Palawan, a whirlwind of trades, free-agent signings and draft picks are a theme this summer in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Kawhi Leonard surprising the basketball world by signing with the Los Angeles Clippers tugging fellow all-star Paul George along (even after winning last season’s NBA Finals with the Toronto Raptors vs the Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis teaming up with Lebron James In Lakerland and just recently polarizing players Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul swapping zip codes via trade between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets are just among the big developments in the League.
The Anthony Davis move was a big blow for the New Orleans Pelicans … or was it really?
Yes, they lost a top 5 NBA All-Star in Davis but personally, I feel they didn’t end up at the raw end. They got very young and promising talent in Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. With a small twist of luck, they also landed consensus no. 1 pick Zion Williamson and were able to also steal two major free agent pickups in big man Derrick Favors and 3 point specialist JJ Redick.
I can’t help but rave on the future of this team. They got Jrue Holiday, Redick, Favors, Williamson and Ingram potentially starting with key reserves in Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart (who can play the wing or power forward in a small ball line up), Jhalil Okafor, and Etwaun Moore off the bench.
The second unit may look shallow but Ball and Hart are capable of showing great quality minutes while we have seen a renaissance in Okafor’s play last season and Moore can spare both guard positions a few but highly impactful minutes. Head coach Alvin Gentry is no pushover on the bench either being part of the Golden State Warriors coaching staff amidst their climb to multiple championships runs.
The future looks really bright for Pelicans if they can hold on to their youth development. Zion Williamson can play all frontline positions and literally bully his way around the paint with his 285-pound frame. He seems to be undersized for a power forward but doesn’t seem to be misled. The 6’7 rookie has a combination of Charles Barkley like power with Lebron James’ speed. He is like a truck in full speed on a fastbreak.
I personally believe they can fight for a spot in the playoffs next season.
College basketball in the Philippines has just picked up with the opening of the National Collegiate Athletic Association a few weeks back and it seems like the San Sebastián Stags are off to redeem themselves from last year’s ligang labas fiasco.
Point guard and floor leader RK Ilagan, the center of the ligang labas matter that caused some win forfeitures for the Stags last year, has set all the issues behind him this season and is as conditioned as ever. Blink an eye and his quick release from way out can be a game-changer. Never leave the guy open. Opponents are resorting to putting bigger men to guard him outside but he is also very flashy to take it to the hoop.
The Stags actually have a 1-2 veteran punch in Ilagan and Allyn Bulanadi, a 6’2 wingman leading the charge this season. A bunch of no push over role players supports the duo led by veteran and blue-collar worker Alvin Capobres. The Stags lost big man Michael Calisaan to the Magnolia Hotshots in the PBA last year but head coach Edgar Macaraya’s system proves to be resilient with changes. San Sebastián has always operated with an all Filipino line up the past years and that says something going up against teams with foreign imports.
Coach Macaraya was part of the infamous Stags of the ’80s that won multiple titles and graduated several players to the pro ranks including Macaraya, Bong Alvarez, Eugene Quilban, Art Dela Cruz Sr., Toying Teves, Djanggo Rivera, Chris Bade, Allan De Los Reyes, Bong Solomon, and Saturnino Garrido. I remember watching these Stags and believe me, they played like the modern-day athletes today. They are a fun and exciting bunch to watch especially with Quilban and Alvarez on the fastbreak.
I expect the Stags to dominate next season when the NCAA shifts to an “import less” model. This early, the Stags are at a 2-0 win-loss slate along with the St Benilde Blazers. Only the San Beda Red Lions are a win up against the two teams with a 3-0 slate.
College season is in the air and fun times are ahead of us basketball pundits. Enjoy the ride, Palawan!
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)