Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The NBA on Christmas: By the Numbers

Here are some numbers to watch from this season's slate of Christmas Day games

338. LeBron James is third all-time in points scored during Christmas. Only Kobe Bryant (395) and Oscar Robertson (377) have scored more.

140. That is the number of NBA Cares' Season of Giving events that have been conducted this season so far, serving over 130,000 meals and distributing over ten thousand gifts. Among those activities is the "12 Days of Khrismas" that Khris Middleton conducted in Milwaukee.

60. That is the scoring record for a Christmas Day game, which Bernard King accomplished 35 years ago.

31. That is the number of years that passed before Philadelphia will host a Christmas Day game, a streak that will end this year against the Milwaukee Bucks.

30. That is the number of international players that are currently on the rosters of the teams participating in the Christmas Day games, covering seventeen countries.

28. The number of All-Stars currently on the rosters of the teams participating in the Christmas Day games. Voting for the All-Star Game starters commences at midnight, Manila time, by the way.

25. Scottie Pippen led the Chicago Bulls to a 107-104 overtime victory over the New York Knicks on this day 25 years ago, putting up 36 points, sixteen rebounds, and five steals.

23. The number of wins on this day by the Los Angeles Lakers, which is the most in the league.

15. The number of appearances in Christmas Day games for Doc Rivers, broken down into four as a player and eleven as a head coach.

14. If he plays against the Los Angeles Clippers, LeBron James will move into solo second in games played during Christmas. Only Kobe Bryant (16) has played more during that day.

12. Twelve straight seasons that the NBA has opted for a quintuple-header for their holiday showcase.

10. If James can help tow the Los Angeles Lakers to a victory over the Clippers, he would match Dwyane Wade's record of ten Christmas Day victories.

6. That is the number of players who have pulled off a triple-double on this day: Robertson (1960, 1961, 1963, 1967), John Havlicek (1967), Billy Cunningham (1970), James (2010), Russell Westbrook (2013), and Draymond Green (2017).

4. The number of Kia NBA Most Valuable Players playing on this day: James Harden, Westbrook, James, and its latest winner, Giannis Antentokounmpo

3. The number of 2019 NBA All-Stars playing their first Christmas Day Game: Nikola Jokic, Kyle Lowry, and Kemba Walker

1. For its US broadcast, ESPN tweaked its pregame coverage this season, with this new set-up making their first Christmas. Before the Bucks-Sixers game, NBA Countdown hosted by Maria Taylor with Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, and Adrian Wojnarowski will take place. The Jump hosted by Rachel Nichols with Paul Pierce and Scottie Pippen will have a 30-minute pregame show before the start of the Clippers-Lakers game. Occurring simultaneously as The Jump is Hoop Streams, which is hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth with Kendrick Perkins and Amin El-Hassan and will be shown on ESPN's digital platforms. All three shows will also be on the ESPN app.

NBA set for Christmas extravaganza

NBA on Christmas

The NBA is once again set to be the front and center of sporting action on Christmas Day, with the 72nd edition sporting a five-game special that will last the whole day, with the whole world watching, as fans in 215 countries and 46 languages will have the opportunity to see some of the best and brightest show their skills on the basketball court.

In the Philippines, fans will have the chance to watch one of them on local television, with the Clippers vs Lakers matchup on CNN Philippines at 9am LIVE. Also, the Celtics vs Raptors matchup will be shown on the social media platforms of NBA Philippines live at 1am. For League Pass subscribers, all games are accessible to be watched from whatever device you choose to watch it on.

What can we watch from each of the games scheduled?

Celtics at Raptors
  • This is the second game the Raptors have played on the holiday and the first at home.
  • A lot of the players on both sides will be making their Christmas debuts, including Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam for Toronto, and Kemba Walker for Boston.
  • Both teams have overcome the departure of their respective leading scorers with Siakam and Jayson Tatum making their case to be potential All-Stars.
  • Expect a defensive battle, with both teams being ranked in the top 5 in Defensive Rating.
Bucks at Sixers

