As the action in the NBA Conference semifinals continues to heat up (pardon the pun), the sun is certainly shining bright in Phoenix.
Before the season started, I was sure the Phoenix Suns were among the teams not considered to reach the finals, more so win the championship. Man for man, the other teams were ahead, but look where the Suns are now—a game ahead of the Denver Nuggets in their conference semifinals series. The first game was even a rout, 122-105 win for the Suns.
Ask any coach, it is very difficult to play against a team which believes in itself and the players play as one, brimming with confidence as they stride into the playing court, which is exactly the Suns are right now.
I believe critics will also say the same for the other contending teams like Utah, super team Brooklyn and Atlanta. As of this writing, as expected, the Nets were 2-0 against the Bucks, even without James Harden in the second game, which was a real blow out, 125–86. The Hawks of Trae Young, another perfect example of a team oozing with confidence, won Game 1 against the favored 76ers, with Utah yet to play the Clippers as I wrote this piece.
Going back to the Suns, I believe because of the fact that very few people thought they would be where they are now is what makes the team even better. They are outdoing themselves, even booting out the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the quarterfinals. LA fans, though, would argue that without Anthony Davis, the Lakers were simply not the same, but then who cares? It is what it is and player injuries will always be a fact of life in any sport.
The Suns’ duo of veteran Chris Paul and another All-Star Devin Booker have meshed perfectly. But I maintain that even if Booker is the face and the future of the franchise, right now, Paul is the one carrying the team. Just look at Game 1 of their series against the Nuggets, the younger players of the team have certainly embraced Paul as the team leader that he is. It is the way he controls the game and makes those pinpoint passes and near-perfect mid-range shots that make his teammates look up to him, and I would say that includes Booker even if he outscores Paul regularly.
And talk about self-confidence, the Suns had five players scoring in double figures, with Mikal Bridges even out-scoring his more illustrious teammates with 23 points. Every time I see a team, with five players all scoring in double figures, I am impressed. For the second game, the odds have shifted to the Suns.
Paul and Booker and the rest of the supporting cast of the Phoenix will be able to show my readers how right I am after they win again the second game, I hope.
Another surprise team in the semis are the Atlanta Hawks. This time, led by a younger player in Young, who has been accepted by his teammates, including the veterans remaining, as their uncontested team leader. Young certainly has earned that right with the way he has been playing the whole season. And again, I would say the self-confidence of the Suns can be matched by that of the Hawks who are now starting to believe they have what it takes to go all the way.
The Nets are a different matter. They were expected to make good with their trio of superstars in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden that even incomplete, they were winning games. I would say Durant led the way with the way he plays, he shoots and passes as needed without hogging the ball all the time and his co-superstars have adapted to that. Harden certainly is making his teammates look better with his assists.
Now if there is a team that I will bet on to reach the finals, even win it, it would be Brooklyn, they are simply too strong. As for Utah and Los Angeles (Clippers), I have yet to see them play as of now.
In the meantime, allow me the opportunity to update you with our Ayuda Sa Atleta campaign. We have exceeded already the P400,000 mark, including the seed fund of P250,000 from Jean Henri Lhuillier, and if we include the “in kind” donation and pledges, easily we are over the half a million worth already.
Aside from the individual donors, I would like to thank these companies, Alaska, Nestle Philippines (MILO products), Pepsico (Gatorade ), Asian Centre for Insulation of co-trustee Tom Carrasco, Philippine Couriers, owned by another trustee Alex Wang, Foton with Rommel Sy Tin, F2 Logistics and its president Efren Uy, and Britton Pharmaceuticals, and Biocare Lifesciences, for their vitamins’ pledges.
We are now purchasing the contents of the ayuda packs, vitamins, Gatorade, Alaska and MILO products, plus personal hygiene items and before the end of this month, we will make the first distribution in cooperation with the help of Mike Barredo and PHILSPADA. We are initially focused on NCR-based athletes.
Next in line as long we have the resources will be the regular athletes and again, we will do this by batch to prioritize the recipients. Tom will take care of coordinating with the different National Sports Associations on the matter. At the same time, he will make a report to the General Assembly of the Philippine Olympic Committee.
Finally, me and the rest of the team can rest now, knowing in our own little way, we were able to extend a helping hand to our athletes. Again, thanks to all the donors and companies.