VETO. THIS.

Two words that came out immediately from my mind when I started reading the hints regarding the Mac Cardona-Mike Cortez direct swap. The trade proposal was submitted hours after Air21 sent their bid to get Joseph Yeo from Petron in a separate trade.

Why?

Simple. As an Air21 fan for the last few years, I’m well aware of what position we’re lacking. That’s undoubtedly the Two spot. We have no less than the Cool Cat, Wynne Arboleda and Bonbon Custodio at One, Ogie Menor and Bitoy Omolon for the Small Forward position, our main scorers KG Cañaleta and Mark Isip manning the Four and lastly, newly acquired Carlo Sharma, Vic Manuel and James Sena guarding the paint.

I get the point of wanting the Ninja to fill the void in our lineup, but isn’t getting Macmac Cardona as well a redundant move? Worse is, we’re giving up Cortez. If both trades were to push through what would happen? We have Macmac Cardona, Joseph Yeo and KG Cañaleta all in one team; all pure scorers, while we lose our lone pass-first point guard in Mike?

Yes finally we have legitimate scoring threats, but this is an “Overcorrection.” We solve our problem at the Two spot but now we’re left with Pareng Wynne; who’s more of an enforcer than a facilitator, and the shoot-first point guard Bonbon Custodio (whose lone memory that sticks with me is the ‘Shake Your Bonbon move’ that threw away Mike’s 21-18-9 statline against Talk ‘N Text in the most recent All-Filipino Cup Quarterfinals). Can we expect these two to take the role of feeding the Ninja, Captain Hook and KG consistently? I don’t think so.

Moreover, can these three pure scorers co-exist? Let alone Mac and KG? Every Joseph Yeo fan can say he can take back seat at times — but not Macmac. KG? He can but it’s never been effective. In fact, he never was a team player.

Nobody would love to see Macmac in a purple and white uniform and watch him run with Ren-ren Ritualo and Joseph Yeo one more time more than I do, but if the management is serious about the Joseph Yeo trade, PLEASE, forget this Cardona-Cortez direct swap thing.

Air 21's Mike Cortez reacts after a turnover

I stopped cheering for one particular team in the PBA since Ren-ren Ritualo left Talk ‘N Text in 2009, but I have learned to love this team since its Shopinas days (as I thought it would revive Ritualo’s dying career at that time — which is obviously dead now) and when Mike and recently Carlo Sharma were added, it has easily became my Boston Celtics in the PBA. So please, keep Mike Coach Franz.

Keep Mike.

9 Lives

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8 minutes left in the 4th, the four-peat proud De La Salle Green Archers was down by 18 to the UST Growling Tigers. Their unbeaten record on the line. In a roster that lost 5-year hero, Ren-ren Ritualo, to whom do you turn to in times like this? — Mike Cortez

Cortez, a.k.a. the Cool Cat scored 16 of his 18 points in the final canto to force an overtime. Joseph Yeo would then finish the deal in the extra period and cap off one of the best, if not the best, comeback in the UAAP history.

Though the Archers was seem formidable, they would finish the season with a bitter ending to the hands of their archrivals, Ateneo Blue Eagles. The season, the championship and the five-peat dream, all gone. And so was their star point guard, Mike Cortez.

The 77-70 Game 3 defeat from Enrico Villanueva and the blue birds of prey served as the last game of the Cortez-Franz Pumaren partnership. The Cool Cat then applied for the PBA draft and was taken first overall pick by the Alaska Aces. And since this is a blog and I feel the need to use a cliche, the rest was history.

10 years have passed and many things have happened for the two greenies separately. Mike has won three PBA titles on his own while Franz  managed two other bulls eyes with his new bows before leaving Taft’s Sharpshooter’s Guild.

A year ago, two years after graduating from manning La Salle’s bench, Franz Pumaren finally stepped into a PBA team’s sideline. With no less than his favorite college sniper Ren-ren Ritualo as his bribe, he assumed the Shopinas’ head coaching duties. The reunion of one of the most celebrated coach-player tandem has been highly touted. But who knew there will be part II, and this one proves to be more hyped and publicized.

Ritualo, the Rainman as what they call him, left the green and white squad with a championship, Finals MVP and La Salle crowd owned-Araneta Coliseum. His transition was smooth. Playing for his old daddy would be no issue.

For Mike, it’s a very different scenario. It was a brilliant season, and with the Captain Hook, Mac Cardona and the Ninja, Joseph Yeo running with him in the backcourt? Everyone thought a five-peat coronation was on the way. But instead, Cortez played his worst game of his lifetime and the Green Archers ultimately lost to their bitter rivals.

At the start of this PBA’s season, the William Jones Cup hero, LA Tenorio arrived with confetti to the Ginebra bench. And with the MVP duo of Mark Caguioa and JJ Helterbrand, Mike saw his precious playing time vanish in the darkest side of the Gin Kings sideline.

Two months prior, the Green Archers Zen Master expressed his desire to have Cortez back in his team, the Cool Cat then responded candidly but claimed he wanted to retire with his current team.

But, Mike, knowing his caliber, started admitting he needs to play, so the Ginebra traded him for a lesser known being named… …a Cardinal. So where are we again?

