Saturday, June 27, 2009

PBA rule threatens to ruin game

I was enjoying the semifinal game between the San Miguel Beermen and the Burger King Whoppers last Sunday. I started watching in the second quarter, with the Beermen down by 16 points. San Miguel was able to overcome this later in the game and post their own big lead, before blowing that and head into two overtime periods before pulling off a 120-119 win. Sounds like a pretty good game for the fans.

It was not. Not because of a bad call by a referee. For once, it was because the refs made the right call - a correct call on what is plainly a bad rule.

In the second quarter, Burger King's Eric Rodriguez took a three pointer, and SMB's Mick Pennisi stepped out to challenge. Rodriguez fell on Pennisi's foot, in what was could have been ugly situation. It wasn't. Rodriguez fell on the foot stumbled and walked off, unharmed.

What happened afterwards? Ugly.

The referees call a flagrant-2 foul on Mick Pennisi, which warrants an automatic ejection. Mick was in disbelief by the call. I wasn't, because I've seen this play out before.

I remember seeing this for the first time. It was also a playoff game, and coincidentally, also San Miguel. In a series against Ginebra, Olsen Racela was ejected for the very same thing, but his came in the first quarter when he challenged Paul Artadi's shot. For one act that is legal in all basketball leagues except, apparently, ours here in the Philippines, he was ejected for closing out on a shooter.

If I remember correctly, it happened to Artadi a couple of days later as well.

The commentators are quick to point out: that's the rule we have in place. Once a shooter's foot lands on a defender's, the defender is given an automatic flagrant-2 and thrown out of the game.

Never mind that the definition of a flagrant is excessive and unnecessary contact. Never mind things like intent to harm or hey, the fact that closing out the shooter is exactly what you should be doing in that situation. Contact on the foot? Flagrant-2. Ejection. AUTOMATIC. No questions asked.

That is the stupidest rule I have ever encountered.

I don't contest the fact that it's a potentially dangerous play. But how about considering the fact that there is absolutely no one in the entire world who can run precise enough to ensure 100% that there will be zero contact with the shooter's foot?

Is it a bad play? Yes. Call it a foul. But there is no need for a flagrant, especially one that is automatic, no questions asked.

Call it a foul. That is what those are for.

Keep calling it flagrant-2? Coaches are eventually going to tell their players not to close out hard on shooters, lest they run the risk of being ejected.

Our players get used to not closing out hard on shooters. When they have the ball, they get used to getting wide open shots because no one rotates hard. What happens when we play international basketball, where closing hard is not only legal, but encouraged? Yeah, they kill us on threes because Filipinos don't rotate. And we miss our threes because guys are suddenly up in our faces, when hey, that was illegal back home.

We get our asses handed to us. Because of one stupid rule that was implemented without more consultation first. There's a reason why this rule doesn't exist in other leagues.

Stupid rules can ruin a game.


RP NCAA Season 85 Storylines

With the NCAA opening just around the corner, let's take a look at the top storylines for the coming season:

1 Call of Duty

A tour of duty with one's national team can have both positive and negative effects. In the NBA, players have been known to break down late in the season after playing for their national team the previous summer. Many members of the Redeem Team bucked this trend, though, and in fact, posted significant improvement in their games, particularly on the defensive end.

This year, two NCAA players have been actively involved in the Smart Gilas National Team program. It will be interesting to see what effect this will have on RJ Jazul and Rey Guevarra, both members of the Letran Knights. If they show marked development, this could make the Rajko Toroman-coached team attractive for many young players.

2 End of the Drought

The JRU Heavy Bombers currently hold the longest active title drought in the NCAA - 36 years without a championship. After coming within one game of winning it all last year, the Bombers are returning with their core intact.

Led by likely MVP candidate JR Sena, and solid pieces in John Wilson, Marc Cagoco, Marvin Hayes and John Njei, JRU is a heavy favorite to win the 2009 NCAA championship. This batch of Bombers looks promising, but it could very well end up just another heartache, something their fans are used to by now.

3 Foreign Player Arms Race

Sam Ekwe changed the NCAA game but are we seeing the next step in the recruitment wars? San Beda has found its replacement for Ekwe in 6'7" American recruit Sudan Daniel. By most accounts, it seems Daniel is more polished than his predecessor in terms of on-court skills. Meanwhile, championship rival JRU has brought in their own 6'7" recruit, Cameroonian Etame Joe.

This could be the beginning of recruitment of foreign players purely for basketball purposes. Remember, Ekwe was here as a missionary/student before he was recruited to the Red Lions team. These guys may have been brought here specifically to play on the team. That line of thinking could certainly change the college game.

4 The Audition

Before this season, the NCAA was seeking a school that could replace the departed PCU Dolphins as the 8th team in the league. They weren't able to find one that fit their requirements in time, so they brought in three of the applicants as guest teams instead.

For Emilio Aguinaldo College, Arellano University and the Pampanga-based Angeles University Foundation, this could very well be their audition pieces in front of the entire NCAA body. The team that can be most competitive, while not being abrasive to any of the other schools, will most likely be inducted as a member into the NCAA. Aside from the championship race, this could be the most compelling race in the tournament. Imagine a late-season matchup between two of these applicant teams, both playing for a spot in the league - that could be the most important game in each of these schools' history.

5 At A Loss

Three-time defending champions San Beda will be bringing in a formidable lineup starring Daniel, Bam Gamalinda, Borgie Hermida, Chico Tirona, JR Taganas, Dave Marcelo and Jake Pascual. While this is a very deep team that can compete with any in the league there are glaring holes in the roster.

Particularly, the names Ekwe, Escobal and Menor.

These three have been there for every championship, and the Red Lions suddenly find themselves without any. Skipper Pong Escobal is in the pros, Ekwe has finished eligibility and Ogie Menor has decided to forego his final year reportedly due to pressure from team officials for him to join the national team; a decision he was not comfortable with. The team remains strong, but can they buck the loss of these three who delivered championship glory after 28 years without a title?