomorrow will be the most anticipated game of the abbreviated season.

For one, the Heat will do all they can to burn, sizzle and cook the Thunder. If Miami loses, the momentum shifts. If they lose, they travel. They get to board that plane with all their XL-size baggage. They don’t want that. They want to stay home. To celebrate on their turf. And where better to party than with the presence of your family, right? But for Oklahoma, it’s a near-death experience. And we know what happens when one is near-dying; that ER-bound individual will be extra motivated to stay alive.

Will OKC stay alive? No. Also, like most I’ve talked to, I want Miami to win. LeBron deserves the gold. Plus, isn’t there a Filipino mentor there whom we want to smile his winning smile? One who’s been subjected to unimaginable pressure, especially last season? Go, Erik!

But, like what we’ve seen with Pacquiao, anything can happen on the ring or the parquet floor. An Oklahoma Game 5 win will change everything. For OKC, it’s these famous words: One. Game. At. A. Time.

IRONMAN 70.3. Only 44 days are left before the grandest sporting event this 2012 starts at the Shangri-La in Mactan.

This fight between Camsur and Cebu? On who has the largest number of tourists? Wait for the figures after this year and, no doubt, a substantial drop awaits Camsur. Why? Because the Ironman 70.3 in Camarines Sur—there from 2009 to 2011—was their Super Bowl/Wimbledon/World Cup of an event. It was their No.1 crowd-drawer. Was.

Because Cebu—thanks to Mactan’s open-sea beachfront and our abundance of hotels and our international MCIAA and our central/tourist-friendly setting—has snatched the Ironman from Camsur.

XTERRA in Liloan, Ironman 70.3 in Lapu-Lapu City. These are two of the most sought-after triathlon events in our archipelago. No wonder hundreds of runners have been pedaling bikes; swimmers now strut running shoes; bikers don Speedo trunks. Everybody’s Tri’ing.

Oh, no! It’s a Boston vs. Oklahoma final?

Who would have thought. Who’d have guessed. Who’d have expected that, with all eyes focused on The Favored Two, that The Forgotten Two will meet in the NBA Finals. No, it’s not over yet. And, no, I have nothing against the Celtics and the Thunder. But, who’d have predicted such an ending?

I bet even the two Kevins are surprised. Yes, that’s Durant and Garnett—long lost Kevin brothers—who, after their teams were forgotten when they trailed 0-2, are now just 48 minutes away from meeting each other.

Kevin and Kevin. Nice starring names, no? What a true-to-life, the-ball-is-round and anything-can-happen scenario. This upset in the making has upset all kinds of predictions. But, just like our conversation 48 hours ago with Coach Yayoy Alcoseba, the home-court advantage both Boston and Oklahoma enjoy are not advantages—unless they take advantage of it today and tomorrow.

This is why the most thrilling type of entertainment is still the same. It’s these very pages that you’re reading. Sports. Anything can happen. Chris Bosh returns and loses. The San Antonio Spurs are on a 20-game winning streak and they lose three straight. Paul Pierce, relegated to a improbable one-on-one match up with LeBron James, fires a three-point shot (in LBJ’s face!) with seconds left to win Boston the Game 5.

Isn’t this entertainment—Sports—incomparable? We never know the ending. We still don’t. If the Spurs win today and the Heat scorch the Celtics tomorrow, the momentum shifts to the other side. The pendulum will swing. If. This is why the word “momentum” is so important. When you’re riding that rolling ball and it keeps on turning and gaining speed, don’t stop. Pedal faster.

My predictions? I pity LeBron. Since last year, he’s been castigated. He’s a nice fellow. He just got wrong advice last year (trumpeting his transfer from Cleveland to Miami). I hope the Heat win tomorrow and make it. I cannot imagine the pain LeBron will suffer if he loses again this 2012. OKC and SAS? I want a Game 7.

FRENCH OPEN. So far, Rafael Nadal has looked invincible. Out of the seven years that he’s played in Roland Garros, he’s won six. Three nights ago against clay-court specialist Juan Monaco, he won, 6-2, 6-0, 6-0. Nadal is tenacious and relentless. He sprints like Usain Bolt but runs for hours like a Kenyan. He’s left-handed. His topspin is heavy with lots of extra allowance over the net. If God created Michael Phelphs for the pool, He molded Nadal for the clay court.

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic? The two are still alive. They’ll play in the semi-finals tomorrow. Novak escaped from four match points down against Tsonga and won. Federer was down two-sets-to-love against Del Potro and won. Roger and Novak—plus Rafa—are the best because of one reason: their mind. Sure, tennis often lasts five sets and is physically tiresome. But it’s all-mental. And, mentally, the world’s top three are strongest.

Ladies? I hope Maria wins. Because while Sharapova has won the three other Grand Slam titles (Wimbledon, the U.S. and Australian Opens), she has yet to win on the red clay of Paris. The 6-foot-2, 130-lb. Floridian will have an easy path. Serena is out. Li Na is out. So is Azarenka.

BRADLEY-MANNY. Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem, the former City Councilor and now-CITOM chairman, is an astute boxing observer. Commenting on the fight this Sunday, he said: “I watched two full fights of Timothy Bradley (v. Casamayor and Devon Alexander) plus many highlights. He’s got excellent defense and a very strong chin, which are the major reasons why he’s undefeated. He also has power but lacks the speed. But what Pacman should watch for are his head-butts because he likes to lunge forward with his head. If Pacman can restore himself to his condition when he fought Cotto and Margarito, then it’s TKO by the 10th. But if he gets to play it too safe like in the Marquez fight, then its Unanimous Decision. But for sure it’s Pacman!”

NBA’s Final Four: Game 5 winners to advance

It’s now best-of-three. When the San Antonio Spurs clobbered the Oklahoma City Thunder, 2-0, in their first home-court games, and when the Miami Heat were too hot for the Boston Celtics and also won their two games in Florida, everybody proclaimed the same NBA Finale: Miami-San Antonio.

Oops. Not too fast. Kevin and Kevin have other plans. That’s Kevin Durant, the 6-foot-9 forward of OKC, and Kevin Garnett of Boston, who stands 6’11”. These two led their squads to winning their past two games apiece—and shifting the Final Four’s momentum.

My prediction? Simple. The winners today and tomorrow will meet in the Finals. Today, it’s SA vs OKC. Tomorrow, it’s MH vs. BC.

“The pressure is on San Antonio and Miami,” said the winningest basketball coach in all of Cebu, Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba. “Oklahoma and Boston won the last two games, so the momentum shifts to them. On the other hand, it’s back home for the Spurs and the Heat. So this is evenly balanced.”

