Fuck Christmas. I haven’t enjoyed that time of year since I got on the buying side of gift giving. Thanksgiving isn’t much better eating turkey while watching the Lions and Bears disgrace the game of football before drifting off to the sound of your own farts. Easter, please. Fancy clothes, chocolate rabbits and the indelible image of our savior nailed to a cross. My favorite time of year is the summer when Orlando’s Pro Am League is in season, and Pedro’s Posse is at full gallup.
The Pro Am is a summer basketball league open to anyone from current NBA players to who the hell thought it was a good idea to give that guy a uniform guys, and everyone in between. The games are played at the Orlando Downtown Rec, and officiated by current and aspiring professional officials. Admission is free, and the fun is unlimited.
Pedro’s Posse is Juan Bernal and his hustle. He has led the team from it’s inception, coaching, playing, procuring players, washing uniforms, working the officials, and on one glorious occasion winning a title. Nobody has invested more of himself into the team and league over the last seven years than the Hood Legend.
On the court, the Posse is 7-0 this season and embody the virtues of team basketball leading the league in passes completed and offensive possessions involving more than one pass. Transition defense can be spotty, but no team closes games better.
I missed the first two games of the season, a Saturday double header on June 27th, but I was on the bench as first assistant for game three on Sunday. We had six players available Rocky Trice, B Rich, Mitch Woods, Fletcher Magee, Alex Blessig and Alex Castillo. We were mildly undersized and had great difficulty with our pick and roll coverages, but scrambled to a late win.
On Monday night, we were joined by NBA champion Jason Williams, big man Drew Bachanov and sharpshooter Kyle Kozuta. The game started slowly, and for the second time in as many games Juan walked down the bench and said, “we got our heads half way up our asses.” Minutes later, Juan called time out demanding the players pull their heads out of their asses. At the end of one, we led 22-10, but Juan continued to talk of heads being pulled from asses.
During our run to get the lead, B Rich hit five consecutive 3 point shots in a with his mother and young daughter sitting behind the bench. When he missed his sixth attempt, his mother yelled on to the court, “You can’t miss!”. I turned back noting that he had just hit five in a row, but received an icy glare, “He can’t miss. When he was growing up, we couldn’t afford to pave the driveway, but we paid to have a court paved so he could shoot a thousand shots a day. He can’t miss.” B Rich is 33 years old and a successful business man in the community, but “basketball never stops.”
Home Team Hoops was in the house and posted a youtube video from the game featuring White Chocolate Jason Williams that got over 700,000 views in 48 hours. JWill is a pleasure to have on the team, and his interactions with Juan are legendary. After making a fantastic steal in the third quarter, Juan praised JWill for his effort on the defensive end of the floor.
“Juan. Stop hoping. