Basketball (and a little baseball) in the nation’s capital

20 07 2012

This past weekend, I traveled to Washington D.C. for the Nike World Basketball Festival, with Nike inviting myself and a number of other writers of different areas of expertise to cover the event and see and experience some of the new hoops product the company is unveiling.

I’m no sneakers expert. I just wear what feels good, and I hadn’t ran (as in played basketball) for some time. But truth be told, playing on the same court as the FIBA U-19 and U-18 teams from the USA and five other countries was a lot of fun, as was posing for a photo of me flying through the air (sort of) for a dunk and doing the demo stations wearing the Nike Plus Hyperdunk shoes.

Another highlight of the event was watching both USA Olympic basketball teams (mens and womens) practice and play for the last time before they went off to Europe for the Olympic Games. I saw the USA practice Saturday, along with a few thousand military personnel and their families, and I attended the tuneup games against Brazil at the Verizon Center at the Verizon Center. Even shared a building with President Obama and his family.

I also on Monday (July 16) took a tour of Nationals Park, home of baseball’s Washington Nationals.

Here are some photos from three full days in D.C.:

Big crowd inside the DC Armory near RFK Stadium.

USA Women’s BB player Candace Parker during a clinic.

Team USA at practice.

Puerto Rico vs. China, FIBA U-19 pregame greeting.

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Kaleb Canales is a guy ‘La Raza’ can be proud of

19 03 2012

The Portland Trail Blazers — MY Portland Trail Blazers — have a Mexican American head coach.

Wow!

Portland, Ore., metropolitan area where I was raised, is where Kaleb Canales, the first Mexican American head coach in the NBA, is employed.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

Who would have thought? Not me, not in this lifetime. I grew up with Jack Ramsay and Mike Schuler and Rick Adelman (whose family goes to my former church back home). I remember when I was a kid and my mom took my sisters and I to the grand opening of the new Fred Meyer store in Beaverton. I wanted Jack Ramsay’s autograph on a day when actress Farrah Fawcett was also there for the opening, I have no idea why. But by the time we got there, Farrah’s limo was leaving with her in it and Dr. Jack was gone, with only a few people wanting his autograph so I guess he cut out early.

Since then the NBA has gotten bigger and richer, and since then, the Blazers have also had P.J. Carlesimo, Mike Dunleavy and Maurice Cheeks as head coaches. Then came maybe the best hire of all, Nate McMillan. At least it was at the time.

Well, McMillan made it almost seven seasons before the Blazers fired him last week. The guy they replaced him with on an interim basis? Canales.

I couldn’t help but get fired up watching this video from the team website.

Before Kaleb, the only big-name Canales I had heard of was Johnny Canales from the Tejano music TV show on Univision (“You got it! Take it away!”).

I guess I could write about how historic and refreshing this is, and it is on many levels. One of us… La Raza… ascending to this height. But the only thing I can think of saying is, the Blazers, known so often for making the wrong decision or being snakebitten by the good choices, simply went with a guy who worked extremely hard to get to where he is, earned the players’ respect and rewarded him with the job of head coach. A groundbreaking but sensible move. Even if it’s only on an interim basis.

I’d be shocked if Canales kept the position beyond this season — the Blazers would somehow have to make the playoffs and probably win the first round, which looks highly unlikely. But he can tell his kids and grandkids that a kid from Laredo, Texas who loved basketball and started out as an unpaid intern with the Blazers lived  the dream and became an NBA head coach. Stood in the huddle and coached up millionaires. Made substitutions and game plans. Strategized. Wore  designer suits on the sidelines. Ran practices. Dealt with the media and the public eye.

How cool is that?

There haven’t been a lot of proud moments as a Blazers fan since the early 90s. Even when the team was loaded with talent the likes of  Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace back in 1999 and 2000, it seemed artificial. Those guys were just highly paid mercenaries who were brought in by a win-at-all-costs GM to win a championship for the owner, and they failed. Fans loved the winning but not the seedy underbelly of a team full of bad-character guys.

Shoot, this team might yet have to rebuild sooner than later. The guys just seemed to quit on former coach McMillan, lacking passion and energy on the court in recent games. Too many home games, where the Rip City crowd always had been a huge advantage, have been dropped.

Change was imminent. Drastic measures were taken.

But there is something to be proud of for me as a lifetime fan of this team, and one of Mexican descent at that: The coach is “one of us.”

You know Canales isn’t going to rest on his laurels. The guy got to where he is by paying his dues and knows the significance or the position he’s in, and he strikes me as one who won’t take it for granted or stop grinding.

Excuse me well I go find my Blazers basketball maracas I got on the somewhat-contrived Latino Night at the Rose Garden several years back. Now I can shake ’em con mas corazon.





Too much going on… and it’s only kind of fun

30 07 2011

Here is where we are today in sports:

-NFL training camps are under way after a wild three-four days of free agency courting. Lots of new faces with different teams. The Seahawks could have handled the Matt Hasselbeck departure better, but the guy has a place in the Ring of Honor waiting for him at CenturyLink Field and it totally deserved. Best QB in franchise history. I’ll be a Tennessee Titans fan on many given Sundays this fall.

I always didn’t look forward to camp starting when I covered the Seahawks. It meant the start of a lot of work between then and the end of the season, whenever that would be. And I still don’t like them. Just too much stuff to sift through thanks to the lockout and hurried pace of everything.

