Pedro’s Posse Falls Short….Literally….In Rivera Sports League Final

This spring Pedro’s Posse debuted in the Rivera Sports League, a hidden treasure in the Orlando basketball scene.  Since it’s inception, the league, run by Gio Rivera, has played on Sunday’s on outdoor courts.  Games run all day long and the atmosphere is terrific.  The teams are predominately Hispanic and wear Rivera Sports Uniforms that range from NBA favorites like the Cavs and Warriors to Space Jam and other original stylings.  Most players have nicknames on the back, and you are in the minority if you are not wearing a shooting sleeve or full length slides.

This season the league moved indoors first at the TNT gym and later to an obscure elementary gym off Formosa just north of downtown.  Just outside the gym, chicken, rice and fries were cooked, and inside wives, girlfriends, side pieces and young children filled the bleachers.  There is a live DJ, and most players hang out in the gym for at least a game after playing talking trash, and catching up with friends on other teams.

One of my low key favorite parts of the league is the utter indifference directed at the teams warming up to play.  Kids will hoard all the available basketballs casting long shots and stealing loose balls from any team trying to warm up.  These kids act as though it is their birthright to shoot in pregame and look at you with total disdain if you put a hand out or ask for a ball to warm up.

The league is extremely competitive, and by far, the most passionate in town.  Most adult league player’s fall into two categories.  One, they are college or pro guys getting a workout with no interest in getting hurt, or two, they are guys who have to go to work on Monday, and for that reason, have no interest in getting hurt.  All this to say that it’s extremely rare in an adult league for a guy to go to the ground for a loose ball.  With this background, I was shocked to see two grown men in the category of “guy that has to go to work on Monday” full out dive for a loose ball at midcourt that neither guy had a realistic chance of saving.  Nevermind that both guys were on the same team.

At least two games, including one of ours, were cut short due to fighting, and what’s more entertaining is the animated, combustible discussions among teammates that feature at every dead ball, time-out or half-time.

Pedro’s Posse was the class of the league for the entire regular season.  We fielded a team of great size with Dave Butler and Adam Jones, and extraordinary shooting with Bryan Richardson, Zack Trapp, Nate Moran, Cliff Smith and Juan Bernal, our only authentically Hispanic player.  Our efforts were supplemented by the spot on scouting reports of Luis Brito, who consulted with us every game despite being rostered on a different team, and the unorthodox, but surprisingly effective Pat Triolo.  Our only blemish was the fight shortened game during the last week of the regular season that resulted in the suspension of Josh Castellanos who capped a tough shooting day, by putting a face claw on an opposing player who had the audacity to throw an elbow to the abdomen away from the play.  Both players were restrained before further damage accrued.

The league featured an All-Star game.  Pedro’s Posse was represented by Juan Bernal who managed to play the entire game without taking a shot.  Our man Luis Brito hit 7 3’s and the game finished on an unnecessary halfcourt shot.  

We rolled through the first round of the playoffs with a 28 point win, but adult league championships are won with personnel, and we had issues this past weekend.  In the semi-final we had a seven man roster sans point guard.  We built a 24 point lead, but struggled against pressure late and escaped by 5.
In the Final, Nate Moran etched his name in Pedro’s Posse history alongside Jason Williams and Rocky Trice in the litany of difference making players that failed to show for a final.  Our roster was down to 6, and I was the sixth man.  The game started well as we scored inside and out jumping to a 15-9 lead.  We had some defensive issues, however, and lost the lead midway through the first half.  We trailed by 5 at the break and had our first bit of foul trouble as Pat Triolo picked up his third in the final minute on a dispute blocking call in front of our bench.

Dave Butler picked up two quick fouls in the second to give him four.  Butler was our only big and was having a strong game on both ends of the floor.  Despite the four fouls, he played inspired basketball defending the rim with eight blocks.  Down two with three minutes to play, the big man picked up his fifth and was finished.  I entered the game and the team lost 15″ in height, and most of our hope.

I didn’t hurt the team, but I really gave no meaningful contribution.  Zack Trapp bravely drew fouls and made free throws to keep us in contention and Juan Bernal hit a three with 15 seconds left to make it a one point game, but we would fall by three.

The Cavs celebrated like they won another NBA title…jumping up and down, screaming with joy.  We ambled back to the bench knowing that we were a player short.