  • This is the first Christmas game in Philadelphia since 1988.
  • Both head coaches (Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown) are from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree, having served as Spurs assistants before they were hired to take over head coaching duties elsewhere.
  • Tobias Harris was the 19th overall draft pick by the Bucks in 2011. He's now fresh from signing a long-term deal with the Sixers.
  • Kyle Korver was the 51st overall draft pick by the Sixers in 2003. He's now with the Bucks, reunited with Budenholzer who coached him with the Atlanta Hawks earlier this decade. The Creighton alum is also one of three remaining players from that fabled draft class still in the league, alongside LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo averaged 43-15.7-7.7 in his three regular-season meetings against Milwaukee. The Greek Freak is looking to raise to ante after becoming the Most Valuable Player last season, averaging 31 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.2 blocks, and shooting 56.6% from the field (34.2% from three-point range) so far.
  • Joel Embiid contributed a 34-13-13 triple-double against the Bucks last season, and he is currently putting up 23 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.2 assists, .9 steals, and 1.4 blocks so far for the Sixers, who are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Rockets at Warriors
  • They have met in the postseason in four of the last five seasons, but this is the first time they have met at Christmas.
  • James Harden is averaging 38.6 points so far this season and is on pace to be the third-highest scoring average in NBA history.
  • Draymond Green (2017) and Russell Westbrook (2013) have netted triple-doubles during Christmas, joining four others who have done the feat on that particular day. In what would be his tenth Christmas Day game, Westbrook has a chance to move up the all-time assists charts during the holiday, as four assists would move him past Dwyane Wade (80) for fourth place and nine assists would move him past Kobe Bryant (85) for third place.
  • Only one player on the NBA active roster has a birthday on Christmas: Eric Gordon. The former Sixth Man of the Year winner will be sidelined due to a knee injury, though.
  • Golden State may have struggled this season due to the absence of their key cogs that brought them championships, but a couple have stepped in to help try to fill the large hole: D'Angelo Russell was able to put up 52 points in a game last month, while Eric Paschall has been a positive surprise this season. The Villanova alum and the 41st pick in this season's NBA Draft is putting up 15.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in just under 50% shooting for the Warriors.
Clippers at Lakers
  • The Clippers are currently 24-5 against their fellow Staples Center tenants since the 2012-13 season, including their 112-102 win on Opening Night.
  • The Lakers are a Christmas Day staple. They have been playing on this day for the last 21 seasons., including this upcoming one. They have 23 wins on this day, which is the most amongst any team.
  • LeBron James is the league leader in assists at 10.6 per game. He and Anthony Davis are currently questionable to play due to their respective injury knocks (muscle strain in rib for LeBron, right knee for AD).
  • James is at the cusp of Christmas Day history if he plays. It would be his 14th Christmas Day game (only Kobe Bryant has more with 16), winning nine of those (only Dwyane Wade has more with ten). He will need to score forty points to move past Oscar Robertson for second place all-time in scoring during Christmas. He would also move past Oscar in field goals made if he makes eight buckets.
  • The Clippers will be coming into the game without any injury issues. They are coming off a loss against the Oklahoma City Thunder where both Kawhi Leonard and Patrick Beverley sat out.
  • Players in this game who have played for both the Lakers and Clippers: Avery Bradley and Jared Dudley for the Lakers and Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac for the Clippers.
Pelicans at Nuggets

  • This is the first Christmas game in Denver since 1994.
  • Even with their struggles, one of New Orleans' eight wins this season came against the Nuggets, a 122-107 Halloween blowout.
  • Along with Westbrook, JJ Redick has played in nine Christmas Day games. Only LeBron James (13) and Udonis Haslem (10) have played in more such games among active players.
  • The Nuggets have a template to which the Pelicans emulate their future. Denver's core is predominantly homegrown, with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray coming through the draft, with veterans like Will Barton and Paul Millsap providing leadership. The Pelicans have a young core centered on this season's top overall draft pick Zion Williamson, alongside the youngsters that comprised the Anthony Davis trade in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart.

Paras bros, Chooks-to-Go help out in relief operations in Davao

The siblings Paras led a Chooks-to-Go contingent that went to Davao del Sur.

Two days before Christmas brothers Kobe and Andre Paras, together with Chooks-to-Go, made sure to give back to the victims of the earthquake that struck Davao Del Sur last December 15.

The almost 200 families relocated to the basketball courts of Barangay Lower Limonso in Padada were given a pleasant surprise as the Paras brothers helped out in the relief operations.