-In baseball, the trade deadline fast approaches and I would have thought there’d be a few more moves, but they could happen last minute. Here’s hoping the Pittsburgh Pirates find a way to win the NL Central.

-In soccer, a lot of leagues are about to start their regular seasons. In MLS, the season is into the second half. I want to see what teams are for real. Sure, the MLS All-Stars vs. Man U was kinda blah, especially without Chicharito, but it’s over, and now we can get down to real business. So whom should I be watching in the U-20 World Cup? The U-17 tournament was fun, and not just because Mexico won.

-In the NBA…. lockout. Yawn, wake me up when they end it and guys get to work. I could care less about all of these contrived exhibitions and glorified pickup games. I’d rather watch Streetball or AndOne Tour or whatever it’s called. Work it out, millionaire-zillionaires. I want a season. I like watching my Blazers. I like going to Suns games here. I am so not interested in stars talking about going to Europe to play. Anything I watch from Europe will be soccer.

Lastly, shout out to the Sons of Ben guys who were very complimentary of my Fulham jersey I wore to the Real Madrid-Union match last Saturday. It’s the third kit from last season and looks like this…

And now…  in honor of having received my tickets to the Santana concert  the other day, here you go…





The Arizona Diamondbacks don’t quit – at least not Sunday

11 04 2011

Just when I was ready to lump the local 9 in the category of those teams that look doomed for a long season, the Arizona Diamondbacks rise up from a 5-1 deficit, take a lead, lose it and then regain the lead and win 10-8 over the Cincinnati Reds Sunday.

I’m back at the ballpark today to see if they build off that big win.

It’s been nice to see a lot of early-season baseball thus far. You look around at the records of the teams and you wonder, who are contenders and who are pretenders? How long can Cleveland, Baltimore and Kansas City (all 6-3) keep playing well? Will Tampa Bay recover from a 1-8 start? Is Boston’s 2-7 indicative of a season in which the Red Sox will miss out on the postseason?

Texas looks for real. They’re hitting and pitching well and it shows. At the bottom of the AL West sit the Seattle Mariners at 2-7 and it’s clear that their are holes throughout that lineup and pitching staff. I want to believe they can contend but it looks bleak.

In the National League, no major surprises but the minor surprises are St. Louis starting off slow and the Diamondbacks, a presumed afterthought in the NL West but they’re right in the thick of a pretty balanced division as it stands now. They play each other tonight in here in Phoenix.

It’s a busy time in the area. The Suns’ NBA season is about to end, but the Diamondbacks are just getting started, the NHL Coyotes are about to start the playoffs against Detroit and the ASU Sun Devils will unveil a new look to the public tomorrow. And the Arena Football franchise, the Rattlers, are in season.

Photo time.

Chase Field with roof closed due to rain Saturday.

The sun is out the next day, Chase Field at game time Sunday.

The giveaway item Sunday. Rave Green. In celebration of Green Week.

 





When your favorite teams all win on the same day

1 04 2011

I feel sort of like Charlie Sheen (“Winning!”)

First it was Oregon Ducks basketball winning the CBI tournament championship game over Creighton at Matt Arena in Eugene. A 21-win season for the Ducks. No one could have predicted that, and now they get a trophy. Sure it’s a consolation prize but hardware is hardware and the Ducks had to win six games (five of them at home) to win this tournament.

Matt Court, when I went a few months ago.

It’s something to build off for next season.

Next, the Portland Trailblazers beat Oklahoma City in an important NBA game. The Blazers’ magic number for a playoff spot is two games. They’ll get in, it’s just a matter of whom they play in the first round. It has been another crazy year for the Blazers and yet here they are again right in the mix.

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A night of Phoenix Suns basketball

24 03 2011

I don’t get to cover too much basketball, especially lately. So I try to take those opportunities to watch the pros at work.

The NBA really is pretty spectacular. No way would I ever get season tickets but the occasional game is great.

The Suns are fighting for the playoffs and they got a big win Wednesday night when I covered their game against the Toronto Raptors for AP.

On to the photos.

The Raptors listen to "Oh Canada."

Steve Nash takes a shot while Jared Dudley watches.

Nash and the Suns Dancers.

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So this is Christmas

24 12 2010

Must admit, it’s different and it’s difficult to not be around my parents and sisters this year. Can’t recall the last time, if ever, that I wasn’t home for Christmas or at least close to it.

Thankfully though I have great in-laws to celebrate with. So the Romeros of South Phoenix are spending the holiday in the desert. We went to In & Out Burger for lunch today, after stopping by the JW Marriott Camelback Inn to pick up my media gifts for the Insight and Fiesta. Pretty nice setup at the hotel for media.

There’s some big rocks near the resort, that look cool with a low cloud hovering over them.

Since Tostitos and Frito-Lay have sponsorship deals with the bowl games here, there are bags of chips wherever you go.

It’s a pretty exciting time for sports in these parts. The Miami Heat was here last night to play the Phoenix Suns, the Arizona Cardinals host the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Night, the Insight Bowl between Missouri and Iowa is on Dec. 28, the Fiesta Bowl is Jan. 1 and the BCS title game is Jan. 10. I’ll be doing a Suns game vs. Detroit I think on New Years Eve.