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Hoop Nut One-on-One: Manny Pacquiao’s Debut

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In its 40th season, the Philippine Basketball Association chose to open festivities with a match featuring the league’s newest teams — Blackwater and Kia Motors. The depth chart for either team will hardly elicit admiration, but the main draw that was Manny Pacquiao proved to be effective in drawing the attention of PBA hoop nuts nationwide.

In this inaugural One-on-One post, Rolly Mendoza and I will take a look at the phenomenon of Pacquiao becoming a pro hoopster and his actual debut in the PBA.

ROLLY: As a professional boxer, Manny Pacquiao’s last knockout (TKO) win was versus Miguel Cotto in 2009. He has notched 6 wins and 2 losses since that fight, but with zero knockouts. Some people say he has lost his edge and his desire to dominate the sport. Maybe it’s because he has other things on his mind. Pacquiao has been busy with numerous activities on his plate that have nothing to do with boxing. One of those is to be an active playing coach in the PBA.

Pacquiao’s pursuit to be a relevant part of the PBA materialized during the opening game of Season 40 this past Sunday. PacMan inserted himself into the starting line-up as his Kia Sorento Motors played the Black Water Elite at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. He received oohs and aahs from the near capacity crowd of 52K whenever he handled the ball. However, PacMan played around 7 uneventful minutes where he tallied 2 turnovers, 1 foul, and had zero points. More importantly, his team was down 9 points when Pacquiao got subbed out. To summarize, PacMan was very ineffective as a starting point guard and floor leader.

Consequently, Kia went on to win the game by 14 points as PacMan did not re-enter the game for a second stint. That was an excellent decision because PacMan looked outmatched and somewhat confused while on the court. That was to be expected because Manny has no background in playing organized amateur/collegiate basketball, so it makes a lot of sense that he has difficulty in playing effectively on the court. He also has no experience in coaching teams, so coaching duties went to (rightfully so) assistant coach Glenn Capacio, who managed to insert the right rotation (hello LA Revilla) that handed Kia its inaugural win in the PBA.

As a professional basketball player and head coach, PacMan is currently undefeated. Surely, that unblemished record won’t last that long (their 2nd game is versus Ginebra), and PacMan will probably not even be with his team for the coming weeks due to his upcoming fight this November.

If PacMan will not attend most of the basketball practices and not really coach, what is he doing with Kia serving as a playing coach? Wasn’t it more prudent to have Manny represent their team as a team governor or team manager or even an assistant coach if the ploy was simply to sell tickets, merchandise, and garner fan support?

As a 35-year old rookie who still dabbles in professional boxing (among other endeavors), why waste a roster spot on him when a more talented and younger ball player would have been the wiser choice (by a mile)? Fast-forward to when imports are allowed to play in other conferences — will Manny take away a roster spot from an active local player to make room for the playing coach and the import? Heck, will an import even take Manny seriously if he decides to offer coaching tips or instructions?

What happens when Manny is busy doing his other activities and not with the team, thus not playing nor coaching? Will people still want to watch Kia? The answer is probably N-O. I get it that maybe Manny wants another challenge in his life or maybe he actually wants to be a decent professional baller. That’s fine and well but he needs to practice and train with his team 100% of the time if he has any hopes of improving and becoming a serviceable player.

This was a good marketing ploy/idea by Kia at the beginning. Key word: WAS, past tense. It might be a good time to let PacMan leave/resign while things are positive for Kia. It would look much, much worse when Kia starts losing games like any other expansion team and when Manny becomes a total non-factor or a no-show.

Sure, players are motivated right now because PacMan is a novelty during PBA games, but how long can that last especially if Manny is not really around? Hopefully, Kia and Manny won’t wait that long. Retire at the top, Manny. You have nothing else to prove in the PBA.

ENZO: There’s a HUGE part of me that totally agrees with Rolly. Were we surprised with Pacquiao’s less-than-stellar 7 minutes of basketball mediocrity? Nope. Were we relieved that, after getting subbed, he was never sent back in? Sure. Were we shocked when he said that he’d miss a ton of games to box and then MAYBE attend to his duties in the Philippine Congress? Hell no. This is Manny Pacquiao. I mean no disrespect, but if we were brutally objective, this guy pretty much half-asses all his endeavors NOT named boxing.

He’s certainly a living legend in the ring. He’s one of the best ever. His fights eradicate Metro Manila traffic. He’s a national (global actually) sports icon. Yada yada yada.

Let him be all that.

But in Congress? His attendance rate is just 55%, which is fifth-worst among 290 members of the House. And NOW he picks a grand time to take on something superbly time-consuming — being a PROFESSIONAL basketball player at the sport’s highest level in the country.

I mean, we have guys who went through the system, toiled through the youth, collegiate, semi-pro, and pro levels of Philippine basketball. These guys practice practically every day. They play anywhere form one to three games a week for three conferences that stretch out from October to July the following year. It’s the longest basketball calendar in the world.

And PacMan comes waltzing in willy-nilly to miss practices, start in his team’s debut game, play 7 minutes, and then have the audacity to say he’s gonna miss a ton of the next games for his other commitments.

I don’t want to say it’s a mockery (but it is). I’ll just describe it as, oh how can we put this diplomatically, UNPROFESSIONAL.

We have a guy who is really taking not one, but two team spots (one player spot and the head coach spot) and is virtually exempt from all the conventions and accountabilities of being a professional athlete.

I hate having to describe one of our modern national heroes as nothing more than novelty and the PBA’s version of “click bait,” but the fact of the matter is, as we’ve all known since he announced his eligibility for the PBA Draft, he is really more of a distraction than an attraction.

Unlike my buddy Rolly, however, I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for PacMan to jump ship immediately. I mean, let him suffer through the consequences of being in the PBA and let his team swallow its pride on an nightly basis for having the champ on its roster. Wouldn’t it be a laugh if, by some crazy instance, Kia advances to the next round and then gets eliminated just when Manny decides he wants to play again? It’ll be bad for the sport, but hella great for entertainment’s sake.

Kia made the unprecedented and infamous choice of having a pro boxer cum Congressman on its team. Let the team face the consequences, and then have them axe Pacquiao before the next conference begins.

C’mon, Kia and Manny. You had your pro debut. You had your undeserved shot. I think it’s high time you all took this pro basketball thing seriously, right?

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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Jason Brickman flirts with triple-double as Mono holds off Singapore

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After playing his worst game of the season last Sunday against Tanduay Alab Pilipinas, Jason Brickman bounced back, steering the Mono Vampire to a 91-88 road victory over the Singapore Slingers, Friday evening at the OCBC Arena.

The 26-year-old, who finished with just seven points and three assists in their 71-104 loss to Alab, tallied 10 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists. The league-leader in assists did not take a break, playing all 40 minutes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the Thailand-based squad.

Mono led by as much as 22 points, 60-48, with 7:46 left, 16 points entering the final frame. A furious fourth quarter rally by Singapore sliced the lead, turning the game into a single-possession contest with a minute left. The steady hands of Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary from the stripe fended off Singapore.

Brickman’s compatriot Paul Zamar chipped in 13 markers for Mono.

Since torching Alab last January 3, Filipino-Canadian AJ Mandani has been on a slump, going just 3-for-11 from the field for nine points.

Mono’s World Imports Samuel Deguara and Mike Singletary both finished with 26 points with the former hauling down 18 rebounds. For Singapore, Xavier Alexander paced the Slingers with 29 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.

With the win, the Vampire kept solo third with a 7-4 slate. On the other hand, the Slingers dropped its second straight game since winning against Alab, falling to 5-6.

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