"Despite the holidays, Kobe, Andre, and the entire Davao Business Center of Bounty immediately said yes when I told them about this surprise. They really wanted to help out our brothers and sisters in need," said Mascariñas.

"It’s sad to know na very recent ang nangyari pero halos nakalimutan na ng mga tao like nothing happened," lamented Andre. "They need our help that’s why when I heard Chooks is going, I took the opportunity. I really wanna be here.

"Kahit mabawasan lang ang stress nila at mapangiti namin sila even for a day malaking bagay na yun."

Each family was given groceries, sleeping bags, bottles of mineral water, and goodies for the kids. Also, they were given warm meals for the day.

Besides this, Mike Swift also hosted some parlor games, including a Chooks-to-Go chicken eating contest.

"I'm just glad we were able to make them smile despite everything that has happened to them," said Kobe. "They deserve to have a Merry Christmas."

With this, Kobe is dedicating all his games next season to them.

"What they are going through right now is hard. Knowing their stories inspires us to do more," admitted Kobe, who is entering his second year with the UP Fighting Maroons.

"For every game, I will play next season, I will always have them in my mind and in my heart."

Monday, December 23, 2019

Chooks-to-Go establishes MPBL partnership

MPBL x Chooks-to-Go
In the midst of the impending conclusion of the 30th SEA Games, Chooks-to-Go entered into a long-term partnership with the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, a boost to the latter's stature.

The agreement was made exactly a week before league owner Manny Pacquiao's 41st birthday and was formalized during a gathering at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong.

Bounty Agro Venures Inc. (BAVI) President Ronald Mascariñas shares, "Dahil ang MPBL ang tunay na tahanan ng mga Manok ng Bayan, we are committed to sponsor this league for five years."

The partnership is the latest in Chooks-to-Go's initiatives in its goal of helping promote nationalism through sports in the last three years.

Mascariñas says, "It's not just me and Senator Manny, it's all of us. We hope that with this partnership, we will not just spread the values taught by basketball. Through winning or losing, we hope that each and every one of us promotes fair play through competition and, of course, love of country."

From the perspective of the MPBL, this is the latest achievement in its vision of providing avenues for a Filipino basketball player to showcase his talent.

Pacquiao shares, "This is just the beginning of a strong and long partnership between the MPBL and Chooks-to-Go. We all know that Chooks-to-Go has been helping in sports development. Helping us is their way of helping a very successful business venture for me." He adds, "As the father of the MPBL, I'm very happy that Chooks-to-Go has recognized the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League as a solid league with a bright future ahead of it. It is integral in MPBL's vision to be the league for every Filipino. And with you, we will be able to help more Filipinos."

Also gracing the partnership unveiling are Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas director of operations Butch Antonio, FIBA Legal Commission chairman, Aga Francisco, BAVI Chairman Tennyson Chen, MPBL Governor and 3rd District of Pampanga Representative Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales, Jr., Chooks Pilipinas 3x3 league commissioner Eric Altamirano, and former national team head coach Chot Reyes

Altamirano shares, "Having Chooks-to-Go and the MPBL together and combining their resources and talents will help the league be the best, if not the biggest league. It will also help the Filipino athlete showcase their talents and pursue a better life."

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Nowhere to Go But UP book highlights UP Men's Basketball ascent

Coming soon to a bookstore near you
Basketball fans can have an inside look at the ascent of the University of the Philippines men's basketball real soon, when the Nowhere to go but UP Foundation had their book launch for Nowhere to Go But UP: How a Basketball Team Inspired a Nation earlier this month at the UP Executive House inside the Diliman campus in Quezon City.

Attended by current and former players, coaches, team managers, sponsors, partners, volunteers, notable alumni, UP officials, and fans, which all played a role in forming the narrative of the men's basketball program as it emerged from being a cellar-dweller in previous seasons to breaking through and making the finals in 2018.

Tasked to serve as its author, Naveen K. Ganglani penned this piece through the perspective of the founders of the NTGBUP Foundation, a group of UP alumni that decided to join forces to help shepherd the UP sports out of the dark ages, doing so mainly with the men's basketball program.

Among those who spoke at the program is Renan B. Dalisay, who shared the birthing pains of NTGBUP and its growth to where it currently is now. He chronicled how the UP Men's Basketball program managed to emerge from the bottom to be at the cusp of a championship, a ride made possible thanks to the entry of recruits, partners, supporters, and improvements in the coaching staff and training.

