Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The new FIBA competition format has its own set of challenges

The new FIBA competition format has its own set of challenges
by rick olivares

Over the past several days, two articles made the rounds. One about the Hellenic Basketball Federation, the governing body for hoops in Greece, accusing the Milwaukee Bucks and the National Basketball Association from preventing Giannis Antetokounmpo from participating in the upcoming European championships.

Around the same time, there was a piece titled, “Red, White, and Who?” that was about the United States Men’s National Basketball Team missing its battalion of NBA stars and instead will line up players who weren’t good enough to make the league; who toil in smaller leagues if not abroad.

The article quoted USA Basketball’s Sean Ford as saying, “It’s going to be really interesting. We don’t know. We’re flying blind a little bit.”

Even a look at the rosters of the recently-concluded FIBA Asia Cup, teams like Australia, New Zealand, and even the Philippines to a certain extent were missing many players. When FIBA announced its new competition format last year, it was met with opposition from the Euroleague as it clearly overlapped into the tournament proper. It is also clear that FIBA is trying to force the issue and pick a fight with the European League by forming its own league with threats of banning national teams from FIBA events if they do not comply.

The Philippine Basketball Association clubs aren’t spared of that criticism. Is the pursuit of a PBA championship or grand slam bigger than the national cause?

There are chicken and egg theories or even arguments. That it is the club that pays for all the training and upkeep. That it is the pro loop that has made basketball what it is. That plans for teams and pursuits for titles are strategized over a period of time. It is so easy to accuse a club of being selfish. However, if you look at it from the other side, they are spending a huge amount of money for their respective clubs’ upkeep. Are they getting any form of compensation from federations much less FIBA?

On the other hand, international basketball competitions have also improved the game if not become a source of national pride. The Olympics or even world titles are prized and valued. One can say that he is indeed the best in the entire planet.

FIBA took its cue from FIFA where there are international breaks for national team competition and of course, they want more money. On the other hand, for decades, the professional basketball leagues across the world were played at the old format without interruption. The new format greatly disrupts campaigns.

Unlike in football where generally matches are played once a week, in basketball, the matches can be as many as three times or four times in a week. The changes in time zones will disrupt body rhythms and could possibly affect players for a game or even two. So that could be as few as five matches or as much as six. And there is the never-ending concern about injuries. Unlike football teams that have as many as 24 players in a squad, pro cage squads list only 12.

You can imagine changes in roster depth will bloat expenditures and operational expenses.

I can appreciate both sides. However, isn’t the cage body supposed to serve the members? I don’t see why the old format doesn’t work anymore. Both sides should have worked to find that happy middle ground.

Yet the new format is here.

Ford is right. How the next few months play out will be plenty interesting.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.
by rick olivares

The new Asian order is here.

Australia has been crowned FIBA Asia Cup champions. They displaced the old order, three-time champions Iran rather mercilessly 79-56.

Both teams were undefeated heading into the gold medal match. It was no contest.

Along with New Zealand, the two countries formerly bracketed in Oceania made their Asian debuts in smashing style.

Australia finished fourth in the 2016 Rio Olympics losing to Spain by a whisker, 89-88, in the bronze medal match.

If you look at the team that topped Asia, only of them competed in the last Olympics and that is center David Andersen. During that Summer Games, Andersen played for Tony Parker’s French side, AVSEL. He is currently with Melbourne United in the Australian National Basketball League.

In case you don’t remember, that Olympic squad is stocked with NBA players.

There was Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Andrew Bogut (then of the Golden State Warriors), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cameron Bairstow (Chicago Bulls), and Aron Baynes (Detroit Pistons). Ryan Broekhoff (Lokomotiv-Kuban in Russia), David Andersen (ASVEL Basket in France), and Brock Motum (Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania) competed in Europe with only three players playing pro ball in Australia in Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings), and Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats).

This current side that thoroughly dominated FIBA Asia competition are all playing at home Down Under.

Think about that.

In this FIBA Asia, Australia, undefeated in five matches, was tops in scoring (92.5) and rebounding (43.0). Second in assists to Korea with 4.8. Third in steals with 9.2 per game.

