Basketball: A Door To The Doorway
Nov 2, 2021
The game of Basketball is played for many reasons. For fun, for the absolute love of the game, to try to earn a free education; the list goes on and on. Though one thing that is overlooked, is the many experiences it can present in the aspect of travel. Whether that is globally, state to state, or even as small as city to city. There is much to see in the world and the world of basketball. Because of basketball I have been able to visit quite a few amazing places: New York City, Portland, Washington D.C, to name a few and my favorite The Philippines. I was lucky to visit all these places because of the game of basketball.
Tournaments, National Team play, etc. enabled me to be apart of teams competing in these places. The Philippines in March of 2019 specifically was special. It was the 3rd annual NTBC tournament. Up to this point I had only ever been to the Philippines once and that was in 2003. Basketball is a HUGE deal in the Philippines. It is the Nation's sport along with boxing. Since I am half Filipino I was eligible and was chosen to represent the Filipino American National Team in International play against a multitude of other countries. The likes of Australia, Italy, and Canada were in attendance as well. The games were played at the Mall of Asia Arena. A convention center located at the biggest mall in Asia and one of the biggest in the World. My team was staying at a beautiful five-star resort in Makati, located in the Heart of Manilla, the capital of the Philippines.
The feeling of being in the Philippines once again was surreal in itself, but knowing that I was in the situation because of Basketball and everything being paid for including travel, food, shelter, made it that much more surreal. I met an array of people. Some of my teammates consisted of the #2 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft Jalen Green (Houston Rockets), the son of former NBA star Ron Artest, Jeron Artest (UCI Anteaters) and one of the up and coming stars of basketball in the Philippines Eli Ramos (Ateneo Blue Eagles). It was an amazing trip, fans knew who we were and I went up against most of the top high school players in the Philippines. Including the #1 high school player in the country 7 foot 2 Kai Sotto. Who believe it or not was only 16 years old at the time. I even had to guard him at times, and it wasn’t easy whatsoever. We played 4 games and lost in the semi final of the tournament. We lost to a local team representing the Philippines.
The game itself and how it is played was actually a lot different than it is here in the U.S just as it is in most countries. It was most definitely a lot more physical. One example of a different rule of play in the Philippines and FIBA basketball in general is what most call the “FIBA step” Normally when a player has taken more than two steps without the ball being dribbled, a traveling violation is called. Though in 2018, the year before I played in the Philippines, FIBA revised the rule so that one can take a "gather step" before taking the 2 steps. Therefore, it was like a hop step and then two extra steps after thus allowing players to gain more distance and get to the basket a little easier. This, however, is cancelled out by less fouls, more pushing and shoving, as well as overall just more physical play. In all honesty we all weren’t expecting it to be that way.
"Our head coach had warned us, as he had experience playing in the Philippines but it wasn’t until we stepped on the court and played for ourselves that the reality hit us."
The arena we played in was beautiful. It was by far the biggest arena I had ever played in. It was a bit nerve racking, but the excitement outweighed every nerve I had in my body. The hospitality I was shown over there blew me away. Basketball fans from all over the Philippines came to watch the tournament. The people wanted pictures, autographs, etc. from everyone on the team. It was truly a blessing. Playing basketball overseas was the experience of a lifetime. But the most memorable part didn’t have to do with basketball at all. It was spending time with my family that was in the Philippines. That was the best part about it all. I hadn’t seen my family there in over 15 years. It was almost as if I was meeting them in person for the first time, since I was just a baby the last time I had seen them. My mom was born in the Philippines and did not move to the states until she was 12 years old. So getting to see how my mom grew up and where she grew up made me that much more thankful for what I have here today and how I grew up. I came to an even bigger realization that we truly do sometimes take everyday life in America and the little things for granted.
The Philippines isn’t as developed industrially as the U.S but the game of basketball isn’t too far behind. Those realizations and reuniting with family made the trip an amazing experience for me and the experience of a lifetime at that. That opportunity to be reunited with them was given to me through basketball. I wouldn’t have been able to have that opportunity if it weren’t for the game. The trip all together was more than just basketball. It was also an eye opening experience in which I learned a lot from. Through basketball I was able to experience culture, family, fun, basketball, and countless other things.
In conclusion, the game of basketball can present opportunities in ways you wouldn’t expect. That kind of unpredictability can also change your life for the better. Playing overseas was a phenomenal experience. I spent 14 days overall in another county playing the game I loved, it does not get much better than that ! That is why basketball can be a door that leads to a multitude of doors filled with endless possibilities and opportunities. You never know, maybe for you it can also be the door to the doorway.
