Thursday, May 29, 2008

Random Thoughts in L.A.

It's been more than a week since my last post and I've received many comments asking me to create a new post. I guess I'll just be typing up random thoughts that have been lingering in my head lately. So pardon the 'informality' of this post.

We're still in L.A. for the final week of training and I have to say that, overall, it has been a very productive trip for the team in terms of skills training and bonding with one another. Despite the hectic training schedule, we were able to spare one whole Sunday to visit Universal Studios. I was hoping to see some Hollywood celebrities in the area but the closest thing we saw was the house of Eva Longoria along Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, which happens to be located inside the Universal City. I've been to Universal Studios maybe 4 times in my life already and until now I always look forward to riding the Jurassic Park ride which is similar to our log jam in Enchanted Kingdom with one long steep drop at the end of the ride that seems to last forever. That's my favorite! But that's the furthest I will go when it comes to rides. I admit that I despise daring theme park rides, especially roller coasters or rides that have jerky movements because I have quite a sensitive case of motion sickness. Most of the time, I become the 'safekeeper' of belongings of my teammates or friends when they decide to hop on such rides while calling me a 'KJ'. For me, that's perfectly fine. I wouldn't wanna ruin my entire day by having to walk around dizzy and light headed. Nevertheless, I enjoy visiting such theme parks because of its friendly ambience.

The next day, training lasted only a half-day because it was Memorial Day so we decided to make the most of our day by driving North for at least an hour to reach the closest outlet mall in Camarillo to get the best deals. That's how desperate we were! It was worth the drive. They had great shops like Gap, Polo, Aeropostale, Sony, Coach, Hugo Boss, etc. The 5 hours zoomed by so quickly without us realizing that it was already 8:00 pm because the sun was just about to set. Most of us carried lots of shopping bags on the way home. I bought two pairs of shoes only because I was able to get it for like 30% OF its original price (not 30% OFF). I initially decided to get only one pair but since it was Memorial Day Sale and it was a really fantastic deal so i decided to get another pair. Actually, I am pretty stingy or 'kuripot' when it comes to spending money. I like to save and save and save or invest. Very typical Chinese. I almost never shop in Manila. But I believe that if it's something that we really really want, then it's okay to spend once in a while since we have to enjoy life also and pamper ourselves from time to time. BUT, that is as long as you work extremely hard when it's time to work. However, one thing I do not scrimp on is food. I love eating delicious food, especially Chinese and Japanese food. I guess I got accustomed to it because of my dad, who does not mind spending for good food to satisfy our stomachs. Especially when there are guests around, there should never be a shortage of food! Very typical Chinese mentality too.

I mentioned about seeing celebrities in Hollywood earlier, well apparently, two of my teammates will have the privilege of catching Kobe, Odom, Gasol, Duncan, Parker and Ginobli in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center. The team was given only two tickets and we had to decide who will be lucky enough to be in that world-class arena together with stars like Jack Nicholson, Eva Longoria, etc. I'd love to step foot in that wild arena to catch a Laker playoff game, one of the NBA's greatest franchises, not to mention that I am a recent Kobe fan. Finally, we did so by having a 'half court shootout' (shooting the ball from half court). And coincidentally, the lucky winners are the first and last shooters, Kirk Long and Zags Gonzaga (our rookie from Ateneo High). For Kirk, I guess it's a perfect reward for being our designated driver here in L.A. for the past week. For Zags, earning his spot in Team A, through pure hard work and dedication after a year in Team B surely has its perks. Even if their seats tomorrow will give them an 'ant size' view of Kobe and the gang, I'm sure the experience will be incomparable! ... I'd still rather watch a Jay Chou concert live. Haha!

P.S. One of my greatest dreams is to watch a Michael Jordan game live, or even just see him in person. I guess the first one will be impossible to achieve and I'm still quite waiting for the latter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boston Vs Cleveland - An Epic Battle

