Jul 3, 2020

Zion’s Debut

Even though the Pelicans lost to the Spurs 121-117, the upside is tremendous for the franchise trying to pick up the pieces when Anthony Davis took off last summer.

22 points in 18 minutes. That’s how it sums up the 2019 National Basketball Association (NBA)  top rookie pick’s debut against the San Antonio Spurs this week. After going down with an injury during the pre-season tournament, Zion’s output in limited minutes says a lot of what he can bring on the table for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Even though the Pelicans lost to the Spurs 121-117, the upside is tremendous for the franchise trying to pick up the pieces when Anthony Davis took off last summer.

Although the Pels are ranked 12th in the tight Western Conference, I see them contending for the 7th or 8th spot now that they have a solid 4 player in the starting line up.

His debut started slow but Williamson erupted with 4 three-point shots to cap 17 points in a few minutes stretch in the 4th quarter making it a night to remember for fans who watched the game at the Smoothie King Arena.

Will Zion co-exist with top season team scorer Brandon Ingram? Both players combined for 44 points against the Spurs and we know we can only share the ball as much. I expect a small dip in the collective averages of Ingram, Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick. I don’t mind a cumulative drop of say 10 total points average from the regular players if Zion could give them at least 16 points per game. That is still a +6 on the net point total for the team in the Zion era.

Not only would their offensive rating improve but also on the defensive end as Williamson contributed 7 rebounds in that 18 minute stretch on the floor. Granted that he is on a minutes restriction, even if he plays 24 minutes a game, the net impact he will have on the team’s play in the second half of the season is expected to be huge.

One game may not necessarily guarantee a successful season but based on that, there’s no way but up for New Orleans. Zion could easily erase the memory of AD dominating the lane for the Pelicans.

The Pumaren Legacy

In this year’s edition of the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines, we are keenly anticipating a coaching chess match between grizzled coaches particularly Tab Baldwin of the defending champion Ateneo, Aldin Ayo of the University of Sto. Tomas (the younger kid on the block but very tenured as a coach), and the Pumaren brothers Franz of Adamson University and comebacking Derrick of the Dela Salle Green Archers.

This article is focused on the time and tested Pumaren system that almost always guaranteed a solid winning program. 2 of the 6 UAAP teams are coached by a Pumaren. If you want to count Jack Santiago, newly confirmed head coach of the University of the East, as a protégé of their system, then make it 3 of 8.

That’s how trusted the Pumaren coaching program is. From their dad, the legendary Pilo Pumaren, to his 3 sons (Dindo has assisted his manong Derrick in the UE helm in 2018), the Pumaren legacy continues to thrive spanning 6 decades. Between Derrick and Franz, I believe they’ve got 8 or 9 combined collegiate championships. Their go-to play? It’s the vaunted Pumaren press that has withstood the test of time.

I consider the Pumarens the forefathers of today’s 40-minute full-court press. USTs Aldin Ayo took it to another level calling it Tiger mayhem. Ateneo and UE also applied full-court press on their resumes last year. Even Angelo Kouame, the 7-foot import center of the Ateneo helped in clamping down opposing guards. Amidst the evolution of college basketball, you will see that phase by phase, there is a Pumaren on the sideline aiming for a final 4 spot.

I have watched Franz and Derrick coach championship-caliber teams. They are both good X and O’s tacticians, great defensive strategists and the common denominator on their teams are the basic ingredients of a successful ball club: a solid point guard, a good center, and a standout shooter. Check all the Pumaren rosters through time and you will see that those 3 positions are filled with highly qualified players.

Let’s see how manong Derrick’s system impact the Dela Salle Green Archers season this year, Palawan.

(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)

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