Adversity: Our Biggest Foe and Greatest Ally
April 7, 2020
Humans have faced adversity since the beginning of time. Adversity is something that we face constantly in our daily life. Our lives are structured and shaped by the decisions we make. From big decisions as to which job we take or where to live, to as small as what to eat for breakfast today. These are all little obstacles that stand in our path to having our lives run smoothly. However, it is how we deal with these small roadblocks that truly determines the outcome.
There are things we can control, and there are some things we cannot.
In this crazy time of COVID-19 I don’t believe anybody could have predicted we’d be in this predicament with what seems the world shutting down. For those that need to hear it: It is not your fault. “Everybody has a plan, until you get punched in the mouth.” -Mike Tyson. That is exactly what happened; we got hit unexpectedly by a huge roadblock. Our everyday lives have been drastically altered, we cannot eat at restaurants, we cannot just go to the beach, we cannot go into work unless deemed essential and seeing friends/loved ones has been severely limited. However, not all hope is lost. Have you ever had a huge obstacle that you’ve overcome and then been extremely proud of yourself for overcoming it? That speech in front of the class that you were scared to give that ended up feeling so rewarding when you got the A after hours of nervousness and preparation.
Changing frame of reference.
Although this is not like 2008 and many of us were very young when that crisis was going down it was an enormous global crisis as well. Being older and seeing how the world works now it amazes me how our parents navigated through that tough time and held it together for us. Reason I am making this point is that even though large and new this virus crisis will be overcome. If you change your frame of thinking to: “How can I navigate this?” instead of “Why is this happening to me?”, you can drastically alter your outcome.
This is taking a proactive approach to your current environment and in doing so will also help uplift others around you. I believe the best way to do this is by having a sense of purpose.
Having a sense of Purpose
Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or for which something exists. When we have a sense of purpose in our lives, circumstances standing in our way of achieving these dreams seem smaller than they are. For example: this one goes out to my players. If your purpose is to be the best player that you can be so you can get a scholarship to save money for your parents, and get yourself a good education to provide for yourself and family; then your drive to practice will be different than a kid just playing to impress people on Instagram. There is a reason to be cautious of someone with immaculate drive and purpose. The hungry dog in a fight should be the one most watched because they have nothing to lose. This is the reason why you might have liked your favorite rapper better before they blew up because they had this hunger and drive to make it to the top. They were so hungry to perfect their craft and get noticed. Then when they made it to the top they became complacent and did not have that same determination.
So I ask you guys this. Know the “why” as to your daily tasks and it will greatly improve your chances of success. When you have purpose to your goal then those 1000 dribbling drills won’t seem that bad. When you imagine the great life you want to provide to your mom and siblings, those 100 phone calls you are making a week at work seems small compared to the happiness it will bring. When you think about how you will come out strong after the quarantine then the few months of isolation will seem small in the grand scheme of things.
Now I am not saying you have to get a sidehustle or you are not being productive. What I am saying is that you can still call your loved ones, you can still workout to feel good about yourself, you can find a new hobby, you can read new books and gather new knowledge, you can watch some old basketball game film to improve your game. There are many things we can do in this new time. Things we have been putting off and take a small pause from our crazy day to day.
Appreciate what you do have and do not dwell too much on the bad. We do not have to be oblivious to all that is going on and not be realistic but if you have a powerful sense of purpose, a solid group of people supporting you and you supporting them, then you will make it out of this crisis a stronger and more resilient individual. Finally, Resilience isn’t a superpower. We are all resilient because we face obstacles and adversity in our daily lives. So think of this time in history as a mere pedestal to your stairway to success. Together we will make it out of this and there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Warriors Offense and the Art of the Screen
I’ll start by saying that I’m not a Warriors fan, in fact I’m a die hard Lakers fan. But the fact is the Warriors are the face of today’s NBA and have defined a new play style and have caused a shift to a more fast paced game, positionless players, as well as an increase in the use of the 3 point shot (although I’ll also say the ‘06 Suns were some of the first proponents of this shoot/offense first mentality).
Never the less, back to the point. If you have ever played organized basketball then you know the importance and effectiveness of screens. I’ve seen countless teams who were more talented than their opposing team but except the opposing team won the game because they were well coached and used screens to their advantage.
A screen is defined as a blocking move by an offensive player, by standing beside or behind a defender, to free a teammate to shoot, receive a pass, or drive in to score.
Why are screens so effective? Screens are so hard to guard against because in order to go around them you must see them coming. If you don’t see a screen coming you will have a sore neck for the rest of the game because that player is going to blindside you hard and it’s going to hurt.