New Zealand was without any of its stars Mika Vukona, Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, Tai Wynyard, Robert Loe, and Isaac Fotu. These players gave the Philippines a massive headache in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila last year where this squad finished third in a field of six.

Of that team that played in Manila, only Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai, and Sean Ili were in the roster for the FIBA Asia Cup. And they gave a very good account of themselves as they finished in fourth place.

In this continental cup, the Kiwis were sixth in scoring (79.9 points), fifth in rebounding (38.8), 10th in assists (14.8).

New Zealand finished with a 3-3 record. However, their last two losses were in the semi-finals (Australia) and the third place battle (Korea).

Outside the Philippines, if you look at the other Asian powerhouses – Iran, Korea, and China… they are slowly rebuilding.

China features a team that will compete for many years to come. Many of its players who saw action in the Rio Olympics or even the last FIBA Asia didn’t suit up this time around.

Iran has begun its transition. While Hamed Haddadi and Oshin Sahakian probably have one more FIBA Asia campaign left in them, this side is becoming slowly Mohamad Jamshidi’s. others who are coming up include forward Arsalan Kazemi and guards Sajjad Mashayekhi and Behnam Yakhchali. Their concern will be at the four and five spots.

Korea had to turn to some of its veterans who competed in 2014 as opposed to the side that featured in the 2017 William Jones Cup.

Lebanon will lose key players such as Fadi El Khatib and possibly Jean Abdel Nour. Jordan knows that veteran guard Mousa Alawadi is in the twilight of his career as well. They will need others to step up while find new parts to their national team.

The arrival of Australia and New Zealand signify that Asian basketball hasn’t only gotten better but also made it infinitely more competitive.

Christian Standhardinger: breakout newcomer to Gilas

Christian Standhardinger: breakout newcomer to Gilas
by rick olivares

The Southeast Asian Games may only be one game old for Christian Standhardinger but the Fil-German can already be said to be the breakout newcomer to the national team.

From the recent William Jones Cup to the FIBA Asia Cup and now to the SEA Games, Standhardinger is showing why he is going to be a vital cog in the national team machine for years to come.

He has been adjudged the most efficient performer for the country in FIBA Asia with a rating of 15.3 more than four full points than the former two-time best guard in Asia, Jayson Castro.

The 6’7” forward shot 60% from the field in Beirut, 66% from the free throw line while averaging 16.0 points and 5.7 rebounds.

During the William Jones Cup, after import Michael Myers, Standhardinger was the second best leading scorer with 11.8 points per game on 54% field goal shooting. He was also the tournament’s eighth best rebounder with 7.4 boards an outing.

In the 81-74 win over Thailand to kick off the Gilas Cadets’ maiden SEA Games assignment, Christian finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He could have scored more and displaced teammate Troy Rosario as the team’s leading scorer last Sunday night but he missed a lot of free throws.

The 28-year old Standhardinger from Munich, Germany grew up playing a lot of sports. “I played every sport — tennis, table tennis, beach volleyball, bowling, swimming, but when my grandpa introduced me to basketball and there was no looking back.”

And when you look at his game, he performs with no frills. No fancy moves. He exaggerated display of emotion. “The one thing you have to understand about me is I am focused,” he said with unabashed honesty. “My concern is being able to do what is asked of me and to contribute. It makes me focused and – how do you say this – goal-oriented.” 

As for his simple style of play, Standhardinger will disappoint you if you postulate that German star Dirk Nowitski is an influence. “I have no basketball idols to be honest,” he fesses up. Not even German star Dirk Nowitski. “Nope. I just played on my own and learning from the games I played. Maybe that is why I have a weird or funky style. But when I am playing my thinking is, ‘how to make my game effective?’"

He parries the accolades and praise that come his way taking everything in stride. “It’s cool,” he shrugs. “But I have so much to learn. And I know that. Maybe that keeps my feet on the ground.”

Christian also admits that wearing the national jersey is an immense source of pride. “It was an easy decision,” he admits about suiting up for the Philippines. “I am proud that I can represent the Philippines. My family is honored as well.”