Dalisay says, "It was purely because of my desire to give back to the University of the Philippines that made me commit into fulfilling this dream—a dream that we share with every Isko and Iska out there— to watch our basketball team play in an arena with a sea of maroon. But it doesn’t stop there. The best is yet to come."

As the author, Ganglani shares, "It has always been my dream to write a book. As a sports writer and reporter, writing the incredible story of the UP Fighting Maroons is not just an honor but also a dream come true. I can not thank the Nowhere to Go But UP foundation enough for giving me the chance to write one of the most inspiring stories I have ever encountered in the world of sports."

The book will be available in bookstores and at the NTGBUP Facebook page at PhP 800.

Ceres' Asian path revealed

Your PFL champions
Earlier this month, the path for current Filipino football champions Ceres-Negros FC to compete in continental play was formally established, with the draws for both the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

The road to the AFC Champions League.

In AFCCL play, the Busmen will be hosting Burmese rivals Shan United in the first round of preliminary play on January 14. Win that and a matchup against Thai FA Cup champions Port FC looms on January 21. The winner of that particular matchup will then head to Japan to face J-League runners-up FC Tokyo on January 28 for the right to participate in Group Stage play.

The survivor for this particular preliminary bracket has been slotted to Group F, where Korean side Ulsan Hyundai, Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, and Aussie squad Perth Glory await.

The known road for the Busmen

If Ceres is unable to survive the gauntlet in the AFC Champions League prelims, they already have a guaranteed slot in the AFC Cup Group Stage, where they were drawn into Group G alongside Vietnamese side Than Quang Ninh and Indonesian champions Bali United, provided they miss out on AFC CL Group Stage play.

Completing Group G is the winner of the ASEAN Zone playoff between Master 7 FC of Laos against Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC of Cambodia. The two are set to square off in a two-leg playoff in January.

Ceres-Negros FC has been the standard-bearer for Philippine club football in recent years, having qualified for continental play in the past six years. They secured the inaugural ASEAN Zone title in the 2017 AFC Cup, while managing to reach the final round of qualification for the 2018 AFC Champions League.

History in AFC Competitions (Ceres-Negros FC)

2015 Playoff Round
2016 Round of 16 (old format)
2017 ASEAN Zonal Champions, Inter-Zone Semifinals (quarterfinals, new format)
2018 ASEAN Zonal Finals
2019 ASEAN Zonal Semifinals

AFC Champions League
2018 Playoff Round (third round)
2019 Preliminary Round 1 (first round)

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Imus holds court with Navotas victory

Jayjay Helterbrand about to drive.
Imus-Khaleb Shawarma banked on a strong first half to snap its seven-game skid at the expense of Navotas-Uni Pak Sardines, 86-71, in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season, Monday at the Imus Sports Complex.

The Khaleb Shawarma-backed Bandera unleashed an 18-5 barrage midway through the second period to turn a close 32-28 lead to a commanding 50-33 halftime advantage.

"Sabi ko sa kanila istop na natin yung seven-game losing streak, kailangan natin manalo lalo na home game natin. Desidido talaga sila manalo dito sa home court," said Imus coach Raymond Valenzona.

Jojo Cunanan waxed hot from downtown, hitting six three pointers en route to 20 points, Jeric Nacpil added 16 markers and eight rebounds while homegrown cager John Cantimbuhan chipped in 10 points.

Imus moved to 6-20 while Navotas dropped to 6-18.

Osama Abdurasad delivered 11 points while John Melegrito punched in 10 markers in a losing cause for Navotas.

The Bandera orchestrated their offense consistently, resulting in 31 assists while Navotas only had 13 dimes.

The Scores:

IMUS KHALEB SHAWARMA 86 - Cunanan 20, Nacpil 16, Cantimbuhan 10, Vito 9, Helterbrand 9, Deles 4, Ng Sang 4, Ong 4, Gonzaga 3, Munsayac 3, Arellano 2, Cawaling 2, Lim 0, Morales 0.

