Category Archives: basketball

playing pickup ball

it’s that time of the year again… the NBA playoffs!

this year as we reach the round of 8 the usual notables are carrying the load for their teams.

but we must observe that there has been much talk about old players rewinding the clock to really step it up. players like KG and Duncan.

but what is so surprising about this? age is overrated to some extent. all this veteran moxie is undiluted by age. talent is talent no matter what. 36 year old power forwards carrying their teams towards the finish line. it’s hardcore man.

last night i went down to my neighbourhood court for the first time in… more than a year. it is strange. i am ghost on the court on which i used to frequent something like 5 times a week. all the people have changed. the people i used to play with are in the army. the people i used to watch are now older and slower. but there’s still something magical about playing pickup basketball. playing with people you have never played with before. there’s a sense of anticipation as you stare down the guy who has the ball in his hands.

he’s at the top of the 3 point line, and you give him a backyard worth of space. it’s the first time you are marking him and he decides to just shoot the 3. you put a hand up (for show) – it’s pickup at the neighbourhood court and you can’t get all in-your-face from the start, you know what i’m saying? it’s just not nice. maybe the second or third set, when there are bragging rights and respect to earn… maybe.

so the next possession its the same thing and he starts dribbling slowly. you can hear people running around behind you but then it’s pickup ball. the beauty of it is in individual expression and testing yourself. you have no idea what this guy can do – and its all the more fun because of that. he picks up his dribble and pulls a crossover. you stay with it. recover, hesitate, drive right – you lost him. okay, so now we know he’s fast.

the next time it happens again you shuffle your feet and you move to cut off his path to the basket. he runs into your chest and has to stop. spins, but you’re there. looks for the shot but your hand has been up there all the time. passes out to his teammate. score’s now tied at 1-1 for the two of you.

then it’s your turn as you have the ball in your hands. now you have maybe a rough measure of what this guy can do. you fake the shot but he doesn’t fall for it. same sequence – jab step, drive left, pull up, but he’s there to contest the shot. you let it fly because there’s a license on neighbourhood courts that you can from time to time toss up ill advised shots. but after a few you better prove that you can make them. basketball is a language of its own. it’s 5 personal battles going on and forming this messy chaotic tapestry that resolves itself into made baskets and mutual respect. there’s a joy in pulling off a difficult move and grinning as the ball falls into the hoop and two defenders are left in your wake. everyone on the court nods imperceptibly and you move on to the next possession. then suddenly this crazy long dude starts hopping around and grabbing every rebound in sight.

there’s the next challenge – boxing him out and keeping him off the glass then scoring on him inside. can you do it? no idea, but that’s the whole point.


andre iguodala

a dude whose game i absolutely love and admire.

iguodala, josh smith, shawn marion… these are my favourite players. no shame not to be a alpha dog scorer! as long as you help your team win


2 things from the clippers-blazers game today (17/2 singapore time)

1. rip city jerseys are AWESOME

2. chris paul is ridiculous. i would take paul over derrick rose, over deron williams, over rubio… over any other point guard in the league if i was a hypothetical GM. the man is insane.


jeremy lin!!!

well it is time for me to chime in on the phenomenon known as LINSANITY.

make no mistake, i am a fan. but i am a bandwagon fan. let me admit this loudly and clearly that I AM A JEREMY LIN BANDWAGON FAN. that’s because we all love the narrative. but it has come to the extent that jeremy lin’s game winner has been celebrated as if he is some monster dude. yeah game winners are great but consider the situation

1. 5 seconds left on the clock. plenty of time for you to choose what to do. he had the under his control. no pressure.