All Star Weekend: Weighed, Measured and Found Wanting

I was discussing the Super Bowl with a co-worker last week, and we focused on the two terrific catches of Julio Jones and Julien Edelman.  Our conclusion was that the pressure of the moment brought out another level of greatness for two tremendous players and gave us as fans a moment.  Competition.

This All Star weekend gave us nothing because it lacked competition from the Celebrity game to the final whistle Sunday night.  It was a disservice to the game and the fans.

I watched the Celebrity game because my guy Jason Williams was playing.  Two minutes into the game, I knew his team would win because having played with him, he has a way of pushing everyone to do better…even third tier celebrities.  His frenetic basketball mind, when engaged, is a thing of inspirational beauty.  Selfish point aside though, even the celebrity game should be competitive.  Get people that can play basketball and who would care to do so on that stage.  It will be more entertaining.

The dunk contest last year was amazing.  Two hungry, athletic guys went after each other and elevated each other’s performance.  It was that visceral vibe as much as the great dunks that made that event matter.  This year it just wasn’t there.

The three point competition lacked Steph Curry and will be a diminished event whenever he chooses not to compete.  He is the best shooter the game has seen, and even while Klay Thompson won head to head last year, the act of beating Curry validated just how great Thompson was that night.  

The best players must choose to compete.  This is what the All Star weekend is about.  The best players in the World showing out, not sitting out.

Finally, there was the game itself.  I get an up and down game with moderate effort level….for exactly three quarters.  At the start of the 4th, the best of the best get out there and decide things.  The lack of intensity, effort and pride on display was an insult.  You do not get to the level any of these guys get by playing this way.  The notions of avoiding injury or putting on a show are horseshit.  Indulge us for twelve minutes.

This is a failure of leadership on the part of the game’s senior stars….LeBron, Curry and KD.  They should take pride in asserting their dominance in that setting if only briefly by demanding to play in the forth and getting after it.  The young players would follow their lead and take pride in being caller upon to play decisive minutes.

Be better and don’t waste our fucking time.

Transitions and Hope

My twins, Bryson and Holland, applied to college this week.  Bryson to Jacksonville University where he will play soccer, and Holland to Florida Atlantic University and Florida State University.  I assisted, to the extent they permitted, them in writing their admissions essays, and reviewed the final products.  It was a revealing process, but not in the way I intended.

Bryson essentially used me to generate some raw thoughts early in the process, and then trampled my work with a theatrical essay on his road to achievement.  He glorified himself as a writer of great repute while dismissing me as a benign objectivist.  Between the lines though, I was surprised to read a bit more insecurity than he would outwardly concede, though when pressed on this issue, he deftly shielded himself with a “dramatic flourish” defense.

Holland offered little at the outset of the process and was openly insecure.  She pushed me to start the process while I pressed her for insight into her genuine feelings and aspirations.  I assembled a draft and left the end open for “her”.  She demurred and consulted her brothers.  Bryson produced a draft that was over the top unusable excrement.  I was pissed.

This morning I woke to a draft from Holland that was pitch perfect.  She expressed herself.  Wrote from the heart, and in the closing paragraph a lump developed as I read in her words the strength that I always believed was in her.  I touched up a few grammatical points and sent it back with the words, “Holland, really good job.  You dug in and wrote from the heart.  That’s where good writing exists.  Not in fake drama and bullshit.  I left the last paragraph untouched because it was real.  Loved it.  Even got a bit choked up.  Now get this application submitted and become a NOLE!”

I went all caps on the “NOLE!” for selfish reasons.  I am a NOLE!  This weekend, my old roommate Sarvin Patel took his family to Tallahassee for the first time to see a game and sent a bunch of pictures.  We spent the weekend texting pictures and telling stories of our time in Tallahassee.  It was a special time and, as time has proven, unforgettable.  I wish that experience for anyone that goes to college, and especially, my guys.

As a college athlete, Bryson will have the unique experience of team sports at a high level and the ability to bond with his teammates through the demanding rigors of time management, close proximity and competitive challenge.  It is something I was unable to achieve for myself and for which I am immensely proud of him.

As a college student, Holland’s journey will be different, much closer to my own, and maybe that is why I am rooting so hard for her to be a NOLE!  At any campus, you will study for your degree and meet valuable friends that can influence and alter the course of your life, but for me, there is a tremendous enhancement of the experience when it is done at a school like Florida State where sports, on the national level, are so important.  You never forget that time of your life.  It becomes a part of you for better or worse.  It is a brotherhood or sisterhood not as tightly defined as Bryson will enjoy, but eternal.