I’ll give a scenario. Say Durant is dribbling at the top of the key and you are defending Curry who is in the corner at the 3 point line. Now you must focus on Durant who’s a huge threat at the a the top of the key; but you can’t lose sight of Curry who is also a deadly shooter. All of a sudden, you take your eyes off Curry for a second and Curry runs quickly across the baseline to the other corner. There are 2 bigs that were previously at the elbows but come down to set an elevator screen. You don’t see this coming you aren’t able to make it over the screens and the shot goes in.
An elevator screen is such an underutilized but strong basketball weapon and is called such because the offensive player lets say for example here Curry first runs towards the doors (his 2 teammates) then as soon as he crosses by them they shut the doors and Curry’s trailing defender is met with a huge wall that they can’t get around.
Even if they try to run around the two offensive players by that time that split second is too long and the shot is already up.
THE NBA IS A LEAGUE FOCUSED ON 1 ON 1 SCENARIOS BOTH OFFENSIVELY AND DEFENSIVELY
When players first enter the NBA they notice a very different vibe and dynamic as opposed to college. In College team basketball is highly talked about; team defense, team chemistry and such. However, although this is still true to a fault in the NBA; the NBA is primarily focused on individual players. The NBA rewards strong individuals and gives players more shine as they are on a brighter stage.
The NBA is an essentially pick and roll league and is a reason why college players who are inexperienced in both utilizing it offensively and guarding against it struggle in their NBA transition. College you can play zone which allows players to sort of rely on their teammates if they mess up or get blown by.
In the NBA there are no zone defenses and is the reason why great 1 on 1 defenders such and Kawhi Leonard both excel and are so coveted. Players who can’t guard other elite player’s individually are quickly exposed and their team can’t help as much because it leaves their men open.
Now the warriors are so effective because they make opposing teams play Team Defense. They make all the defenders have to work and be aware of their offensive players. Most teams can get by with a couple defensive liabilities if those players are good offensive scorers. The problem is that the warriors will set a ton of screens and cause a bunch of mismatches which lead to buckets.
The Greatness of Ray Allen or the Greatness of Screens?
Now I will argue that Ray Allen is a great player and one of the best shooters of all time. However, Ray Allen wasn’t much of a create his own shot type of scorer, the Celtics didn’t just give the ball and see what he would do.
How was he so effective though?
Screens and ball movement.
The Celtics set so many plays and screens that running around picks and chasing Ray Allen over screens was a marathon in itself. It took so much discipline because the defender must be so aware of the other players in order to see or make reads on the upcoming screens because if they get distracted even for a second that 3 is going in.
Screens are frustrating and annoying to play against. This is because you can’t simply sit back and rest and let your guy dribble for half of the shot clock. It requires constant movement and thinking in order to get around them. You must effectively know the other teams offense.
The fact is that a lot of NBA players take plays off on defense both physically and mentally. And teams such as the warriors that use a lot of screens take advantage of that. When teams are tired on defense and of running around chasing players then they are tired on offense. Very few players play better when mad/frustrated.
In addition, once teams and players are fatigued their moves are slower, they get to loose balls less, they settle for jump shots and so on. This leads to less efficient offense.
What do these metrics say? Well from these stats we can see that Warriors score a lot of points off assists which translates to they move the ball a lot. They are #1 in catch and shoot points per game and #2 on Screen assists per game at about 13 scoring baskets a result of a screen that was set. Since a lot of catch and shoot shot come as a result of screens we can correlate both of these stats and say even if all of those 12 assists off screens were 2 pointers (when in fact we know most were 3s) that’s 24 points per game as a result of a screen being set.
In ultimatum I would like to argue that the new NBA is here and its here to stay. Teams such as the Cavs that rely too much on 1 on 1 situations and rely on individual players to make plays for the whole game will not fair well in today’s NBA and is what eventually led to their downfall in this past years finals. When players such as Lebron have to do all the work on offense and dribble a lot then they get fatigued and as result have a harder time playing defense since they expanded so much energy on offense.
The warriors on the other hand; expended so little energy on offense by ball movement and setting screens that when they go back on defense have more energy and as a result lead the league in deflections.
The spurs are also really effective in scoring because they have a great system and set a lot of plays and screens. They play great team basketball which is what makes it tough to defend against them as well. Even though they have a lot of old players Popovich’s IQ and strategy utilizes his players in ways that they can positively lead them to success.
So if coaches don’t step up, set forth faster ball movement, bring back the use of screens, and utilize less 1 on 1 dribbling situations then they will be left in the dust. We already know the result of the last final and if you want to compete then you must adapt. Change is good.