Yayoy’s prediction? Same. The Game 5 winners will advance. If we study the past eight playoff games, each game was won by the team at home. That’s 8-0.

While I thought that Cebu City Councilor Alcoseba will attribute a huge percentage of victories to “home-court advantage,” he said otherwise. “Sure, it’s a plus,” he said. “The crowd is loud. You’re home. You’re comfortable. But these teams have been traveling back and forth. It’s no guarantee of winning. You still have to play hard to win. I say it’s only a five percent advantage factor.”

Yayoy’s team-to-win surprised me. Because while all point to a San Antonio-Miami ending, he chooses Oklahoma. “I’m rooting for these guys because they’re young. I like the trio of Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Look what happened in the last game. Westbrook made only seven points but he made all the difference. He didn’t force his shots. He was able to pass to his teammates who, in turn, scored,” he said.

“The Spurs have to win today. If they lose, Oklahoma will finish it in Game 6. Same with Miami tomorrow. The pressure is intense.”

Chester’s bold analysis: Spurs will cool the Heat

Few people love basketball as much as Chester Cokaliong. The CEO of Cokaliong Shipping owns a full-court at the uppermost floor of his Reclamation Area building. He’s Cebu’s undisputed 3-point king. Trophies? He has more hardware than Shewak’s.

“The NBA Championship is being played right now,” said Chester. “Whoever wins the Western Conference Finals between the Spurs and the Thunder will win the title.”

That’s fearless. That’s bold. Miami Heat? LeBron, Dwayne and, when he’s back, the third member of the Avengers… Bosh? Aren’t they the favorites? Since last season? And more so, this 2012? Not with Chester, who monitors the games nightly from his home via the NBA Premium HD channel on SkyCable.

“Without Chris Bosh of Miami, the Spurs will prevail. There’s no center. And even if Bosh is back, he won’t be in tiptop condition. He’ll have a hard time with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.”

Chester predicts that, granted that both San Antonio and Miami meet in the Finals, it will be a 4-2 score for the Spurs without Bosh; with him, it will go to Game 7 with the win for SA.

“The Spurs have home-court advantage,” he said. “That’s a big factor.” Another reason why Chester is confident: “Miami doesn’t have a deep bench. They even narrowly escaped Indiana.”

With the 36-year-old Duncan, Chester is all praises for NBA’s Coach of the Year, Gregg Popovich. “He rests Duncan so he can play in the last six minutes. He doesn’t overtire him. He doesn’t want him injured.”

LAKERS. Last February 20 was a special day for Chester. It was his birthday. It was also his Silver Wedding Anniversary with his wife, Anna Lynne. How did they celebrate this twin milestone?

“We went to watch the L.A. Lakers versus Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center. Before that, we spent several nights on a Bahamas Cruise and arrived in Miami. Then, Feb. 20, we flew to Los Angeles and watched the game. Lakers went on to win it after an excellent first quarter. The next day, we flew back to Cebu.”

It wasn’t Chester’s first-ever time to watch the NBA. Years back, he saw the Lakers play the Phoenix Suns. But that was at the old Forum stadium. Now, he’s all-praises for the new arena.

“Grabe ka gwapo ang Staples Center,” he said.

You mean it can compare to our Cebu Coliseum? I joked.

“Ma-uwaw ta (We’d be embarrassed). No comparison.”

In Chester’s visit to the Staples Center, he noticed that most of the spectators were non-L.A. residents. “The jerseys ran out. We wanted to buy. Kobe. Griffin. They all ran out. They have this huge sports center inside the Staples Center selling Lakers and Clippers apparel. They have smaller stalls exclusive per team. You can even get made-to-order jerseys and pick them up the in the next game. But they were all sold out.”

CEBU ARENA. Chester mentioned the need for Cebu to have a new stadium. “We need an arena. It doesn’t have to be like the Staples Center. But we need a new one.”

Combining his basketball passion and his business acumen, maybe Chester can spearhead the building of this new Megadome? “I spent time computing the cost and there’s no way you can recover the investment. You cannot even pay the bank. So that’s the big problem,” he said.

We talked about the recently-opened Mall of Asia Arena, owned by SM. Maybe that will rise at the SRP when our own MOA rises.

3-POINTERS. Chester is known as the best 3-point shooter of our island. His idol: Larry Bird. “Nobody today can compare to Bird. Remember him winning those three-point contests wearing an NBA jacket? The present crop is not very good. They’ll also pale in comparison even to Reggie Miller. Look at Ray Allen. He’s playing very bad. He’s not even hitting his free throws. In the regular season, he shot 92 percent. Now, in the playoffs, it’s down to 65 percent. Free throws!”

As to his favorite players, Chester cites Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker of the Spurs. But his all-time favorite—like everybody else’s—is Michael Jordan.

Harry watches Game 4, Clippers-Grizzlies

Cebu’s reigning SAC-SMB Sportsman of the Year awardee is also one of the pillars behind the Hoops Dome in Mactan. Two days ago, he was inside another dome.

Councilor Harry Don Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City is in the U.S. with his wife Mayann and son Zach. They watched the L.A. Clippers battle the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Game 4 was one of the best games I’ve seen live,” said Harry. “Chris Paul and Blake Griffin combined for 57 points. Even before getting to Staples Center, just looking for a parking spot, you feel the craziness in the streets. Everything within half a kilometer of Staples Center was decorated with Red and White, the Clippers’ colors. They also gave everyone free red Clippers shirts.”

Harry is not an NBA neophyte. While residing in America prior to Mactan, he watched plenty.

“Back when I was living in Sacramento (1990-1992) I watched a lot of Sacramento Kings (during the time of Mitch Ritchmond). And when I was studying in Saint Mary’s College in the Bay Area I saw Golden State Warriors games (during the time of Latrell Sprewell, Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullen). I remember watching several with Chris Aldeguer.”

Blake Griffin amazed Harry the most. “He had several monster dunks. It seems EVERY time Blake gets the ball on the run, the crowd is on its feet gasping for that big dunk which never fails to energize the whole stadium. His pure vertical leaps get the crowd going. Although for him to have a good career, he needs to develop more post-up moves and a consistent mid-range jumper. Right now, he’s just relying on his hops. It’s smart not to be one-dimensional and predictable.”

On Chris Paul, Harry sat applauding at how well he distributed the ball and “took over in OT when Blake fouled out. Now that’s a point guard!”

