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.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Coach Chot Reyes’ thoughts after Day 1 practice for Sea Games

Coach Chot’s thoughts after Day 1 practice for Sea Games
by rick olivares

The members of the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team assembled at the Upper Deck Sports Center in Pasig City for the first day of practice for the Fiba Asia Cup (that will take place in Lebanon from August 15-27) and the Southeast Asian Games that will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from August 19-30.

In attendance were veterans Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Gabe Norwood, and Terrence Romeo as well as cadets Carl Bryan Cruz, Ed Daquioag, Alfonso Gotladera, Jovani Jalalon, Raymar Jose, Ray Parks, Roger Pogoy, Kiefer Ravena, Christian Standhardinger, Matthew Wright, and Almond Vosotros.

The team worked on some drills essential to its dribble drive offense after which former Thailand coach Tim Lewis (who coached the latter during the recent Seaba tournament) taught some of his defensive schemes to the squad.

“The getting to know you was for Christian (Standhardinger) as he got to practice with June Mar, Terrence, Jayson, Gabe, and Japeth. That was the main getting to know you,” pointed out Reyes.

Regarding Lewis’ involvement, Gilas’ head coach professed an admiration for the Englishman who learned his basketball in the United States among many other countries. “We’ve been talking since Seaba. He’s doing some work for Talk ‘N Text. I said since he’s in town, and since he wanted to watch Gilas practice, might as well take advantage of his knowledge. There are things that he does that we feel will be useful for us.”

Of concern for Reyes and his coaching staff is the overlapping of tournaments with the Fiba Asia and the Southeast Asian Games all taking place at the same time. “Ngayon lang nangyari yun,” dryly noted Reyes.

The first 27-stagings of the biennual SEA Games were held late in the year – either November or December. However, beginning with the 28th games held in Singapore in 2015, the tournament was moved to an earlier time schedule in accordance to the international calendar.

Addressing the absence of Andray Blatche even for the upcoming Fiba Asia Cup, Reyes, said, “I think he (Andray) is going to issue a statement soon. There’s absolutely no reason because we waited and we waited. They couldn’t give a confirmation soon. The deadline passed. So we have to make a decision.”

Reyes also pointed out to the problem that Cruz and Standhardinger who will pull double duty in Lebanon and Kuala Lumpur.

“If we go to the semi-finals, that means we will play up to Aug 20, that means they are not play in the first game of the Sea Games. That is going to be a problem. The good thing is the Sea Games format there is a semi-finals and the finals, we could afford to lose a game. We’re playing Thailand right away. Not that we are planning to. But we can afford but still get back at them in the semi-finals or the finals. If we get to the finals of course.”

“The tough part of this Fiba Asia,” added Reyes “is we are going to a war na hindi kami kumpeleto. That is why the cadets are going to be very important so we can get enough bodies in practice.” Reyes also added that he will not get his full line-up until the team leaves as all the players still have games with their mother clubs.

Talking to Coach Tim Lewis

Talking to Coach Tim Lewis
 by rick olivares

Tim Lewis is an English basketball coach who learned the game in the United States. He’s worked with the Toronto Raptors organization as well as the Great Britain national team. Most recently, he guided Thailand to a third place finish in the Seaba tournament that was held in Manila.

Lewis graced the first day of Gilas Pilipinas practice at the Upper Deck Sports Center in Pasig City where he worked on the Filipinos’ zone defense.

After practice, we spoke with Lewis who shared a few things.

On the aborted Thailand stint:
Obviously, it was a quick turnaround. We played in the Seaba, when you look at a performance perspective, we took a weak team with young and inexperienced players on the basis of what the federation wanted. There were some injuries. They didn’t want to play the Asean guys because of showing too much before the Sea Games. They wanted to play the Thai-Americans. It was too late to change up things.

Given what we had, I think a lot of people will agree that we competed. The loss to Indonesia was frustrating. We couldn’t make shots. The shooters shot poorly. They used that as a reason to release me after a trip to the US. It was disappointing more than anything. But it is what it is.

It’s hard when you’ve got inexperienced players and when you put the lights on and expect them to perform. We made progress over the last 15 months from the Stankovic Cup to the Seaba. Placing third isn’t a bad result. The Philippines, hands down, was going to win that tournament. For anyone to expect anything else was unrealistic. I think they wanted to place second and not third.

I was pleased that our players competed for 12-15 minutes against the Philippines. The next one is to compete for two quarters. That’s your improvement the next time you go.

I arrived after a flight and I was told they were not keeping me.

