MANILA, JULY 27, 2011
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson (PHOTO - Los Angeles Lakers main man Kobe Bryant wears an FEU jersey as he reinforces the UAAP All-Star in a scrimmage with Smart Gilas crew at the Big Dome. Others in photo are Ateneo’s Keifer Ravena, Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter and La Salle’s Joshua Webb. JUN MENDOZA)

It wasn’t all work and no play for the nine hoop heroes who flew in to play two games in the Ultimate All-Star Weekend at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Saturday and Sunday.

The visitors, except for playing coach Kobe Bryant, arrived on four separate flights from the US last Thursday and Friday. Bryant came in a private jet with a party of seven from Shanghai last Friday. Bryant’s commitment to Nike for an Asia tour that started in Manila ended Thursday night. Chris Paul had the longest journey, coming all the way from New York. They all arrived with companions. Kevin Durant initially asked to fly in on a private jet but eventually agreed to come in a commercial flight with three companions.

Last Friday, all the players – except Bryant – were at the Opus Restaurant and Lounge and the Republiq Club in Resorts World. Jon Herrera’s Styles Entertainment hosted the guests. The players hung out at Republiq from 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. After the first game against the PBA All-Stars last Saturday night, four players partied at KYSS from 1 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. The players were Durant, Tyreke Evans, Derek Fisher and JaVale McGee. KYSS is a resto-lounge club on General Luna Street, Makati, across the A-Venue parking lot. The get-together at KYSS was also sponsored by Styles Entertainment.

When Bryant was in town two weeks back, he squeezed in a night out at the Establishment in the Fort.

PLDT chairman Manny Pangilinan said all the nine visitors were friendly and accommodating but he was most impressed by Paul who came across as articulate and outspoken. During a lunch hosted by Pangilinan at Meralco last Saturday, observers noticed Derrick Rose prayed before the meal. Evans was also very pleasant and someone joked that he wanted to curry favor with Pangilinan since the 6-6 guard plays for the Sacramento Kings and MVP is considering to buy the franchise.

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Evans, 21, was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft after Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet and James Harden. He was the 2010 Rookie of the Year and only the fourth freshman to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists – the others were Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. This past season, the 6-6 Evans averaged 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists as a combo-guard.

Evans learned the game from his four older brothers – Doc, Reggie, Dion and Eric. “We had him learning to use his left hand, tying his right hand behind his back with duct tape,” recalled Reggie, quoted by Austin Burton in Dime Magazine. “Believe it or not, he was four years old and making free throws from the regular free throw line.”

Rob Brown, who was Evans’ AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) coach as a high school player, said, “He’s just an unbelievable offense weapon ... he can score the ball a lot of different ways and he gets into the lane real easy; even when there’s not a hole, he wiggles his way into a hole and his jumper is uncontestable.” Evans remarked, “Most people say I play like T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) ... I think we have similar games, nothing’s hard for me out there.”

In the game against the PBA All-Stars, Evans dumped 16 points, including three triples as the visitors coasted to a 131-105 breeze. Leading the charge was McGee who scored 25 points. Others in twin digits were Durant with 22, Derrick Williams 19, James Harden 17, Bryant 12 and Paul 11. Rose had nine points and Fisher went scoreless. Seven of the nine players buried at least a trey with Durant showing the way with five. The top rebounder was McGee with 12. Durant grabbed 10 boards.

For the PBA All-Stars, Arwind Santos erupted for 25 points, including 10 in the first period. No other player in coach Chot Reyes’ selection hit in double figures. Alex Cabagnot tallied nine points while Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Sol Mercado and Gary David netted eight apiece. James Yap, matched up against Bryant, failed to score. The PBA squad converted five triples to the visitors’ 12. Santos hauled in eight rebounds and J. C. Intal, six.

Against Smart Gilas, the visitors couldn’t pull away as easily. Only four All-Stars wound up in double figures with Bryant scoring 17, Durant and McGee 16 each and Harden 15. Williams collected nine rebounds. The All-Stars sank only four triples to Gilas’ 11. Jvee Casio scored 16 points and Marcus Douthit 14 for Gilas. Chris Lutz added 12, Dondon Hontiveros 11, Marcio Lassiter nine and Chris Tiu eight.

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Before Sunday’s game, Gilas coach Rajko Toroman said the national team owed it to the fans to play seriously. “We want to make them (visitors) angry,” he mentioned. “We want to play hard and make them play hard. Of course, they’re some of the best players in the world but we’ll give them a fight.”Toroman prohibited the Gilas players to take photos of the All-Stars and ask for their autographs – before the contest. “I didn’t want to cheapen the game,” he said. “I wanted to show respect for the game and our visitors. It was okay to take photos after.” At the halftime break, Toroman reportedly challenged his players to compete and not be scared or awed by the All-Stars. The Gilas cagers responded positively to Toroman’s challenge as they outscored the All-Stars, 52-43, in the second half. Bryant went up to Toroman at the end of the encounter and said, “Good job, coach, you’ve got a good team.”

Toroman said familiarizing the PBA reinforcements with the Gilas system will take time. Gilas played with PBA recruits Hontiveros, Asi Taulava, Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag against the All-Stars. Ranidel de Ocampo, the fifth PBA player drafted to play for Gilas, sat out the action because of a broken nose from an accidental elbow by Gilbert Lao at a Talk ‘N’ Text practice.

Smart Gilas feels a victor despite loss to NBA stars By Joey Villar (The Philippine Star) Updated July 26, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - After a learning experience at the hands of a stellar NBA cast it played in the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Smart Gilas Pilipinas has shifted its focus to the William Jones Cup slated Aug. 6-14 in Chinese Taipei.

The Nationals played with its full roster against the Kobe Bryant-led Smart NBA All-Stars and produced good results, an 89-98 defeat that looked more like a victory since they faced some of the best basketball players on the planet.

“It was a good result for us considering that we’re playing with a full line-up for the first time,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman. “Our focus now is to prepare for the Jones Cup this August.”

Toroman got a glimpse of his team’s potential after Talk N’ Text’s Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag appeared to have mixed well with the regulars along with Meralco’s Asi Taulava and Air21’s Dondon Hontiveros.

The other pro reinforcing the team – Talk N’ Text’s Ranidel de Ocampo – was in uniform but he did not play because of a broken nose he sustained in Tropang Texters’ team practice less than a week ago.

Williams, Alapag and De Ocampo, however, will not be with the Jones Cup-bound squad as their mother club is still playing in the ongoing PBA Governors Cup and would only rejoin the Nationals late August in time for the FIBA-Asia Championship set Sept. 15-25 in Wuhan, China where a lone berth to the 2012 London Olympics is at stake.

Toroman said they would need to play more often though to gel well.

“It think we need eight to nine more games for the Fiba Asia Championship. We’re playing about the same number of games in the Jones Cup but we still don’t have the Talk n Text players (Alapag, Williams and de Ocampo) then,” said Toroman.

The Filipinos drew Asian powerhouse Jordan in their first game on Aug. 6 and United Arab Emirates the next day before taking a one-day break in this nine-team tournament which gives the title to the team emerging with the best win-loss record after the single-round robin format.

After the break, Smart Gilas will play seven straight games against South Korea on Aug. 9, South Africa on Aug. 10, Japan Aug. 11, Malaysia Aug. 12, host Chinese Taipei Aug. 13 and finally two-time Asian champion Iran on Aug. 14.

The Jones Cup-bound team will also be composed of naturalized Marcus Douthit, captain Chris Tiu, co-skipper Mark Barroca, JV Casio, Mac Baracael, Japeth Aguilar, Dylan Ababou, Jason Ballesteros, Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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