Playoff tickets are difficult to secure. Harry bought theirs from eBay (paying $190 for a $150 ticket); sitting 25 rows from the court—excellent seats for the price. As they sat down, Harry laughed, saying: “My 7-yr-old son Zach commented that he likes the Hoops Dome better because he gets to sit in the middle courtside seats! LOL!”

What surprised Harry the most was how the Clippers fans hate the Lakers fans, and vice versa. “Any sign of the yellow Lakers at the Clippers game and you would get verbally abused by the fans!” he said.

Harry has seen Michael Jordan play. One future legend that he wants to watch this month: Kobe. “After OKC made it and the Lakers up, I’m trying to rearrange my itinerary to catch at least one game of Lakers/OKC.  Kevin Durant looks like the prototype for the future of NBA players: tall, mobile, shoots the ball and drives to the hoop.”

Between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Lakers, Radaza expects the former to win. His Finals prediction? “Miami vs. OKC! Two explosive teams hungry for the championship. Although Miami might have the edge in defense.”

When I queried him for his top NBA picks, he rattled off three superstars.

First, Ricky Rubio. Of the Minnesota Timberwolves point guard, Harry said… “amazing pin point passes. He makes everyone around him better. Probably the closest to Pete Maravich.”

No. 2 on his list is Derrick Rose (“amazing work ethic and very quiet and humble. He just shows up to simply play.”)

Finally, of course, everybody’s hero: Jeremy Lin. “He is your typical underdog personified. He toiled so hard at the end of the bench hopping from one team to another just waiting for that one chance. Reminds me of my favorite quote, ‘It is better to be prepared and NOT have the opportunity than to have the opportunity and NOT be prepared.’ He proved that anything is possible.”

Rubio, Rose, Lin. The weird thing about them? Said Harry: “They all went down with knee injuries!”

Back to Cebu, the councilor added: “I went there as a fan, but I couldn’t help seeing several things which we might be able to bring back to Lapu Lapu City in terms of how organized they were, the safety and security, the atmosphere, etc.”

Next up? “After the Lakers/OKC series will be Pacquiao/Bradley in Vegas!”

Jeremy Lin: NBA is rocked by LIN-Sanity!

Gerry Malixi sent me this SMS message: “NYC Mayor Bloomberg approved name change: Statue of LINberty!!” Ha-ha. But what’s no joke is this true story of Jeremy Lin…

Prior to college, Jeremy sent a DVD of his basketball skills to Ivy League schools. He wanted to study in UCLA or Stanford. But they didn’t want him. Instead, he went to Harvard. Yes, the world’s most famous university has a basketball team. Lin was a stand-out for Harvard U. He averaged in double-digits and graduated with a degree in economics. His grade-point average? A high 3.1.

The year was 2010. He wanted to be an NBA star. Sadly, although eight teams watched his pre-draft workouts, none wanted Lin. Eventually, he was signed by the Golden State Warriors in July 2010—becoming the first American of Taiwanese or Chinese descent to play in the NBA.

Lin was hardly used. In the 2010-11 season, he was in the inactive list. The Warriors finally allowed him to play—but barely. Fast forward to last year… to the NBA lockout… and to last Dec. 27 when the New York Knicks recruited him. In Lin’s own words, “I was competing for a backup spot, and people see me as the 12th to 15th guy on the roster.”

In short, the 6-foot-3 small guard was a “third-string point guard” who was the team’s spare tire. This all changed when, last Jan. 20, Lin was playing for the Erie BayHawks team of the NBA D-League. On that night, he had 28 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. The NY Knicks, star-stuck, recalled him three days later. Now, the big stage…

On Feb. 4, Lin had 25 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. NY beat the New Jersey Nets.

On Feb. 6, they won over Utah. Lin? He had 28 points, eight assists.

On Feb. 8, Lin had 23 points and 10 assists—and NY beat Washington.

That’s 3-for-3. And a combined 76 points in three games. (Lin didn’t even have a home of his own. Unsure whether he’d get cut by the Knicks, he slept on the couch of his teammate Landry Fields.)

LIN-SANITY! Spike Lee said on Twitter: “Jeremy, moves so sick, they need insu-Lin.” “Jeremy, hang my jersey from the cei-Lin’.” “Jeremy, the Lakers, you better be double-Lin.”

And then, on Feb. 10—just four days ago—he faced the biggest test: the LA Lakers. In a much-hyped face-off, Kobe scored 34 points. Lin? Ha ha. He bested KB by scoring 38 points. NY beat LA, 92-85.

(Andrew Gombert/EPA)

The night before their game, Kobe was asked about Lim. “I don’t even know what he’s done. Like, I have no idea what you guys are talking about… Who is this kid?” said Kobe.

The night after? Said Kobe: “He has been phenomenal… We watched some tape on him. We came up with a strategy that we thought would be effective but he was knocking down his jump shot, penetrating, and he got around our guards. It is a great story. It is a testament to perseverance and hard work. It is a good example to kids everywhere.”

Magic Johnson added: “The excitement he has caused in the Garden, man, I hadn’t seen that in a long time. When you get a spark like this, especially in a season like this, this could carry them for a long time because they needed something to happen positive. Everything has been really negative.”

Prior to Lin’s entry, NY was a disappointing 8-15. Now, after he scored 25, 28, 23, 38 and—just two days ago vs. Minnesota in another NY victory—20 points, he has elevated the Knicks into playoff contention with a 13-15 scorecard. In his first five starts, he’s averaged 26.8 PPG.

But more than points, the 23-year-old Lin has inspired our continent. “Maybe I can help break the stereotype,” Lin said. “I feel like Asians in general don’t get the respect that we may deserve whether it comes to sports, basketball, or whatever it might be.”

His parents, Gie-Ming and Shirley, moved from Taiwan to the U.S. in the ‘70s. They both stand 5-foot-6. Today, they stand tall.

“It’s humbling, a privilege, and an honor,” said Jeremy. “I’m really proud of being Chinese, I’m really proud of my parents being from Taiwan. I just thank God for the opportunity.”

Miami will win the 2012 NBA Season

It’s Showtime! After a 149-day lockout when the NBA season was expected to vanish, it’s back. Yes. It’s Christmas — the most joyous time of the year! What a day to start playing ball. What’s in store for 2012?

“Heat will definitely win the East,” proclaimed Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas, the team manager of the University of Visayas Green Lancers. “And, with his improved post game, the runaway choice for MVP is LeBron James.”