The game 7 of the Celtics – Cavs series was one of the most spectacular performances I’ve seen between two superstars facing off. It was like an epic battle between Hector and Achilles fighting for their respective squads. Lebron James finished with 45 points despite falling short as the final buzzer sounded. Although he had some major lapses by not boxing out Pierce in the final jumpball which caused them to lose a crucial possession and by missing a crucial freethrow which could have cut the lead of the Celtics to 3 in the dying seconds, he did everything humanly possible for his team to advance to the conference finals despite trailing almost the entire game. He had to find ways to score points by himself while 3 defenders were surrounding him. He had to create and make plays for his teammates who couldn’t knock down shots but he didn’t get frustrated and continued to trust them. He rebounded the ball when it mattered the most. But most of all, he even had the daunting task of defending Paul Pierce on-ball and coming off screens who was having one of his best games in his career. He came up with big time defensive stops including a steal that led to a breakaway dunk, which cut the lead of Boston to 1 with around 2 minutes left in the game. Oh, and he did all these while only resting for 1 minute and 12 seconds on the bench. I’ve never seen any player as conditioned as that! Despite shooting the ball poorly throughout the series, he confidently buried two clutch three-pointers that kept them in the game. Truly the sign of a winner!!

Paul Pierce also proved to be a winner by producing 41 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in their 2nd game 7 in this year’s playoffs. Finishing with the NBA’s best record during the eliminations, the Boston Celtics are highly favored to clinch the Eastern Conference title especially since Pierce is being backed up by superstars like Garnett and Allen (who hasn’t been playing like one). This adds to the pressure for Boston, especially coming into a game 7 at the Boston Garden, their very home floor which hosts one of the NBAs all-time greatest franchise. But Pierce proved to be reliable all throughout the game not just by scoring, but also creating for his teammates when the help defense comes. The only difference between Pierce and Lebron is the fact that Pierce had veterans who know how to handle playoff pressure. And it was in fact an unlikely hero named PJ Brown, who has been in the league for 14 years and will be turning 39 years old this year, who provided the support that Pierce needed to hurdle his nemesis. Brown grabbed timely rebounds and scored 10 pts despite averaging only 2.6 pts per game including the game winner for me when he knocked down the elbow jumper with 1:20 remaining in the game. That extended Boston’s lead to 5 points.

As the final buzzer sounded, King James walked straight out of the playing court into the locker room without any contact from his teammates, coaches, nor his opponents. I won’t be surprised if he asks for more reinforcements for the next NBA season. Kobe went through the same banana after losing Shaq, and look at the Lakers right now! If you almost forgot, Lebron is only 23 years old, just a few months older than I am and he definitely will have many more shots at that ring. In his post game interview, I quote him saying “I always want to win. I’m not disappointed at my teammates nor the coaching staff. I’m just disappointed that the season is over”. His maturity makes us forget how old he really is. But at the end of the day, no matter how ‘superheroic’ his performance was, it just goes to show that 1 vs 5 will never prevail.

Friday, May 16, 2008

All the way in L.A.

Los Angeles… finally we’ve made it here! I’ve been looking forward to this trip for some time now. Not because we’re going to have a vacation, but because it’s my chance to really concentrate on training, away from all the distractions back home. We’re scheduled to have a two-week session under the Abunassar Impact Basketball camp (AIB), the same camp where some of the NBA’s greats have trained like Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Garnett, Al Harrington, Sebastian Telfair, Vince Carter, Monta Ellis, as well as other college and European professionals.

I say ‘away from all the distractions’ because this training session gives me a chance to do nothing but play basketball. This camp provides a complete training program for our individual skills, conditioning and team play. I think this trip is also a great opportunity for the team to gel and become closer to one another, which i believe will be another key ingredient to our success.

Guess what, the closest food establishment is about a 15-minute walk from the hotel. All I see are industrial warehouses that all look alike along the vicinity of the hotel. That’s how isolated we are! I hope the players don't pull-off a hunger strike!

Actually, I don’t mind just hanging out in the room with my roommate Kirk, since we’re both home bodies anyway! The only problem is that it’s so difficult to find a
cheaper alternative meal than having to eat in the hotel all the time, which costs us about $12 a meal.

Anyway, all the NBA games are being aired here (as I just watched my Hornets get creamed by the very classic Spurs team!). That Chris Paul is one amazing player!
I wish the trainers at this camp have some magic up their sleeves to give me Chris Paul-like skills! =) Another thing, I love the fact that we have free wireless internet service in our rooms! Now, I'm just really staying at my room!