I remember leaving the stadium after beating the Gators during law school.  Every Nole in the stadium chanted and chopped their way down the concourse and into the night.  My only thought, other than pride, was that my Dad needed to see a game before I graduated, or he died.  The following year we chanted and chopped our way out of the stadium after beating Miami’s ass.  I want this for Holland.  I want it for both us so that in addition to our father/daughter bond we have a bond as NOLES!

And just maybe she might have a better understanding of why her father hurls objects across the room when a lineman jumps offside on 3rd and 2, mother fucks the world with every missed tackle in space, buries every scrap of Nole clothing in the deepest corner of the closet after a 63-20 loss, or just beams with pride every weekend “we” win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEN PRINCIPLES OF POSSESSION

I did not write this, but its sound advice for any pig-headed player screwing up the local pick up with crappy play.

PRINCIPLE 1: TEAM SHAPE
Every time your team has the ball, you must spread out to make the field as big as possible. This is done by player 9 pushing up as high as possible, wingers 7 and 11 getting out as high and wide as possible, the back line dropping back and the midfielders spreading into the space in the middle.

PRINCIPLE 2: PEEL OFF AND OPEN BODY TO THE FIELD
All the players ahead of the ball should peel off their opponent and open their body so they can receive the ball facing up field. Players should avoid receiving the ball with back to goal if there is pressure on them. Move away from pressure and open body to at least a sideways-on posture.

PRINCIPLE 3: BENDING RUNS
Whenever you make a forward run on the flanks, bend your run towards the outside to create width and separate yourself from your opponent. Whenever you make a forward run in the middle of the field, bend your run to give the passer enough time to judge the pass, to open up a passing lane for a through ball, and to avoid running into off-side.

PRINCIPLE 4: RUNS TRIGGER RUNS – AWARENESS OF SURROUNDING
Players need to look around them all the time to see where their teammates and opponents are. This will help players make the correct runs and will avoid players duplicating runs or running into the same area. For example, if you are an attacking midfielder and you see that your center forward is making a checking run towards the ball, you might decide to run into the space created by him/her and run onto a through ball behind the other team’s defense. Another example is when a winger runs inside to make room for the fullback to overlap. Runs trigger other runs but for that to happen you must be constantly looking around you to assess your position in relation to your teammates’ positions.

PRINCIPLE 5: DIAGONAL PASSES
Diagonal passes are better than vertical passes. Diagonal pass allows the receiver to open his/her body and receive the pass facing up field. A diagonal pass accomplishes both penetration and switching all in one pass. A vertical pass is played into a player who is likely to be facing his/her own goal and have limited vision. If he/she is marked, a vertical pass is difficult to control. Avoid vertical passes and look for the diagonal ball as often as possible.

PRINCIPLE 6: EVERY BACK PASS IS FOLLOWED BY A SWITCH
When a player makes a back pass, he/she is likely doing it because he/she does not see an option to play forward. It usually means that the area in front of the ball is too congested or your team is outnumbered in this area. For this reason, it is usually best to switch the ball into another area of the field. Another reason for a switch following a back pass is to sustain a rhythm of possession and increase the speed of play.
Of course, there are exceptions to this principle. For example, if the back pass is part of a combination play like a wall pass or a back-through passing sequence to penetrate, it is of course ok.

PRINCIPLE 7: THE BALL DOESN’T STAY IN AN AREA FOR LONG
To maintain possession and not allow the other team to press and win the ball, we have to circulate the ball and move it constantly around the field. This makes us less predictable and it makes it harder for the other team to pin us down and press us with lots of players. As a rule of thumb, after a couple of short passes in one area, the next pass should be played out of the area.

PRINCIPLE 8: KEEPERS DISTRIBUTE BALLS, AVOID THE LONG PUNT
Since the emphasis in ODP is to play out of the back, it is important for the keeper and the back line to become comfortable at playing out of the back. When the keeper catches a cross or a shot, the team should spread out quickly so the keeper can throw the ball to a free player. On goal kicks, the keeper should look to play the ball to feet rather than send everyone up and take a long high kick.

PRINCIPLE 9: USE THROW-INS TO SWITCH THE POINT OF ATTACK
Use the throw in to switch the point of attack since the opposing team has most of their players squeezed into the area near the throw-in. This means that there is lots of space on the other side of the field. Avoid throwing the ball down the line into a crowd since it usually results in loss of possession.

