The words that Choco Mucho Flying Titans Coach Oliver Almadro barks to his girls in the current 2019 Premier Volleyball League Open Conference: “Acknowledge what we can do” could be appropriately apply to the recent Gilas struggles in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
It is such a nice advise that the players, coaches, and stakeholders of Philippine basketball might want to consider in their efforts to move forward and reverse these recent misfortunes.
Taking into consideration the things that they want and can do in a basketball-loving environment is a very good start in developing a good national basketball program.
Filipinos loved to copy the NBA as evidenced by the unwavering following of the PBA where NBA rules are basically mirrored.
Being a commercial league, the decision to adapt NBA rules would naturally be a business decision. Nobody loves to watch a team pass the ball around and shot three point shots. Even Americans admit that watching the San Antonio Spurs during their championship runs were kinda boring.
They prefer shows that feature athletic, high flyers like Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant or giants like Shaquille O’neal and Hakeen Olajuwon, going one-on-one and finishing with flair. It is in fact a major highlight of Jordan’s career that the 3-second defensive rule was instituted because of his excessive use of the one-on-one game.
This resulted in small Pinoys loving to play isolation as the illegal defense was also adapted in the PBA, the country’s premier league, to attract the local audience, when everyone else in the region is playing zone to win international tournaments.
They fell in love with making a situation that would create a mismatch for somebody to operate in the paint on a one-on-one play.
This trait may work when Filipinos are going up against each other in the PBA which the audience fell in love with. It was proven it couldn’t work in the international stage because Filipinos are simply outmatched in size and speed.
Filipinos will always find trouble because, unlike the Americans, they have less physical built and athleticism.
This love for iso-ball developed a bad habit for Filipinos that prevented them from having success outside of the Philippines.
The Protected list
It is puzzling to think that undersized centers Ramon Fernandez, Abet Guidaben, Manny Victorino, and Elpidio Villamin (they just around 6’6”, the same height of Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller who played guards in the NBA during that era) were once prohibited to be signed on the same PBA team because that team would dominate the league.
All four do not constantly dunk during a game nor constantly make three point shots. They do not even make a concentrated effort just to attempt these kind of shots. Yet any combination of them is supposed to dominate the entire PBA.
It was false gold as they got stuck with making premium on their height rather than their skill. Before any of you goes off on this take, dunking and the three point shot wasn’t demanded from PBA centers and professional athletes are prohibited from participating in the Olympics during their time so it is of no point for them to develop these skills.
But if it were, could you see Fernandez making it to the NBA had he develop an outside shooting skill that could rival that of Robert Jaworski?
He probably could have a shot. Had he developed a decent three point shot to go along with his passing skills and agility, Fernandez would have been the perfect candidate to be the first Filipino to make it in the NBA as a swingman.
Just see how wide the gap is when performances of premier players in the PBA and in the Asian Games are put side-by-side. Alvin Patrimonio, a four-time PBA MVP who saw action in international tournaments when professional cagers were allowed to see action, was dominant in the local league but could not get his dominance going in international competitions. It is because his game was mainly predicated on the iso-ball and he was too small when going against the foreigners
The Korea, China dilemma
This bad habit became a problem for the Philippine team when competing internationally through the 90s and 2000s.
To win a tournament, the Philippines have always to go through China and/or South Korea and this habit has always reeled the team. Game planning and preparation is always hard for both with this mentality because of their different physical traits and skill set.
The Philippines was always too slow whenever it faces a less physically built but swift, sweet-shooting South Koreans, especially there was no illegal defense.
On the other hand, the Philippines could not impose their dominance using the iso-ball on the Chinese because while they are less agile than the Koreans, they are taller and heftier.
So when the Australians, Iranians, and Kiwis, who are taller and knew how to shoot from a distance, came along, the Philippines was relegated to the sidelines.
This is something really to ponder on.
Coach Yeng Guiao is right. If the Philippines is contented to just trade their best basketball in the PBA, the iso-ball is an alright weapon. But if the nation is thinking participation in the World Cup and Olympics; and Filipino players dare to earn more financially in foreign leagues like the NBA or the Chinese Basketball Association, this iso-ball mentality has to go or change.
Even June Mar Fajardo, the most dominant local force in the paint the PBA has seen and proven to be still effective against some of the biggest players in the international tournaments, said he is interested in improving his game by adapting some traits of Serbian Nikola Jokic who plays the European style.
By: Armando M. Bolislis