For a diehard Kobe Bryant fan, Samsam’s prediction is all-confident. “LeBron will shine in the biggest stage and earn his first ring against anyone who comes out of the West. He will now be called Mr. Dollar because he has now 4 quarters. Last year, 3 quarters and 75 cents ra. Haha!”

In the Dec. 25 game between the Heat and the reigning champs, Mavericks, Mr. Gullas was proven right: LeBron scored 37 points. In a game that had Miami leading Dallas by 15 after the 1st quarter, 21 at halftime and 35 in the 3rd quarter, Miami won the Christmas contest. (One play – it’s on YouTube — was spectacular: LeBron tossing an alley-hoop pass to Dwyane Wade for a slam.)

This NBA season will be electrifying. In a Sean Gregory article entitled, “Welcome Back, Basketball: Five NBA Stories To Watch,” a league executive, Tony Ronzone, was interviewed. Here are the five stories…

ONE, the shortened 66-game season. Instead of the usual 82 games, every single ballgame is important. “‘It reminds me a little of Europe, where every game, you can’t lose,’ says Ronzone. ‘Lose two games, and getting to the playoffs becomes that much harder.’ The schedule also included a multitude of back-to-back games for teams: the Lakers, for example, play four games in the first five days of the season. Weary legs mean more playing time for guys you’ve never heard of.”

TWO: Chris Paul joining Blake Griffin in Los Angeles. In the NBA Finals, it might be Miami vs. LA. But, no, it’s not the Lakers — but the Clippers. “Expectations for the morbid franchise are higher than ever,” wrote Sean Gregory. “‘Showtime just went from purple and gold’ – the Lakers – ‘to red and white,’ says Ronzone.”

THREE, the Heat from Miami. Like Samsam, Mr. Ronzone believes Miami will win. “‘They will definitely be better,’ says Ronzone. ‘It will help that the media attention won’t be on them from day 1, like last year.’ In a season with a tiring schedule, the young and hungry will survive. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are veteran players, but only Wade is pushing 30 (he turns 30 on Jan. 12).”

FOUR: “Spur of the Moment,” wrote Gregory. We seem to forget that the San Antonio Spurs, beaten in the first round by the 8th seeds, Memphis Grizzlies, finished with the best regular season record in the West, 61-21.

“You get the sense this is the last year for the Spurs to muster something,” says Ronzone. “They seem to be saying, ‘OK, let’s give it all we can.’”

Tim Duncan is 35. Manu Ginobili will turn 35 this summer. Will this be their last hurrah? “A condensed schedule could hurt older teams – their legs tire out more than others,” wrote Gregory. “However, the shortened training camp may favor teams with an established chemistry, like San Antonio. And remember: in 1999, the last lockout-shortened season, the Spurs won it all.”

Samsam Gullas comments: “Whomever wins the West solely depends on how good the Clippers are or how improved the Thunder are.”

FIVE, watch for Ricky Rubio. This Spanish star is the rookie to watch. Only 21, he was the fifth overall pick in 2009. He postponed his jump from España to Estados Unidos but now he’s with the Minnesota Timberwolves. (His resume includes being the youngest ever to play in the Spanish ACB League — at 14 years old.)

“He’s the kind of player you’re going to want to watch,” says Ronzone. “Players want to play with him. He makes guys around him better. He has that soccer mentality, where the assist is just as important as scoring the goal.”

Imagine a soccer-loving Spaniard wearing hi-cut sneakers?

This Christmas, here’s one more reason to celebrate: The NBA is back.

Facing intense heat, James wasn’t LeBron

ESPN summed it up best: MIAMI NEEDED LEBRON TO BE GREAT. HE WASN’T.

Dirk Nowitzki was. That’s why he and the Blue Boys of Texas are the World Champions.

What happened to Mr. James? It’s bewildering. It’s astonishing. You saw it on BTV. Here’s the most talented athlete in basketball, one 6-foot-8 who can dribble like Isiah Thomas and rebound like Abdul-Jabbar, one who can soar like Erving and drill that long-range missile like Bird.

What happened to Mr. Great? LeBron collapsed. The burden was too massive and heavy, even for a muscular 250-lb. behemoth. LeBron yielded to the unbearable pressure. Of Dallas. Of Stevenson. Of Florida. Of his teammate, Dwayne. Of all of us, scrutinizing his every dribble, fake and jump shot.

LeBron was not LeBron. We’d become accustomed to watching him penetrate and score. He’s the Gladiator. One who’s unafraid. One who, by the sheer muscle of his Mr. Olympia body, could score 35, or 44, or 56–like he did once against Toronto in 2005.

The past two weeks, LeBron was paralyzed. He was intimidated. By who or by what? I don’t know. It’s puzzling. But he was. Whenever he’d touch that ball, the first thing he’d do–within a millisecond–is to search for one of his four teammates. He forgot who he was. He forgot the games in Boston and Chicago. Mr. Extraordinary became Ordinary. In the first five games of The Final, he scored a combined 11 points in the fourth quarter. Can you believe that? Those numbers belong in the lowliest of the Guinness World Record. That’s 11 points in the 60 most crucial minutes.

In all, the No. 6-wearing Heat averaged 17.8 points per game. His regular season numbers? He averaged 26.7. That’s a big, big letdown.

The happiest people on earth today? Cleveland residents!

Because the star in James fizzled, Miami deserves to lose. LBJ isn’t worthy. Not this time. Maybe next year. Maybe never. You know how some people–no matter how talented or how hard they try–never win the prize? In nine years of attempting, LeBron has scored 0 for 9.

Nowitzki? He’s ReDirkulous. Scoring a ridiculously-low three points in the first half of Game 6, he rebounded to score 18 in the second. “I don’t think there’s any doubt after this series,” said coach Rick Carlisle, “that Dirk has certainly earned the clout of being one of the all-time great players.” He now has one ring. LeBron has empty fingers.

The man who made famous the term “The Decision,” when he transferred from Cleveland to Miami, now has a new term to remember: “The Disintegration.” Or, how about… The Indecision. It bewilders me how indecisive LeBron was. You win championships–think of Li Na of China–by being the aggressor. There’s no champion with the first name Doubtful.

You know the term “buaya?” Of course, in basketball parlance, we know what this means. It’s negative. It means a player hogs the ball too much, shoots too much; he’s selfish. Well, guess what? LeBron should have been a buaya. He forgot that he’s not Scottie Pippen. He’s the star. He’s not Robin, he’s Batman. Or Kobe Bryant. He ought to have copied Kobe, who has five more NBA titles than him. Kobe is buaya. Everybody knows that. So what? Kobe answers. That’s why I’ve won so many, he’d say.