NAVOTAS UNI-PAK SARDINES 71 - Abdurasad 11, Melegrito 10, Gonzales 9, Guillen 8, Evangelista 7, Prudente 4, Mamaclay 4, Matillano 4, Cabahug 4, Escobal 3, Taywan 3, Andaya 2, Bautista 2, Soriano 0.

Quarterscores: 29-16, 50-33, 66-49, 86-71.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Bacolod keeps MPBL postseason hopes alive with narrow Bicol win

Yankie Haruna attempts a layup
Bacolod Master Sardines kept themselves in postseason race of the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season, fending off Bicol LCC Stores in overtime, 76-72, Monday at the Imus Sports Complex.
After Volcanoes big man Chris Lalata made the first two points of the extra period at the 4:30 mark, Bacolod's defense clamped on their foes, holding them scoreless for the remainder of the game.

The trio of Pao Javelona, Ben Adamos, and Edgar Charcos punched in the buckets for the Master Sardines-backed squad.

"That's what I am trying to make in this team, a defensive team, kasi I am more of a defensive coach. Ngayon ko lang talaga nakuha yung mga players na gusto ko na susunod sa sistema," Bacolod coach Vic Ycasiano said.

Ralph Tansingco had fifteen points and five rebounds, while Adamos added eleven markers and seven boards as the Master Sardines-backed Bacolod improved to 8-15 for 11th place in the South division.

Javelona sent the game to overtime after he made a floater with 9.3 ticks left in the fourth frame, tying things up at 70. Bicol had the chance to win the game in regulation, but Ronjay Buenafe never got a chance to take a shot in the ensuing play.

Yankee Haruna, Jopher Custodio, and Jess Villahermosa each punched in ten points for Bacolod.

Alwyn Alday paced the LCC Stores-backed Volcanoes with 23 points, seven boards, and seven dimes.

Bicol saw their five-game winning streak snapped as they slipped to 13-12.

The Scores:

BACOLOD-MASTERS SARDINES 76 - Tansingco 15, Adamos 11, Villahermosa 10, Custodio 10, Haruna 10, Javelona 8, Charcos 7, Saitanan 4, Gayosa 1, Cañada 0, Camacho 0, Reyes 0, Cauilan 0.

BICOL-LCC STORES 72 - Alday 23, Ongteco 12, Lalata 11, Buenafe 9, Garcia 6, Aldave 4, Mondragon 4, Gusi 3, Guerrero 0, Olea 0, Manalang 0.

Quarterscores: 21-13, 43-34, 57-53, 70-70, 76-72.

Iloilo squeaks past Rizal to extend winning streak

Six straight wins for Iloilo
Iloilo United cruised to its sixth-straight victory after surviving Rizal Xentro Mall's fourth quarter scare, 71-65, on Monday in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season at the Imus Sports Complex.
Trailing by one with 3:57 left, the Royals ended the game on a 9-2 blast, highlighted by Alfrancis Tamsi's triple with 71 seconds left to put Iloilo up, 69-65.

Jerson Prado provided the much-needed baskets for the Royals, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the payoff period to go along with seven rebounds and two rejections.

"Si Jerson, marereward talaga siya because of his hardwork eh, nakita ko yung fire niya na kumuha ng bola, kaya namin siya kinuha kasi naniniwala kami sa kakayahan niya," said Iloilo coach Eric Gonzales.

Tamsi, on the other hand, tallied a game-high 16 points, while Richard Escoto wound up with 10 points as Iloilo tied Basilan for the fourth spot in the South Division at 15-8.

Kelvin Gregorio led the Xentro Mall-backed Golden Coolers with 15 points on a measly 6-of-16 shooting while Rommel Saliente and Jordan Rios contributed 12 markers apiece.

Rizal dropped to 4-17, joining Marikina as the cellar dwellers of the North division.

The Scores:

ILOILO 71 - Tamsi 16, Prado 12, Escoto 10, Jeruta 6, Rodriguez 6  Gumaru 6, Publico 4, Parker 4, Arambulo 3, Racho 2, Mahari 2, Li 0, De Joya 0, Pedrosa 0, Pantin 0.

RIZAL-XENTRO MALL 65 - Gregorio 15, Saliente 12, Rios 12, Benitez 7, Lacastesantos 6, Leynes 6, Vidal 5, Casajeros 2, Bacay 0.

Quarterscores: 20-11, 40-30, 56-50, 71-65.