On being a guest in Manila for TNT and Gilas:
I know Josh (Reyes) well. We’ve competed against each other and remained in touch. He said that if you’re not doing anything come on over and be around. See what we can do with Talk ‘N Text. Then coach (Chot) said, bring him over. I wanted to come around too. I thought I’d just watch practice. Then had this improve to teach with is a great honor. I really appreciate it. It is an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.

We just talk about basketball. Bouncing ideas off each other. If something comes – working longer term, I’d love it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Covering the Premier League Asia Cup

Covering the Asia Cup
by rick olivares

I like the format of this Premier League Asia Trophy that features four squads. For one, fans can see four top football clubs compete instead of one team facing up against a national side of the home country. And second, it gives each team a little more time on ground rather than the frenetic pace of being in one country for a few days and they’re gone in a flash.

And this was a most enjoyable Asia Trophy coverage.

I can’t begin to tell you how exciting it was to be in a press conference with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. It isn’t my first though. I had that opportunity in Anfield last January 14, 2016 following a most memorable 3-3 draw with Arsenal. Joe Allen saved the day for the Reds with a late goal in stoppage time as the game was down to its last few seconds and the snow was falling all around. The dramatic finish and the weather conditions made even more surreal. That time, I was tongue tied and deferred to the British media. This time around in Hong Kong, I got to directly ask Klopp a question to which he answered most graciously.

In the pre-match pressers, there was Tony Pulis, Dutch football great Frank de Boer, Wes Morgan, Simon Mignolet, and gasp… well, even Jonny Evans.  And later on the pitch, you see players like Hal Robson-Kanu who scored one of the best goals of Euro 2016 with a Cruyff turn against three Belgian defenders for a Wales’ win. There were the Foxes who won the Premier League title two seasons ago.

I always admired Tony Pulis and how he builds small clubs who do not have the financial might of the bigger ones but they battle tooth and nail. I can imagine spending an afternoon with him talking football. I love the fact that he paid his respects to Hong Kong which holds a special place in his heart having played for Happy Valley early in his career and the money he earned there helped him get ready for his marriage.

As for the matches, the game between Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion went into a penalty shootout while Liverpool dusted off Crystal Palace, 2-nil to set up a finals with the former who they defeated 2-1 last Saturday evening. In both match days, the crowd was electric. I posted on social media that one these two nights, Hong Kong Stadium had turned into Anfield Far East.

I like the fact that Klopp told his players that the cheers and adulation they receive from the crowd and fans was because of what the former players did and how they paved the way for such a reaction. If they want to be the beneficiary of that too, then they must carve their names out on winners’ medals and trophies. That was a humbling statement.

The teams were in Hong Kong for a week and well, it made for a whole slew of activities and events. While it is always a concern for these long trips, it is a requirement for their corporate sponsors who shell out so much money to help the club with their operational expenses.

I have seen other clubs simply try to fulfill their end of the bargain and not show up. They are there physically but mentally you can see they aren’t. Years ago, a Korean crowd booed Barcelona not only for their boorish behavior but also for not sending their top players into the match when people paid a lot of money to watch. Even Leo Messi got booed. I even saw that with Liverpool a few years ago in Kuala Lumpur where they weren’t even smiling at all. I’d say that is because of the short in and out schedule of theirs.

Now this Asia tour for them, well, it was special. Unless they were faking their videos or pressers and interviews of which I think wasn’t the case. They obviously had a great time. Even in the post-Asia Trophy match game with Leicester City, Klopp bared that he flew in with not much expectations but he gushed over the support and hospitality. How many times did he say, “Thank you”?

I’ve seen Liverpool play 11 times across three continents. I came away happy to say that by sheer dumb luck, they have not lost any match where I was physically present. I am not saying I should be there for every game – unless I work for the club. It’s just a coincidence.

Said Mai Sangalang, Head of Corporate Affairs/Brand and Marketing: “Standard Chartered Bank’s sponsorship of the Liverpool FC dates back 2010 and we are pleased at how it connects with our clients and football fans around the world.  Liverpool FC is an iconic global brand with a long history and incredible following, a milestone we share with them. Standard Chartered Bank’s partnership with Liverpool FC also share the same commitment to give back to the community through our sustainability programmes and football clinics across our markets.  Through these, we get the opportunity to support communities and help children discover their abilities built on values and discipline.”

As always, I had fun. I’d really like to thank the Premier League and all the clubs; Liverpool of course; Standard Chartered with Mai Sangalang and Anne dela Torre who made this possible; and all the other regional journalists who I met and befriended along the way. Even June Mar Fajardo and Aerieal Patnongon who I got to hang out one evening in Tsim Sha Tsui (they were on a short vacation) – that was a bonus. It was a wonderful (in spite of the mostly inclement weather) five days in one of my favorite cities in the world where I got to watch my favorite football club in the world.