Team Pilipinas’ twin losses against Kazakhstan and Iran comes to Pinoy basketball fans with a sweet-sour taste.
If I were to be asked how satisfied I am with the performance of our national team, I will give my answer in two parts, a yes and a no.
I was very satisfied with respect to how the locals played in the two games. They were within getting a few breaks of the game that could have resulted to winning both games.
Unfortunately, their committing too much fouls while running up against two teams who found themselves sinking shots from almost anywhere they took them did the Gilas team.
Their deep roster showed they can play amongst the big boys. They showed the team doesn’t have to rely on naturalized players, imports to win games.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to see Andray Blatche or Justin Brownlee enhance in the team.
They also showed they are a team of a few tricks, offensively and defensively.
If posting June Mar Fajardo down low doesn’t work and his kick out options can’t bury shots, there are just a few other alternatives. We need to have a Jason Castro or a Stanley Pringle who can create their own shots. If we don’t have them, we’re done.
If their trick of protecting the paint by parking their big men inside it is brilliantly countered by the outside shooting opposition, it usually results to giving up offensives rebounds for the opponent.
It maybe just the result of lack of team chemistry that is brought about by the short time frame in putting the team into a cohesive unit.
Yet team chemistry had always been the alibi when they lose. They are aware of this condition since pro players were allowed to participate in the Olympics and the remedy should have been already found.
Learning new tricks
When current PBA commissioner Willie Marcial had a change of heart and brought back the physicality in the league, I wonder what has he eaten.
It is because the physicality of the game is a memory of the past that is bad to keep alive today.
I know it’s partly a business decision to attract fans but it is also hampering the elite Filipino players from achieving their true potential.
It used to be that teams who knew how to apply physicality in games have greater chances of winning back in the 80s and 90s.
That’s not true today.
Leagues all around the world, including the NBA, are now seemingly agreeing in unison that basketball games should be won by talent and skill, not by brute and strength.
And it might as well be. While the physicality brings excitement to the games, so is torrid shooting, smart defending and the like.
Filipinos can play the game. And that they don’t need to be physical in order to win.
Case in point: I wonder why the Philippines could not solve the Koreans in basketball.
Whenever they met, the Philippines generally field a taller, visibly more physical team.
The Philippines also know the Koreans love to shoot. They knew how to pass the ball around until they locate an open shooter from outside. They set screens, even series of them, just to free up one.
Yet, it is the Filipinos who often end up on the losing side.
My theory is the Koreans are aware of what they can and can’t do. I could never be tired of admiring how their system maximizes their skill set.
We all know they will shoot from the distance. What we often neglect is how they also use their speed to defend.
They maximize their speed and shooting whenever they play. They often are the ones giving their opponents something to think about rather than them worrying how to stop their opponents.
Something the Philippines have yet to fully embrace.
The Philippine brand of basketball seems to be too predictable for the opponents. They knew what Gilas is going to do and they are prepared for it each time.
On the other hand, Gilas seems often surprised by what the other team is going to do, even if they saw it over a hundred times.
Time for a change
Pinoy cagers should learn more ways how to win games aside from being physical and relying on strength.
Don’t get me wrong again. I love what Calvin Abueva brings to the table.
But we should add more to this.
Wasn’t the shooting of Jeff Chan, and Ranidel de Ocampo and the rebounding prowess of an undersized bigman Marc Pingris for Gilas hailed not so long ago?
We were wowed when Terrence Romeo was compared to Kyrie Irving not only because of his shooting but also his handles.
It’s more of these we want to see.
Maybe it’s just a matter of improving one’s skills. Maybe its learning how to improve shooting efficiency, where to take the most effective shot, of prioritizing to make a shot rather than drawing a foul;
Maybe its its learning how to defend while avoiding contact, what to do in a switch, how to limit a bigger opponent, how to defend a smaller opponent.
Most of all, it maybe learning how to play within a system, a system that will allow shooters to become open so they could fire at will and for big men to have more roles rather than just posting up and being parked in the paint.
How about a system that allows the defense to adjust to a shooting team, a running team, or a big team
And more because we kinda know, the Filipinos can play the game they are most passionate about.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS
Banner photo from fiba.basketball