PRINCIPLE 10: SPEED OF PLAY
You have to learn to play quickly and keep the ball moving. This requires a lot of one touch and two touch play. This results in a high tempo of possession and makes it difficult for the opponents to keep up with the play. There are some moments when dribbling is appropriate, but for the majority of the time, quick one touch or two touch passing is the best way. If you watch high level soccer on TV, you will see how quickly the ball is passed from one player to the next, with a minimum of fuss and with quick and pacey ball movement. KEEP THE BALL MOVING!!!!

PEDRO’S POSSE SUMMER 16 TOUR

Dave Farber, Bryan Richardson and Juan Bernal sat around a table at Twin Peaks in Altamonte in the fading daylight hours of Sunday August 7.  It was somber as Pedro’s Posse had just dropped a 3rd straight game, and sat 5-5 on the season.  The euphoria of last season’s run and Sweet 16 TBT 2016 showing seemed remote as it would take a massive effort to just make the playoffs this season.  Jason Williams was suspended, and likely wouldn’t play the rest of the season, Rocky Trice was in hospital and we only had one substantial contributor from last season’s team remaining- Bryan Richardson, the Red Bull and vodka-fueled super shooter, who, for various reasons, was a shell of himself for most of the season. There was some serious thought, albeit for a very brief period of time (maybe 2-3 minutes) of mailing in the rest of the season.

Jason’s “suspension” was totally ludicrous, robbing Pedro’s Posse of its enigmatic talisman and irreparably damaging the psyche of the team. 28 different players suited up through 14 games, and six of them were lost with season ending injuries including promising newcomers, Spencer Rivers and Schuyler Rimmer.  The season started two weeks later than usual causing additional difficulties with guys are leaving to go overseas and back to college.  The pool of available talent dwindles as the month goes along. But in the desperate hours, Juan refused to quit. This is what real organizations and the spirit of Pedro’s Posse is made of- the grind, the hustle and everything that comes with it, whether you’re 16-0 or 8-6 (like we were in 2014, and grinded to make the Finals), you have to let situations play themselves out and keep fighting. And that’s exactly what we did.

With so many veterans injured or otherwise unavailable, we dug deeper into the 407 talent pool, and gave birth to the next generation of Pedro’s Posse- Dayon Griffin, Adonys Henriquez, Fletcher Magee, Brett Comer, Joe Chealey and Chris Ferguson all played well. We got cameos from veterans Deividas Dulkys, Luke Loucks, founding members John Pietkiewicz, DJ Ferguson, and the timely return to health of Rocky Trice.  We lost our first game after the Twin Peaks soul searching, but won our next two to get to the playoffs at 7-6. We played surprisingly cohesive basketball and rediscovered our identity.

Our final regular season game was for seed, and again we faced adversity in the unpleasant guise of attrition, injury and unavailability. We went into our final regular season game with 6 players- 3 of whom Dave Farber, Nate Moran and Luis Brito are limited minutes role players.   We started out beautifully and were up 24 midway through the third quarter. But 20 missed free throws, lack of execution and depth plagued us and we were in a dogfight. We were up 2 with 5 seconds to go, and Space Coast Stars missed a contested layup at the buzzer and we held on to a 72-70 win to clinch a three way tie for the 2nd seed.

Many things in the Pro-Am are all about circumstance, and throughout the season and prior, we have been on the wrong side of many circumstances.

In 2010- Guys missing flights and didn’t get back in time for games.
2013- Courtney Lee gets hurt on the morning of the play-offs and Nick Calathes plays with a 100 degree fever.  Despite finishing the season 13-1, we lose in the first round of the playoffs.
2014- Rocky misses the championship game, Joey gets hurt in the first five minutes of the title game and we lose by 7 despite playing our third game that day.
2015- Rocky and Jason miss the championship after both getting hurt in the semifinal and we lose on a buzzer beater in overtime to ruin a perfect season.

Our semifinal playoff game on Sunday was rescheduled to Monday- where we had 8 solid guys and grinded out an overtime win, in what was very reminiscent of 2015 semifinal. We didn’t play well and had a couple of guys struggle offensively, but we fought hard, made some key stops at the end and Bryan Richardson hit some big shots in the 4th quarter and overtime. Deividas Dulkys was dreadful offensively, but our faith in him was rewarded with his defensive effort throughout the game, including a steal on a potential game winning possession for them.

We’ve been on the wrong side of many circumstances and have had a ton of adversity this season between various factors, but here we are. We showed our true colors. We fought and caught some breaks in the process. Third final in a row, 4th in 6, 5th in 8. Let’s finish this one.