2. he took a pull-up jumper. how hard is it to have taken a pull-up jumper? okay la he delivered but it isn’t as epic as a kobe bryant 2v1 pumpfake of doom nasty footwork step around reverse direction spin hanging fadeaway jumper. that entire descriptive still doesn’t do justice to a kobe fadeaway. to properly appreciate what i just said…


3. his defender was jose calderon. yeah enough said. no hate to the point guard of the spanish national team but i am willing to say that calderon is probably a below average defender at the point guard position. not like 49th percentile, but something like 25th percentile (assume rondo is 100th percentile, which he is)

that said, it was still a great play. and jeremy lin is most importantly delivering WINS to the knicks. wins and turnovers, but wins nonetheless.

now. why am i a jeremy lin fan?

because i’m a student, i’m asian, and i play basketball. and i’m human.

jeremy lin’s story is the very essence of a hollywood narrative. asian kid overcomes racial stereotypes to make it big in the NBA – a league dominated by larger-than-life, genetically extreme, physically incredible black superstars (and 1x blake griffin).

but we love jeremy lin. i’m sure people have analysed this often enough but i just HAD to offer MY own take on it.

jeremy lin means that the kid on the block has dreams which can be realised. when i play ball with my friends, i always end up guarding people bigger than me. zachary low, who by singaporean neighbourhood court size reckonings should be playing at small forward, is always forced to guard those 180cm + dudes who are… simply taller. taller is darnirritating when you have to guard them. as a result i have to make up for it by hitting the weights and hitting the offensive player and pushing him away. i am in essence a small forward forced to defend bigger dudes. i am the shawn marion of the neighbourhood court – minus the weird shooting form. and this physical matchup is EXEMPLIFIED in jeremy lin. who is asian. how can a skinny and pasty kid with chinese genetic roots challenge a black dude? lets say jeremy lin versus kyle lowry… i’m willing to bet kyle lowry can run faster, jumper higher, lift more, etc etc. let’s not even talk about the crazy insane freaks like westbrook and derrick ROSEEEEEE!!!!!! who can do humanly impossible things. but here we have token asian kid, stepping on the court and crossing over nba veterans as if it’s the ivy league all over again. who says asians only can study? who says asians can’t ball?

jeremy lin means that being a student doesn’t mean you can’t chase your dreams. here in singapore, being a student is a higher calling. we are pretty much obsessed with education. it has had such a profound impact on our society that the social calendar of the average teenage student is structured around the school year. it is always emphasised that we are students first – heck, this is something i preached to my own students. guys, you gotta study, cos that’s the whole point of being a student. i’ll say this again in the future, most likely. but let us not forget (myself included) that student is simply one aspect of the persona. ‘student’ too often overwhelms the singaporean personality. jeremy lin shows us that athletic success is not tangential to academic prowess. jeremy lin shows us that its possible to ball and study. there’s no dichotomy here… it’s a venn diagram with Lin in the center and hordes of students running after.

jeremy lin means that anyone can play ball. skinny asian kid playing the most difficult position in a basketball hotbed like new york, under the scrutiny of madison square garden, and the hopes of more than a billion people upon his shoulders? no problem baby. its 6 straight games with 20 plus points, and 6 wins. i’m sitting here hoping for win number 7. its a streak we all hope won’t stop. if it means the knicks make the playoffs, even better… a starting 5 of chandler STAT melo fields lin with shumpert, baron davis (if he can get back to half of the player he was when he did THIS: and whoever else is a knick off the bench… that’s gotta make some noise in the playoffs. melo alone can win you a game (yea he may suck for 46 minutes but in the last 2 minutes melo DELIVERS and thats the truth). with a proper point guard the knicks might actually make it to the 2nd round! but i’m not a knicks fan anyway.

in short, jeremy lin means hope. that’s why we love him. let’s hope the media doesn’t hate him when he finally has a bad game, or when the knicks lose. let’s hope jeremy lin has a great career ahead of him, with a ring or two thrown in.

but you know what else about jeremy lin?

“I can’t even play for myself.  The right way to play is not for others and not for myself, but for God.  I still don’t fully understand what that means.  I’m still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give the game up to Him.  My audience is God.”

yea man.