The trade pushed through and after a decade, the winning coach and his former player have been seen in the same sideline once again. Against who? Enrico Villanueva and the Barako Bull. Fitting, isn’t it?

And what everyone thought there could be a problem knowing how their relationship ended, Mike Cortez, on the eve of his birthday, capped off his best game of the season (as if he has already played in the season) with 24 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals and 1 block in just 24 minutes of action.

It was a rare performance that have been seen only thrice in the last 6 years. One from LA Tenorio last year in their OT victory over the Meralco Bolts (33,8,7,5,1) and the other from who else? Mike Cortez himself, in 2006 with his 24-7-8–5-1 game against Talk ‘N Text. Although he lost that game, thanks to Ren-ren Ritualo’s game-winning bucket.

Coach Franz was right, what could be a better script than Mike Cortez taking over? After scoring the last 8 points in the third to erase the Energy Cola’s lead, the Cool Cat spearheaded the comeback by pouring in the game’s last 5 points – including the go-ahead step back jumper over the taller Sean Anthony that gave Express the lead for good.

First game together after 10 years? Boom. W. Over. an. Enrico. Villanueva. team.

Perfect.

But what’s what matters most is that it buried the doubt that the two gentlemen can’t win together again. That jumpshot and that stunning performance returned that to Earth.

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With Ren-ren Ritualo and Mike Cortez already on the coach’s barracks, and with Macmac Cardona already in the process of losing his franchise player status to Sol Mercado, and Joseph Yeo, heartbeats away from handing over his position to the returning Marcio Lassiter, would it be safe to say they’re next on Pumaren’s list?

Hmmmm.

Two years of absence, and beyond

Picture perfect.

This pic was taken by the great South African photographer, Khimbini Hlongwane in 2006. They were complete. They were perfect.

Standing: Makhulu; Left to right: Kinky Tail, Mr. TPretty Boy, Rasta and Dreadlocks.

Today is June 8, 2012. Exactly two years ago, this perfect picture of this iconic coalition was vitiated by one of the most, if not the most vicious lion brawl ever recorded on cam: The Death of Kinky Tail.

KT’s death: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZH6s31VAfjI

Brutal. Malevolent. Malfeasant. Demonic.

One can conclude he was overkilled. But to be fair to the Majingilanes, Kinky Tail, a.k.a. Shaka, together with his brother Mr. T, killed their brother earlier that day — which serves as Shaka’s last guest to his long list of slain lions. (He killed approximately 30-40 lions alone)

5th Majingilane’s Death:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA8YiZrYBg0

Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYUdDa4n1ow

Kinky Tail was the one attacking the Majin at the back, while his closest brother kept on pounding the victim’s neck.

Picture perfect.

His death is as well, picture perfect.

As a Mapogo fan, of course I was hurt. But I can’t imagine a more glorious exit for my legendary Kinky Tail/Shaka than of what the Majins gave. Caesar was slaughtered; Hector slain by a fellow hero; King Leonidas died outnumbered.. It was the most fitting story book ending for this great and valiant character.

It’s been two years KT, you’re missed.

You’ll be missed.

Forever.

The Captain Hook, The Rainman and the Cool Cat… okay, and Rico Maierhofer.

This is a photo from Renren Ritualo’s instagram which he took during the PBA All-Star festivities in Laoag. And what’s so special about this picture? If you don’t know, leave this page, NOW.

Ritualo participated in the Threepoint Shootout Competition, already a one-time champion, the Rainman poured in 15 points in the first round, a basket short to enter the finals.

While Cardona and Cortez played for the Stalwarts and the Greats, respectively for the Legends Game. Captain Hook scored 17, while the Cool Cat chipped in 10. Cortez and the Ninja, Joseph Yeo’s team prevailed.

Former Alaska Milkmen Jojo Lastimosa, Johnny “The Flying A” Abarrientos and “Captain Marvel” Kenneth Duremdes also suited up for the event. And they weren’t rusty at all. Duremdes had 29 points, which is a team high, and tied with the game high with Willie Miller. Abarrientos helped his teammate with his monstrous triple-double stats, 10 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists. While the fourth quarter man, who played on the other team, lived up to his name where he scored all of his seven points in the final quarter.

It was indeed a magical moment inside the fanboy in me to have the chance to watch again these separate group of cagers. I started watching basketball since I was six (yes, since I was six.) I grew up with the Alaska dynasty, through victories and defeat. I can still remember that 105-79 Game 6 loss to the Gordon’s Gins in a Finals series in 1997. That was the first painful defeat I’ve ever experienced as a PBA fan.

Though I didn’t reach “The Jet” Jeffrey Cariaso’s stint, I was already there in the Duremdes arrival in 1998. And he made the ride just way more exciting.

These Alaska Milkmen won their last championship a dozen years ago in 2000. And as what they say, all good things must come to an end. Jojo Lastimosa was traded to the Pop Cola Tigers. Although Johnny A and Potch Juinio would eventually join him a year or two later, I had already lost my interest in the PBA, but found a new all superhero squad in another league, the UAAP — the De La Salle Green Archers.