Maybe LeBron’s too nice. Maybe he wants to be called “Mr. Unselfish.” But that’s not why Miami paid him $19 million this year. He’s there to score, dunk, score, dunk.

The saddest part in all this: Many rooted for James to win. I did. Jana and Jasmin did. So did majority of my friends. This is unbearably painful for him. Did you watch him walk out of the stadium and inside that hallway to the locker room, with head bent low and down? Nobody has been more ridiculed, scorned, tormented, vilified.

But success breeds high expectations. Look at our Pacquiao. He’s won the last 14 fights so convincingly that, even with a lopsided victory against Shane Mosley, we crucified him, saying, “MP wasn’t at his best.”

LeBron is the best. We expected more. Instead, we got LeChoke.

Dirk vs. LeBron? The blue German towers

We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Miami’s vice called Dallas may win. Or the heat inside the American Airlines Arena may burn the Mavs. This is the beauty of sport. The surprise. The suspense. The thrill. There are no guarantees. Sure, odds and probabilities are plenty. Experts predicted that the Miami Heat would go all the way — but lose to Dirk Nowitzki?

The Spalding ball is round. It spins. It back-bounces. It rolls. This NBA Final is a dice roll. Pick the Texans to beat the Floridians? Good choice. Or, maybe not. Remember how Kobe Bryant, last year, flew from Boston to L.A. and won the season’s final two games? James can do a Bryant. Nike star can follow Nike star. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But this we know: In a battle of giants, the 7-footer is taller than the 6-foot-8. Dirk Nowitzki soars above LeBron James.

LeBron has Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates. Dirk? His teammates look so old they can claim 20 percent discounts in Cebu establishments without showing their Senior Citizen cards. Dirk is surrounded by non-entities. Well, okay, that’s too harsh. There’s Jason Kidd. But Kidd is no kid, he’s 38 years too old. “We’re like the movie ‘The Castoffs’,” said Donnie Nelson, the General Manager of the Mavericks. “Our superstar is a superstar. But go down the list. J.J. (Barea) is too small. Jason Kidd is too old. Jason Terry is the Stevie Nash boobie prize. Tyson Chandler and (Peja) Stojakovic are returned or damaged goods. And (DeShawn Stevenson) was a throw-in with our Caron Butler deal.”

True. Yet, look at the score. Tomorrow, Dallas will be 48 minutes away from its first-ever NBA championship. The single-handed reason for this all? A single person. An 84-inch-tall German native who, in 2007, was the first European-born player in NBA history to win the Most Valuable Player crown. After five NBA Final games, Dirk Nowitzki has averaged 27 points and 9.4 rebounds. Jeff Van Gundy, the former New York Knicks coach, pronounced him as the series MVP — prior to Game 5. Van Gundy believes that, even if Miami rallies to win games 6 and 7, the MVP ought to be Dirk. (Only once, in NBA history, back in 1969 with Jerry West of the Lakers, has an MVP been named from a losing team.) “He is now being known by one name,” Van Gundy said of Nowitzki. “You start saying ‘Dirk,’ everybody knows.”

All this, Dirk is doing despite a myriad of problems: an injured middle finger on his left hand during Game 1 and a 39-degree Celsius high fever in Game 4. While LeBron and Wade were supposed to be the clutch performers (think of their demolition of the Chicago Bulls), they’re lousy compared to the rule of one. . . Dirkules.

Dirk has scored a combined 52 points in the fourth quarter. LeBron? Embarrassing. After zero points in the final quarter in Game 4, he scored only two meaningless points in Game 5. Total for LBJ in five games: 11 points. In Game 5’s last six minutes, LeBron missed two of three shots, had zero assists, zero rebounds, and one turnover.

The Bavarian Bomber blitzes. Big D bombards. The King is dead. DALLAS WINS!!!

Well…. Not so fast. Although the Game 5 winner has gone on to claim the trophy in 19 out of the 26 times after a 2-all score, “Miami 2011” hopes to do a come-from-behind like “Los Angeles 2010.” Possible? Yes. In Hollywood, anything is possible. In Miami? Only if LeBron James rises to the challenge — and up on the air — like Michael Jordan.

It all culminates in tomorrow’s Game Six. Whoever wins the 8 to 10:30 A.M. contest wins the ring. If Miami stops the Dallas momentum, the balance of confidence will shift. The NBA Finals is like a seesaw. 1-0. 1-1. 2-1. 2-2. 3-2.

4-2? ReDirkulous.

Dirk Fever ices Miami’s heat

Dirk Nowitzki’s body temperature read 102 degrees Fahrenheit. In our usual Celsius reading, that’s 38.9. That’s a high fever. Well, he was high all right; scoring 21 points yesterday, including a game-winning lay-up with 14.4 seconds remaining.

Dallas wins Game 4, 86-83. From a best-of-seven NBA Finals series, it’s now two-out-of-three. The score is 2-2. The whiteboard is a clean slate. It’s back to Square, Game One. All the previous skirmishes — the 82-game regular season, the Eastern and Western Conference Finals, the Heat’s dramatic loss in Game 2 — all these no longer matter. What matters is, Philippine time, the mornings of Friday, Monday, and, possibly (and hopefully), Wednesday.

“He did everything that he could possibly do,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, of his 7-foot German center, Nowitzki. “The ball was moving to other people; he was creating when he could create. I love the way he played. Fighting through that was not easy.”

It was another come-from-behind Dallas win. Miami led by nine points early in the fourth quarter. And didn’t we previously think that the Heat, in the final 12 minutes, was unstoppable, right? Wrong. For the man who wronged the most yesterday — LeBron James – was the best player of the Finals. Was. Because LeBron scored only eight points — breaking a streak of 433 regular- and post-season games when he scored double-digits. It was his first lowly number in 90 playoff games. Worse, he took only one shot in the last quarter. (In his career, when LeBron scores 15 or fewer points, his team is 0-7.)

Pagkatoytoy, as Bobby Nalzaro would say it.

“The fact that it happened in a loss is the anger part about it,” LBJ said. “That’s all that matters to me. If I’d have had eight points and we won the game … I don’t really care about that. The fact that I could have done more offensively to help our team, that’s the anger part about it for myself. But I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win.”

Game 5, of course, will be the most crucial of the entire NBA season. If Miami wins, it’s Game Over. With the final two encounters scheduled in South Beach, Florida, they’ll have two chances to win for James and Bosh their first-ever NBA rings. But, if Dallas wins, this concert turns electrifying. A Game 7 can happen, like last year when the Lakers bested the Celtics in the NBA’s very last game.

