When news first broke-out that several high profile NBA players were coming over to play at the Araneta Coliseum, Kobe Bryant was still in the middle of his Nike Tour and absolutely non-committal (even quoted as to not receiving any invite or proposal from local organizers yet). So naturally, this news was met with a standard Filipino “WEH” or in American English, “Get the fuck out of here!”
Bryant left to continue his tour, but the “impossible” just wouldn’t die down. Then came an FB message from Mr. Jaemark Tordecilla (the man behind FireQuinito.com who now no longer posts rants on his blog since he is pretty much occupied with his head gig at Akyson TV Sports) that yes, the news was legit. Chot Reyes later posted it on Twitter, and names such as Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant were starting to be thrown around.
Right then and there, everyone was just all giddy. Having those legit NBA All Stars over, just doing interviews, posing for fans and signing autographs would’ve been enough, but to actually see them PLAY as an All Star team? Again, GTFOH!
And we’re not talking about any All Star team, but an actual, “in their primes” core of Team USA. Durant and Rose came from the “B-Team” while Paul and Bryant were from the “Redeem Team.” Wow. Just wow. Add rising stars James “Fear the Beard” Harden, Rookie of the Year awardee Tyreke Evans, promising rookie Derrick Williams and high flying, seven foot specimen JaVale McGee and just about every Filipino basketball fan had their most fulfilling, nerdgasmic wet dream ever.
The Coliseum was packed right from the get go, with the REAL fans at the General Admission and Upper Box B coming in about an hour or two early while the snot-nosed rich kids at the lower seats came in at Filipino time.
Mo Twister and Patricia Bermudez Hizon tried to get the crowd into it, but Mo was being hated on so much by the Araneta throng you’d think he stabbed Kobe Bryant in the ass or something.
Derrick Rose and JaVale McGee came out early for shoot-around, with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player drawing a massive M-V-P chant. McGee wasn’t left out of all the fun when he started showing some great handles, basic big man moves and before you know it, some early slams that rocked the Coliseum—hey, it’s been a long time since we’ve last seen an athletic seven footer. Closest we have is Japeth Aguilar, and the kid’s shooting threes nowadays than dunking on fools.
After a few minutes, everyone came out (except Kobe “brittle knees” Bryant) and the coliseum was rocking. PBA players and former Ateneo teammates JC Intal and Rabeh Al Hussaini (who drew semi-Mo Twister level boos) had their pictures taken with Rose which drew some cheers/jeers of obvious envy.
Prior to the game, the man who made the whole event possible, Mr. Manny V. Pangilinan of Smart/Meralco/Maynilad/Pacific Water/ etc./etc./etc. fame came out with the Senior George Araneta to officially “open” the newly named “SMART Araneta Coliseum (which is great, because the Big Dome is in dire need of a facelift after all these years—and you just know that MVP will always deliver) with the help of the NBA and PBA All Stars plus some Binibining Pilipinas beauties (which were being checked out by James Harden—we all saw you! Lol.).
The coliseum atmosphere was crazy, specially when the game was about to start and the opening line-ups were announced. Mark Caguioa, Jason Castro, Sonny Thoss, Arwind Santos and James Yap VERSUS Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, JaVale McGee, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
Oh. Hell. Yeah.
The two teams traded shots, with Arwind Santos carrying the PBA while the NBA All Stars were simply making shots from all over. Our team even enjoyed a brief lead at one point (four I think), before the NBA-ers called a timeout to get stuff sorted out and decided to take the game a little bit more seriously.
Right then and there, the minute you saw Kobe Bryant brushing off a friendly high five from James Yap and Kevin Durant ignoring Arwind Santos, it was over.
To our team’s credit, Arwind Santos was doing his best “I can play in the NBA” performance before coach Chot Reyes sat him down. Jason Castro stripped Chris Paul TWICE.
One on a risky behind-the-back dribble by Paul who probably mistook Castro for a slow-footed Asian, and two, on a CLEAN one-on-one strip job.
Other than those two, no one else showed up.
Mark Caguioa and Sol Mercado tried to engage Rose and Paul in a crossover dribbling exhibition but failed (Paul has the best handles I’ve seen in my life, dude has the ball on a string like a yoyo at all times), Yap couldn’t bury a bucket to save his life, and well, Gary David was the closest thing we have to someone who can hang with the NBA-ers scoring wise, but is just too short.
For the NBA selection:
McGee: dunks galore. Blocked shots like this was an NBA playoff game (not that he’s played in one yet). Nothing came easy for the locals.
Rose: a few highlight drives, maybe three actually. Not his fault, his shot is mad broken (he missed THREE free throws in WARM UP. BRICKED them actually like he had a kink in his shoulder). Can’t blame him for the so-so performance, this isn’t Chicago therefore he couldn’t play his usual one-on-five game.
Bryant: the guy just had some radical surgery/operation done on his ailing knee right? But he brought it. He knew that the fans wanted to see him dunk, and he did. He even gave us a preview of his trademark, “back, back, back, fake left, fake right, pull-up, fade away, swish” shot.
Durant: the man makes shooting threes easy. And yes, he’s 6”9, but he was pulling up from THIRTY THREE feet.
Paul: insane handles. Very articulate on the mic too.
Derek Fisher: he really does shoot like a shot-put-er. Reminiscent of maybe a left-handed Danny Seigle (only his release is faster, Seigle tried to shoot in the game but was blocked the f out)
Derrick Williams: he has the size of an NBA small forward. Hopefully the young rookie will have a great season, he can shoot, pass and defend. Like a slower yet more polished Andre Iguoadala.
James Harden: this exhibition’s MVP. He was scoring, passing, dunking and putting on an insane showcase. If anything, Oklahoma needs to give this guy minutes. Yes, he’ll take the ball away from Durant and Russel Westbrook, but this cat can play.
Tyreke Evans: he looked like he’s a step slower than most of his NBA teammates, but his handles are CRAZY good, even dropping Arwind Santos on his ass in the second half. If he ever finds his groove back, he’s going to be the next big time SG/PG in the West.
Scenes/plays/ match-ups that I enjoyed:
Sol Mercado VS Derrick Rose: Mercado, as much as he wants to say that he is a point guard and his idols are Chris Paul and Deron Williams, is more of a Rose clone—specially now that he’s carrying the scoring load for Meralco.
Arwind Santos VS Kobe Bryant: arguably the Philippines’ best homegrown talent, being backed by the World’s Best—and not giving an inch. Not his fault that KB24 has the illest fade away this side of Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Jordan.
Marc Pingris VS Kobe Bryant: the man tried, and even got on Bryant’s nerves somewhat. But it’s like that scene from Slam Dunk where Rukawa gave Sakuragi an ass whooping during practice. No match.
L.A. Tenorio VS Chris Paul: CP3 played in the post, made a big man spin, and it was over for Tenorio a.k.a. Ronnie Magsanoc II.
JaVale McGee VS the Araneta Coliseum rim: so much anger. So much hate. What a beauty.
All in all, it was a great experience for everyone who was there live and even for folks watching at home (heard that the live feed was having some problems, which made my watching it live even sweeter. Lol.)
THANK YOU MVP! Si Dwyane Wade at LeBron James naman!