My older brother and sister were originally the ones who were watching it. My brother, an FEU Tamaraw who was not really a fan but he occassionally checks them on TV, while my sister, a die hard BJ Manalo fan (the infamous Blue Eaglet who transferred to La Salle in college) who tuned in every other DLSU game, not to mention she had lots of stuffs and magazines back then.

We all know about their own version of their dynasty, sometimes they hit the gold, sometimes just the red. The triumphs and the bullseyes, and those defeats in the hands of the blue birds of prey. Though I wasn’t there in time to catch the whole run, what was left was more than enough for me to savor.

This is by far, certainly the greatest PBA event I’ve ever experienced. One magical night to relive all those memories. Two hours of childhood. A collage of the past, all assembled on one TV screen.

The lights may have dimmed, but memories will never fade.

Party Like It’s ’02.

Ten years ago, there were two collegiate superstars who used to run circles around their opponents’ head. Ten years after, donning different jerseys this time, they’re doing it again.

Those deadly fastbreaks that often feature them with another flashy teammate Joseph Yeo on one wing. Those suffocating press that once called “The La Salle Death Press”. And especially, the angst, and arrogance they possessed, have killed so many careers, broke so many hearts, yet completed so many fantasies.

Both dude is now in the PBA, and they’re rewinding the clock exactly a decade later.

I’m talking about the Cool Cat and the Captain Hook — Mike Cortez and Mac Cardona.

Last February, the PBA has featured a Dream Game between former Green Archers and Blue Eagles who are now playing professional ball. Everyone knows what happened and as what Mico Halili, Jason Webb and the rest of the AKTV center people say, all La Salle alumni are playing well since then.

And to back those words up, Cortez, who’s been playing extended minutes due to Helterbrand’s injury, and Cardona, the “darling” of the crowd, are named co-Players of the Week from March 26-April 1. The two former La Salle stalwarts lead their team to crucial victories, as Ginebra won their last three games with the Cool Cat leading the way with 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals to grab the last auto-semis berth; and Macmac helping Meralco’s surge with his 23 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists wherein they won five of their last six games, and now a W away to meet Mike’s team in the Semis.

Yesterday, after Meralco’s win, I tweeted “#wishfulthinking Mike Cortez and Macmac Cardona win co-Player of the Week this week. #PBA” )(https://twitter.com/#!/iamjeffd/status/186427487918628864), and one, two hours earlier comes the good news. The PBAologist (@thepbaologist) shared “Congrats to BGK’s @mikecortez_11 & Meralco’s Mark Cardona who have been named Accel Co-Plyrs of d Wk by d PBAPC for d period Mar. 26-Apr 1.” (https://twitter.com/#!/thepbaologist/status/186686575596404737).

It’s Nirvana, or Cloud 9 or, 7-11, or so on and so forth… For so many years I’ve been wondering what happened, especially on Mike’s part, to their careers. Now they’re showing the Cortez and the Cardona that I’ve been wanting to witness. I just wish they can maintain this momentum forever.

Retribution it is for Mike, the 2003 top pick that was included by a dumb sportswriter as part of his Team Overrated. It’s his second citation of the season, the other was last December when he spearheaded Ginebra to a 5-0 in two weeks span, grabbing three straight Best Player of the Game honors.

Meanwhile it’s the second for Mac in three weeks, and his nth time in his career. This award really means nothing to the Hook anymore, can’t blame the only player who won it 7x in a single conference.

On Wednesday, Cardona and his Meralco Bolts will look to clinch the third Semifinal slot over the B-Meg Llamados and face Cortez and the Gin Kings. This could be the third, and yet the way they’re playing, and the best series they’ll battle so far. MC vs MC? Well Ginebra has another MC, so MC vs MC² (+ the crowd).


Week of the Cat

Seems like I somehow found the answer to my recent post The Yips. The Cool Cat, Mike Salonga Cortez is not missing  — he’s in the Big Dome!

The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings are now on a tear with 5-game killing spree and guess who’s the starrer of its last three victories?

Cool as an ice, quick as a cat as what Mico Halili describes him, Cortez lives up to his name as he leads the surging Ginebra to a 9-5 record to end the elims. Averaging 16.0 points, 6.7 rebounds 3.7 assists and 55.5% from the arc (14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 53.5% from the arc during the 5-game winning stretch), the Cool Cat was named Best Player of the Game in the last three victories by the Gin Kings; and for that, I’ll shave my head if Mike doesn’t win the Player of the Week award.

Donning his jersey number 11 once again, Cortez played the past week like it’s still 2001. He’s scoring, rebounding, assisting, blocking, stealing, name it and he has the stat sheet to prove it. What’s more amazing is he doesn’t need to score 25-40 points to grab a BPG honor. I just hope Jay-jay Helterbrand pursue his plan to retire after this season to fully hand Mike his well-deserved playing time.

Cortez and the Kings will face blue chip rookie Paul Lee and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a Best-of-Three quarterfinals.

So the Cool Cat is found, while the Rainman is still lost. But I don’t need any rain right now, this is more than enough to keep my cool.