I’m for Miami. But, for the sake of prolonged excitement, I’d like Dallas to claim victory tomorrow, with the extended hope that LeBron nails the championship-winning shot in Game 7 — much like Boom Boom’s knockout punch this Saturday. Go… Boom and ‘Bron.

Dallas vs. Miami: Let The Finals begin

With 3-1 leads in a Best of Seven series, the Mavericks and the Heat are 95.9 percent assured of victory. Yet, like the twin, shocking defeats of the M. Lhuillier squad last Friday and Saturday against the Cebu Landmasters/RDAK team, this we know: Basketball is unpredictable. The ball is neither flat nor perfect — it’s round. The bounce, odd. The loser can rebound and win.

But, as Roberto Duran once famously said, “No mas.” With Nowitzki and Bosh and Kidd and Wade and Mark Cuban as the Mavs owner and LeBron as the two-time MVP, I doubt that Chicago and Oklahoma can each win three of the next three games.

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

So, the stage is ready. The world awaits. The Heat is on. The Mavs? They move… to the Finals. You know my pick. Ever since LBJ announced in “The Decision” last July 8, 2010 that he’d combine forces — like Thor joining Spider-Man and Iron Man in a Marvel Comics triumvirate — the unanimous decision on the 2011 NBA champions is obvious.

I pick the Heat. Dwayne Wade having an off-night? Like he did yesterday? When he missed a dunk in the early minutes, did not score in the 3rd and 4th quarters, and shot only 5-of-16 with 14 points? No problemo. LeBron scores 35 points. Chris Bosh adds 22. They escape from near-defeat in Game 4 to force an OT and win, 101-93, leading the Eastern Conference Finals, 3 to 1.

Mr. Bosh? He’s Mr. Boss in Game 3. Attempting only 18 times, he made 34 points. The Heat have too many options, too many Pacquiaos in baggy shorts, two MVPs, they’re too damn good. They’re the Navy SEALS of the NBA. They’re the elite force – the best of the best. Like the SEALS who killed Osama Bin Laden carrying night vision apparatus, M16/M4, grenade launchers, pistols and other gadgetry that Karlon Rama can better explain, the Miami Heat has multiple weapons.

Free throws? They made 24 of their last 24 in Game 4. Plus, there’s The Big Two to add to The Big Three… Udonis Haslem (with nine rebounds yesterday) and Mike Miller (same nine rebounds plus 12 crucial points). “These are some of the things we anticipated coming into the season,” said Erik Spoelstra, the Fil-Am coach of the Heat. “Now when it counts, (Haslem and Miller) have both been able to contribute.”

Wade-Bosh-LeBron-Haslem-Miller. These five weaken and make the opponents helpless — like the Bulls, who owned the best regular season record of 62 wins and have the honor of calling their own, Derrick Rose, as the league Most Valuable Player. “That lineup that we talked about this summer is something we always envisioned,” said LeBron. “And it’s coming together at the right time.”

Dallas Mavericks? In the Finals, they won’t own home-court advantage. Both the Bulls and the Heat own better regular season records — thus, the 2-3-2 home-and-away format will not favor the Western Conference winners.

Still, wrote Matt Regaw in a gutsy piece entitled “Dallas Mavericks Should Be the Favorites To Win NBA Title,” he argues for this team that humiliated — not just “defeated” — the L.A. Lakers.

“The Mavericks have been road warriors in the playoffs,” said Regaw in his May 24 story from the website Bleacher Report. “They are not intimidated by the opposing fans and that was never more evident, than in the last game against the Thunder. The Thunder have one of the rowdiest crowds in the league, and when faced with a 15-point deficit with less than five minutes to play, the Mavericks showed unnerving composure.”

The Mavs, he argues, have won at least once on the road in each series — plus, twice in L.A. and Oklahoma. So this negates the “home-court advantage” philosophy.

Point # 3: “The entire Mavericks team is covered with skilled veterans that are groomed to handle pressure situations. Nowitzki is a point-producing scoring machine… Jason Kidd leads the team at the point and distributes the ball with ease… Jason Terry is a spark plug…”

Good points, Matt. But, sorry. In three weeks, we’ll be applauding the first time ring-bearers, James and Bosh.

Dr. Yayoy’s prognosis? It’s Miami vs. L.A.

Every year, I consult a doctor. His specialization isn’t centered on Internal Medicine, osteoporosis or Dentistry. It’s centered on Centers. On point guards, 3-point shots and the NBA Play-offs. Each year, I consult Dr. Raul “Yayoy” Alcoseba. He’s a Cebu City Councilor, now on his third term. He’s the M. Lhuillier coach. He’s the most famous and successful guru on dribbling and rebounding outside Manila. To me, he’s the best — including the PBA.

He’s a doctor. He screens patients (players), analyses their defects, he corrects, supplies medicine (more weight-training?) and ensures that they’re robust. Like a true physician. Plus, he owns a degree that none of is will ever achieve: Doctorate on Basketology. (Shouldn’t UC or UV confer such a title on Dr. Alcoseba?)

The Coach with Freddie Roach

“Between the NBA’s Eastern and Western conferences, I prefer the East,” the coaching wizard explained by phone from his City Hall office yesterday morning. “The Lakers lost in Game One. Same with the Spurs. These are upset victories by the New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies. Los Angeles and San Antonio no longer have the home-court advantage. At this level of game, in the playoffs, you cannot afford to take any seed for-granted. You have to concentrate all the time. Everybody has to be 100 percent.”

The Lakers were dismal in their 109-100 defeat. “I watched that game,” said Yayoy. “They had no defense. No intensity.” Aiming for their third straight NBA crown, the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers, said Alcoseba, will have difficulty winning No. 3 in a row. “The hardest thing is a three-peat,” he said. “It’s mental. I’ve been in such situations with many teams before. It’s so difficult to maintain the intensity, that level, after winning two straight titles. Sometimes, the edge is gone. It’s mental. At times, a team becomes complacent. Or overconfident, mo-kompyansa. With Game 2 against the Hornets, that’s a must-win for L.A. One more loss and they’re down 0-2.”

If that happens and the Lakers proceed to lose to New Orleans, it will be one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. “The Hornets is the No. 8 seed,” said Yayoy. “They were not even expected to be in the playoffs. They had, what, a 1-7 start to the regular season? Still, I expect Kobe and his team to defeat the Hornets.”