I think this basketball camp is the perfect chance for me to hone my individual skills, with all the repetitive drills we’re gonna be doing here. We didn’t really have much practice time in Manila because of all the games from the Fil-Oil and Nike Summer League one after the other. With all the hype that the team and the new rookies have been receiving, I have to say that we haven’t been playing up to expectations and I believe that we can still do better. We’ve lost two games in the Fil-Oil against San Beda (who happens to be here as well) and FEU. These losses were the source of a lot of frustration and anxiety on our team. But I believe that all is well and we just need to adjust to one another a little bit. We are still trying to find the right mix between rookies and veterans. As the team captain, there’s a lot of pressure on my part to make this a ‘great’ team. My individual performance will be crucial but more than that, it's my desire to make my team mates better players through guidance and leadership. But I believe the guys will step up and come together when the time comes because these guys are winners!

Last year, we attended the same camp except in their Las Vegas branch. We were lucky enough to have seen Telfair, Gomes, “Birdman” Anderson as well as other Florida Gators like Green and Horford, in action! It’s only our first day here in LA so we’re still resting and settling down in our hotel. I can’t wait to see who we’ll be training with this time around! Will keep you all posted.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Long Overdue First Entry

Hi Everyone,

I guess it’s pretty unusual for me to have a blog of my own, since I’m not a natural extrovert. But with a little help from my friends, I think that this blog will give me the opportunity to share another side of myself! I think it would be really interesting for me to be able to express my thoughts and also get feedback from people who might want to give their comments. I regret waiting so long to start this up because I think it’s good to document the milestones of our lives or even just our random thoughts. Plus, it’s a great thing for people to share their experiences and reveal the lessons we’ve learned, so that others can learn from them too. So here it goes!

The first thing I want to say is about my stint as an Ateneo Blue Eagle. A lot of people have been asking me about this, and I’ve made my decision that I will be back to play in the next UAAP season. I want to share my reasons why I’ve chosen to stay for one final year. Actually, I felt like moving on to new opportunities. But after the advice and encouragement of the people around me, I’m determined to stay one more year and carry out what I set out to accomplish.

Our line up this year is bursting with talent and potential! We’ve got an all-star cast of rookies, and of course the returning players are going to be back with a vengeance from last year’s sorry defeat! I think my role in the team this year is to share my experiences with the younger guys and to lead them with integrity. After all, I’m the SECOND eldest player in the team (Not the eldest – Yuri is! Hehe!). Just looking at this team and realizing its potential gets me really excited for the upcoming season! I know a lot of people are writing our team off this year, and that’s fine with us. It’s kinda like the Spurs every year. They rarely are the so-called “favorites” to win the championship at the beginning of the season, but come playoff time, they show up every game! (BUT I do hope they lose to New Orleans for
beating my Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns!!) Sports analysts have ranked our team 5th and 6th in the last two seasons because of the loss of key players, but we still managed to finish in 2nd and 3rd. I really do feel that this year will be our year to bring the UAAP championship back to Ateneo!

I got into Ateneo the year after the school won the 2002 UAAP Championship. We’ve come SO close each year only to come up short. This year, I would be most fulfilled knowing that I brought glory back to my university by playing HARD, SMART, and FAIR

Also, taking from the advice of those people who’ve been in my place before, I know that the corporate world can wait. I have the rest of my life to do that, while I can only play basketball for so long. Besides, college basketball is the most fun of all ☺, according to those who have gone ahead of me to the PROs.

Anyway, while waiting for the next season, I have to stay productive! I am actually really particular about making the most of my time and being very productive. I didn’t want to waste time so I decided to enroll again and take classes that I find useful and interesting. Right now, I’m taking Applied Math and Finance as my 2nd major. I became interested in Investment Banking because of my internship at Credit
Suisse during the summer of 2006, under the supervision of one of the industry’s “greats”! But now I'm sort of thinking twice about getting into investment banking because of the volatility and weakness of the whole global financial system—as seen through the financial crisis in the US! And also, because of the many other options being opened to me.

For now, I'm actually taking a lot of Chinese classes in Ateneo because I'm serious about brushing up on my Chinese. In fact, I’m thinking about studying in China for a while after the season. To help me improve my Mandarin, I listen to Chinese music day and night, at home and in my car – to the horror of my brother Charles who shares a room with me. (I'm a huge fan of Jay Chou!) Oh, and even in the karaoke I love singing his songs! =)

Well, this has been a pretty long entry already! So, that's it for now. Time to rest for another long day tomorrow!