It’s hard to write about a game such as last night’s due to the sheer variety and depth of emotions that come with its recollection. For the most part I was calm, primarily due to the fact I don’t buy in to the ‘laban’ and ‘puso’ shtick. My love for my country has nothing to do with basketball and even less on the outcome of a game. I love my country and (deserving) fellow Filipinos, and I’m pretty much sure the the players of Gilas do as well. This is default and non – negotiable, so the idea of it indirectly being questioned every time I read ‘puso’, as if to say we do not have heart if we do not win offends me. If we lose a game we may not be as skilled, as tall, as fluid or whatever, but it’s certainly not because we lack heart. If anything we might have too much heart. Let’s talk basketball tangibles – shooting, assists, defense, and the like. But don’t talk to me about not having heart. Never ever doubt heart.
Whew. Ok moving on:
Douthit’s leaving the game was a positive – The double team on Douthit was effective, and let’s face it, Gilas’ sore liability is its weak half court game. We tend to dump the ball over to Daddy Douthit’s capable hands for him to do his thing but any team will wise up to that quickly just like Korea did.
This forced us to play small ball, and let me say this – we are the fastest team in this tournament – so I consider that a distinctly positive development. When I say ‘fast’ I mean hustle on defense, successful fastbreaks and just overall outrunning, outgunning, out ‘moving’ everyone else. This is the part I run out of adjectives because it’s hard to pin down exactly why being ‘fast’ is a positive. It’s just an overall quickness bordering on blurried movement. It’s unlike Iran’s machine like pinpoint precision. Gilas is more about hustle and emotion, relying on speed, speed, speed.
Castro, Tenorio and Alapag are the extreme proponents of these, inluding David if he could get his game going. Their excursions into the lane while scary are thrilling. Most any player would botch it up and result in a turnover, but because of their maturity it ends up in a good pass to an open forward under the paint, a foul that sends them to the line, or a Chan or Fonacier in the wings.
Koreans’ Youth – This team has two (or three?) teenagers and is very very young. We are probably going to meet most of them in future FIBA outings at least three or four more times in our lives. At any rate they play very mature for their age. They never faltered, they never hung their heads low or looked defeated at any point in spite of the fact they were playing the home team in front of an 18,000 strong hostile crowd. Of course it helps that they can shoot the way they do, but that takes serious balls and deserves much respect.
The only weakness I noticed is that they tend to be susceptible to simple ball – fakes. Tenorio would once or twice fake a drive then turn around looking for someone to pass to, not realizing his defender had already fallen for the fake and was standing 4 steps away out of bounds. This is a sign of ‘panggigigil‘, or the need to want to cause a stirring block or steal, instead of just bothering who they’re guarding by getting in his space and in the way.
Gary David wasn’t there again – which of course doesn’t matter now in the light of the win. But if we had NOT won, this would have been today’s headline. Gary is the ‘secret weapon’ in our team and our Ace in the hole. He’s the guy the opposing team does not make plans for, the sixth man that sparks offense when we need it.
Unfortunately either Gilas is not designed to make use of him or he just does not find a chance to get his game going, or both, or neither, or whatever. The truth remains however that Gilas needs him to get hot every which way he can. Maybe Chot can match him up against Iran’s weakest defender, or just find a way to get him touches.
Make no mistake I believe in this guy. When LeBron came the other week I told my friend the second most excited player I wanted to see was David. I even stood beside him just to size him up at a Powerade event last year in an effort I think to understand why this guy is so good. I’d go as far as to say a scoring Gary David gives us a better than even chance against Iran.
As a final note, I’d like to touch on the best way to appreciate a game such as last night’s. – Last nights’ was one of the grittiest most hard fought victories I’ve seen in basketball at any level from NBA, PBA, UAAP to inter barangay. And believe me I’ve watched thousands of games. I loved it from start to finish because it brings me back to the very reason why I love basketball in the first place. Two hard nosed determined teams battling it out to the very end, overcoming obstacles both in themselves and brought by their opponent. Watching a game like this is similar to appreciating art. There is chaos, emotion and drama, all coming to an overwhelming conclusion at the end.
If you appreciate the game of basketball like this, you will realize you are dealing with something beyond nationality, beyond race, religion or any such man made perceptions. You are dealing with something far bigger than yourself or your nation. Sport is meant to be like this, which happens to be the reason why the Olympics was conceptualized – as a means of fostering Peace, Friendship, Honour, Glory and Fair Play.
I look at FIBA-Asia and wish it to be the summation of those ideals especially given the testy times. Unless you are living in a bubble, China – RP relations aren’t at their best. Taiwan – RP relations just improved, but it was sticky for a while and may not be all that rosy still for our OFWs over there. In short this was an opportunity for us to better appreciate each other, while the everyday common man in each country is paying attention. This is a good chance to let the people over at other countries know that we appreciate them and their culture and that no matter our differences we still enjoyed a basketball game together and so therefore we are probably not so much different after all.
This is why I cringe at the myopic hashtag ‘laban’ Pilipinas and all those attempts by channel 5 to drum up interest in the game by firing up old hurt feelings of our losses to Korea. Yes of course I know it means ‘laban’ on the basketball court, but in the light of the fact this is an International event you need to look much farther than the court. You need to think RP – Taiwan relations. You need to think RP – China relations. You even need to think China – Taiwan relations – I don’t even want to get into that situation.
What I’m saying is I agree with FIBA-Asia’s mission of trying to achieve ‘Peace Through Basketball’ (it’s there look it up). I believe it’s attainable, and it starts with every nation realizing we’re not all that much different from one another.
And I’m bringing it up now after a fantastic game because you’ll agree with me when I say that no matter who you are or where you may be, you’d probably appreciate that game too. And the Taiwanese, Chinese, Iranians all the way to the Malaysians and hopefully Koreans will see that game and think ‘hmm we’re not all different from those guys‘, and think twice before judging us, themselves and everyone else.
THAT’s what this game means to me. THAT’s what basketball means to me. THAT’s what you learn from sports.
* I just noticed something after looking at all these pictures provided by the hard working PBA.ph Media Group. They’re all Gilas highlights. Just found that funny.