San Antonio Spurs? They’re the No.1 seed in the West, right? “Yes, they are,” he said. “But they lost (101-98 loss to Memphis) because Manu Ginobili, who averages nearly 20 a game, did not play Game One. I’m sure when he returns, the Spurs, who are the top-seeds, will bounce back.”

For the Western Division, the doctor predicts the two first-game losers, L.A. and San Antonio, to make it to the second round. But his prediction on the finalists? “I think the Lakers and the Oklahoma Thunder will be in the Western finals.”

In the East, Yayoy prefers Youth versus Experience. “I don’t see Boston, with their three older players — Garnett, Pierce and Allen — making it to the conference finals.” In fact, it was only minutes before we spoke that I checked the results via the internet: Boston escaped with an 87-85 victory against the New York Knicks when Ray Allen made a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left.

“It’s Miami vs. Chicago in the East,” predicted Yayoy. As for Chicago, one player stands out: Derrick Rose. “He will be the MVP. He has everything. He owns double-double numbers. He scores (averaging 25 points per game) and assists (7.7 APG). He hits big shots in crucial moments. He’s a clutch player. Hands-down, he’s the NBA’s MVP.”

The Bulls or the Heat? “I’d choose Miami. The three — LeBron, Wade and Bosh — will be too strong. In the end, the Finals, it will go down to the contest that everybody wants to see: Heat vs. Lakers.”

A self-confessed Lakers fan who correctly predicted the wins of L.A. the past two seasons, does Dr. Alcoseba anticipate the same result in 2011? “The Lakers will have a hard time. As I said, a three-peat is extremely difficult. I think LeBron will prevail over Kobe.”

The Heat is hot while Miami is cold

They have lost four straight. That’s sad. Bad? Good? That’s unexpected. After a disturbing 9-8 start, the Miami Heat went on a rampage. They won 21 of 22. Dwayne Wade would score 40+ points. Twice. LeBron James scored 38. Chris Bosh twisted the “h” to become Chris Boss. On our recent Feast of the Three Kings, they transformed into modern-day kings — Balthasar, Gaspar and Melchior.

The Heat was blazing and fiery. Now? It’s winter in the States. They’re frozen. They lost to the Clippers, Nuggets, Bulls and, yesterday, to the Hawks. What happened? Why the erratic behavior? Why the relapse? The backslide? Here’s why:

One, the NBA is ultra-competitive. You can’t win every ballgame. Yesterday is different from tonight is different from this Saturday. Your past means nothing tomorrow. “Teams are always trying to get better,” said LeBron.

Two, injuries. Chris Bosh is out. We don’t know when he’ll come back. LeBron, prior to the Atlanta game, was unsure to play hours before tip-off. He played. He scored 34 and pulled down 10 rebounds plus contributed seven assists.

Three, timing. In sports, it’s all about “the right timing.” Once you’re off by a few centimeters, you miss. Perfection is compulsory. Said LeBron: “I had a week off and that is what happens sometimes. We had everything going and when you have a few injuries it takes the chemistry out, it takes the rhythm out of a team.”

Four, its called “birth pains.” This team is new. “So far this season,” said Heat coach Erick Spoelstra, “when we have tweaked things and gone a bit unconventional, it has thrown us. Unfortunately, we have to go through some pain right now.” Pain is inevitable. To win that NBA crown, pain is a must. Pain — passing through extreme heat and pressure for the Heat — is mandatory. Losing, too, is a must. As long as–and this is what’s most important—they lose today and not during the playoffs.

Defending his team and his city, Greg Cote, in “Don’t read too much into Miami Heat’s losing streak,” published this article in The Miami Herald… “What a ride, though, and every minute of it subjected to insane scrutiny, everything magnified, animated like The LeBrons.

“Remember that 9-8 start? Oh the calamity! The Big Three couldn’t play together! Pat Riley must swoop in and replace coach Erik Spoelstra! ESPN hadn’t been this sated in years.

“Then came the unreal winning, the 21-1 run. Which never gets the same attention, of course. I guess because when LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh win … is that even news?

“Now, calamity again? Four losses in a row, for God’s sake! And injuries to LeBron (back in the lineup Tuesday) and Bosh (sitting out) assuring those in doubt that these guys might perform like superhumans but in fact are mortal.”

Ha-ha-ha. Good point, Greg. The conclusion to this roller-coaster ride? This. Is. Good. This win-yesterday, lose-today, don’t-know-about-tomorrow scenario is good. For the fans. For those who hate LeBron. For those who love him. For those who abhor the Cleveland Cavaliers backstabber, they’re clapping and jumping and screaming, “Good for you, traitor!” For those who glorify LBJ, they’d say, “Relax…..” This team, they argue, is undergoing puberty. It won’t mature for months.

All this can be summed up by this observation from FOXSportsFlorida.com writer Chris Perkins who, in “Hard to tell if Heat are elite,” wrote… “You watch the Miami Heat and you wonder: ‘Do they have enough to beat Boston, San Antonio or the Lakers in a best-of-seven series?’

“At best, the answer comes back as: ‘Maybe.’ That was the answer during the 12-game winning streak in December, and that’s the answer during the four-game losing streak the Heat carry after Tuesday’s 93-89 overtime loss against Atlanta.”

Maybe. That word is perfect for Miami.

Will this losing episode continue? Maybe. Will it stop? Maybe. Will the Heat win the crown? Maybe. Maybe not.

With Miami feeling the heat, where’s Pat Riley?

(Reuters/Hans Deryk)

When the NBA season began last Oct. 26, people crowned the Miami Heat the sure-ball champions. I was one of them. With the 1-2-3 combination dubbed the “Super Friends,” the trio of LeBron-Dwayne-Bosh was unbeatable. They’d surely trample and win gold over Kobe’s golden Lakers, make Boston green with Celtics envy, they’d clobber the 72-wins record of Michael Jordan and his Bulls.

We were dreaming. For this Dream Team, thus far, has become an Ordinary Team. Not extraordinary. The Miami Heat’s record this early December? It’s 10-8. That’s 10 wins with eight losses. Bad. And the worst part: out of those eight failures, seven were against teams with winning records. This means that, against “strong” teams, this Miami has a vice: it can’t win.

The problem? “Basketball is a team sport; Chemistry is key,” wrote Dennis ‘D Source’ Guillermo, a favorite of mine, in the Filipino Sports Examiner two days ago. “No matter how talented your players are in the court, there’s only one rock, and people need to play their roles to help the team achieve victory.”

