I Watched Meralco vs. Barako Bulls Last Night

Glee was showing a replay so the wife wasn’t competing for the TV, and I’m tired of watching Law & Order SVU (it’s gets to you eventually. So much violence and sick people in the world. I know its fiction but still, you know?), so I decided to concentrate on Meralco vs. Barako Bulls and resist changing the channel every so often. So here’s what I remember thinking:

Ang Galing Na Ni Ababou – Well not last night, but in previous games I caught him breaking out a few awesome moves, moves he never even gave a hint he was capable of back in UST. I’ve no doubt this is due from exposure he got from playing at Gilas. Sure he was sitting at the far end of the bench behind Lassiter and Lutz, but clearly he made the most of his time over there. The fact he warmed the bench per se might be reason for his blossoming, and may have challenged him on a personal basis. Whatever it might’ve been, this is indication he is the type of player that needs motivation to get going.

This doesn’t surprise me at all because I always consider players, especially those who were treated as stars during College or High School, as people who aren’t used to working hard to get what they want because they often got it by default simply because they were the most athletically gifted or worse, just taller than everyone else. No doubt, Ababou was ‘King Tiger’ back in UST (I hate using the ‘King..’ monicker but I’ll use it this once to make my point). That means he is in the first five, gets the ball in the end and gets all the adulation by default just because he’s bigger and stronger than everyone else.

There is nothing like the feeling of wanting to play so badly so hard yet sitting on the bench 90% of the time. All the fan love and adulation cannot make up for what you feel is a personal affront to your abilities as a player. It burns you up deep inside, and will keep you tossing and turning in bed at night (yes I know how it feels). The next chance you get to play it’s guaranteed you bust out like a caged, rabid animal. I think maybe this may have to do with Ababou’s ‘arrival’, and while he wasn’t much last night I hope he can ride that wave and keep on keepin’ on.

I Was Watching Because Of Asi – I follow Asi Taulava on Twitter and he seems like a really nice guy. I read somewhere that the reason we follow ‘celebrities’ on Twitter is because we want a glimpse of their lives, and if so I like what I see. The guy is down to Earth and seems to live a simple life, so unless he’s some sort of PR genius and all of that is a carefully manufactured sham, he seems like the kind of guy you’d enjoy hanging with.

On the court he is still as much a force as he is big, and I’m impressed at his athleticism considering the mileage he’s seen. I think those two factors, the fact I follow him and that he seems to take care of himself, are what’s making me pull for him. That and Meralco seems to be a tough team with a good mix of individuals just might make me follow the PBA after all.

Captain Hook Still Brings On The Oohs and Aahs – I thought I caught a point in the game when, after Cardona shot one of his un-defendable hooks, he kept his hand in the ‘hook’ position way after the shot to taunt the defender. I’m not sure if that was intentional as the camera panned elsewhere quickly after that, but I wouldn’t put it past him to do that. This is one of the most ‘ma-angas’ players we’ve ever come across in recent history and it’s a joy watching the guy because he can back it up. The fact he scored most in his team serves as much as reason for his haters to continue hating him as his fans to love him.

And I thought, that really, is the kind of player you want to be. You don’t want to be some sort of nicey – nice, fence – sitting wishy washy guy who smiles and waves at everyone. You want people to either love or hate you, and in the extreme. I’m sure that if you get to meet him he’s an ok guy, and is just like everyone else, but on the court he will agitate you with his antics then dominate you with his off the chart skills. You want to love him, then you hate him, then he does something that makes you love him again. That’s what good players do.

The Game Itself – Ok so lest you might think I’ve nothing but flowery words after last night, I’m reserving the negative for a review of how the game went per se. I can understand why people enjoy watching games like that. Both teams were intense and the fight was really on. You can see it in their faces and how each player manifests anger at missed opportunities or joy at a shot that went in. You can’t make that up and that was good TV.

But is it good basketball? The reason it frustrates me to watch the PBA is the same as it had been in the past, and it’s to do with how they play per se. For example, Sol Mercado walks down with the ball to set up the offense. But is he setting it up, or is he gearing up for his own fantastic move? Cardona waits in the corner, Taulava goes to the middle to set a pick, then plays decoy by rushing to to the middle with his hands up, making the defense chase him and allowing Mercado a lone defender. Taulava gets to beneath the basket and serves as a wall of a pic for Espinas (or Omolon or Isip, whoever is PF or SF at the time). This guy gets free, gets the ball, THEN STOPs, and looks for someone new to pass to.

The action keeps going this way until the very final seconds, then either Solomon takes a hail mary three, or Cardona goes 1 on 1 against some hapless defender, and makes it. The crowd goes wild and I don’t blame them. Two seconds left and you make a miraculous three from the locker room? Or Cardona executes another fantastic ‘how did he do that?!’ exciting semi-hook / jumpshot / hookshot?! Who’s not going to cheer that?!

The problem is though, is that that was a broken play. Just like the play before that, just like the play the other team just did, and most likely just like the play that’s about to come, and the next one after that. THE PROBLEM IS, THERE IS NO FLUIDITY, no great passing, no teammates who practiced so much and so often that they make near – blind passes to open spaces where suddenly a teammate appears out of nowhere, and you say to yourself  ‘Wow, play pala yun!‘, until the next free guy drives an uncontested layup or makes a high percentage jumpshot.

And it frustrates me desperately, because I’ve seen teams who play like that, and comparing the PBA teams is like being served Tapsilog after having tasted a Porterhouse steak. Tapsilog is great, sure, but it’s not Porterhouse steak. Gilas was the closest thing I’ve seen to a Philippine team playing like that, with well distributed scoring as the result (although they do tend to get lazy and over capitalize on Douthit when the pressure comes, but that’s expected).

So What Now? Well the important thing is that I actually watched a game, and well into its dying seconds even after the ending was a foregone conclusion. I’m starting to get interested in the players and empathy will eventually follow for sure. Maybe a team out there does play the way I want them to, so that means I need to watch the top teams. Maybe there is a Porterhouse out there after all, and the search for it will help me get interested in the PBA.

That is of course, unless new Glee episodes come along. Or I might get hooked onto another disturbing Law & Order SVU episode (God there are some sick people in this world).