Put simply, the question is this: How do you combine these individual talents to form one unbeatable super squadron? The solution: Pat Riley. He is one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time. He led the LA Lakers to four NBA titles. This was during the 1980s era of Magic, Kareem and J. Worthy. Then, in 2005, here’s what happened… Pat Riley was the president of the Miami Heat. Exactly five years ago this month, his team—under the coaching of Stan Van Gundy—was a disappointment. Their win-loss record: 11-10. Van Gundy resigned as head coach and in stepped Riley. Then, armed with Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal, the well-dressed coach turned Miami into the handsomest of men: they were the 2006 NBA champs.

The same scenario is happening today. In fact, the question in the minds of NBA experts today is not “if” Riley will become coach, but “when.” For diehard Filipinos like you and me, our sympathies go to Erik Spoelstra—whose mother hails from San Pablo, Laguna. But this Miami franchise doesn’t have a choice.

Pat Riley not only was the “Bob Arum of the NBA” who orchestrated the entry of The Three Kings, he’s the only one who can reenergize the Heat to victory. He’s the only coach—mano-a-mano—who has the intellect and experience to fight Phil Jackson when Miami meets L.A. in The Finals.

So… the sooner, the better. What’s great about Americans is how quickly they act. When a problem is faced, regardless of the hurts or short-term consequences, they “change a losing game.” They act. Fast. Let’s expect the same conclusion with Miami. Prolonging this agony will result in a disaster—especially for LeBron. Because while the NBA’s slogan is “Where Amazing Happens” and the Heat were supposed to amaze us, they did not. Mr. Riley will.

CLEVELAND. The game NBA fans have long-anticipated has arrived: The Heat versus the Cavaliers—tomorrow in Cleveland.

“I’m ready for whatever response I’m going to get,” said LeBron. “It’s going to be very emotional. I give a lot of thanks to that city, a lot of thanks to those fans for giving me the opportunity to not only showcase my talent, but to grow from a young boy to a man during my seven years. So it’s going to be very emotionally draining. I can tell already.”

Will Ohio fans boo, jeer, mock and scorn LBJ? If we look back, hundreds of his Cleveland jerseys have been burned. The Cavs previous owner labeled him a traitor. He’s Public Enemy No.1 in the state where he grew up. Will all this castigating and lambasting continue tomorrow? Or, when fans see their former son, will they show comfort and compassion? We’ll see both. But more on the former. Placards with LEBACLE and GO HOME will be plenty. The wounds are still fresh; the betrayal, severe.

“It’s going to be tough,” said LeBron. “But I’m there to win a basketball game. I understand. I understand how passionate fans are about sports. I’m ready for whatever response that I’m going to get. It’s going to be very emotional.”

Prediction: Lakers vs. Heat in the ‘11 Finals

In a poll of eight experts, the question was asked: “Which teams will reach the NBA Finals?”

In the Western Conference, all eight critics answered in the same manner: L.A. Lakers. It’s hard to argue against their unanimous decision. The KB24-led squad from California are the two-time defending champs. Defeating the Boston Celtics last season four games to three, they captured their 16th NBA championship—on the 50th anniversary of their relocation to Los Angeles. And so, the Lakers are a sure bet to reach The Finals.

The Eastern Conference winners? One expert said “Orlando Magic” while another answered, “Boston Celtics.” But, six of the eight experts asked by NBA.com supplied the same response: Miami Heat.

Los Angeles vs. Miami. Think about it. Wow. Won’t this ending be a Wow-moment? A highlight for basketball? For the world? Imagine a Kobe Bryant vs. LeBron James ending? No, make that The King named Kobe versus The Three Kings, LeBron/Wade/Bosh. In fact, just days ago, the Heat acquired Jerry Stackhouse. So make that Kobe vs. The Fab Four of Miami.

Lakers – Heat. I hope this happens. I’m sure, for excitement’s sake, plenty want to see this climax. It’s good for our heart. Our heartbeats pumping faster because of this fever and frenzy is good for our health.

How awaited is this finale? I “goggled” the words, “lakers vs heat nba final” and, guess what, a total of 6,590,000 results showed up. That’s plenty. That’s the interest in America’s two most famous ball clubs.

If this NBA conclusion happens, what a bonanza. What a golden possibility for this league to strike gold in the TV ratings: the Team In Gold versus the Team Who Wants Gold.

With the Lakers, we know what to expect. Kobe is Barack Obama. He’s the leader. He’s the man who’ll step up on the free throw line with 3.4 seconds left in Game 7 and shoot both free throws for the victory. We know that. We expect that.

The Lakers will win. The question is, Can the Heat burn and cook and scorch L.A.? And ignite their Fab Four to steal the NBA ring on their first try? We don’t know. “The Big Three of Miami are expected to dominate but can they play with chemistry?” said the story, “Lakers vs. Heat: NBA Finals Preview?” in Extrasportsnews.com. “Can they share the ball and win each game? In the previous year, the Big Three averages more than 20 shots each but here in Miami they can’t do that anymore, they have to play as a team. All of them has to sacrifice their stats. On the other hand, the Lakers are still, I believe, the favorite because they have proven that they can play ball.”

It all begins tomorrow. At 7:30 a.m., Philippine-time, the NBA season begins with the most-awaited of first games: Miami vs. Boston. Another… Wow! Last year’s Eastern Conference champion versus its strongest tormentor.

All eyes on this game—and on the entire season—will fall on LBJ. “James has absorbed more criticism over the last five months than he’d heard in his previous seven NBA years,” said Ian Thomsen of SI.com in “Countdown: 2010-11 season guide.” Thomsen added, “But how bad is all of this news in reality? Put it this way: What happens if James leads Miami to the championship this year? The answer is that the negatives all flutter away.”

True. If Miami wins, LeBron won’t be acclaimed The Hero—but his feat will be near heroic. A brand-new cast of characters win on their first attempt! The hatred towards LeBron will be forgotten. Do we still remember Kobe’s rape case? How he was castigated? That’s forgotten. But Mr. James has to win. Now. “It’s going to be easy to forgive LeBron because he has committed nothing worse than crimes of arrogance, and for those he has been roughed up and humbled. The punishment has been served, and if he wins I guarantee you he’ll have majority opinion on his side again,” added Thomsen.

The NBA’s slogan is “Where Amazing Happens.” Amazing begins in tomorrow’s Game 1 and, if we’re lucky, concludes with a Kobe vs. LeBron face-to-face.

Don’t you adore this sport? I Love This Game.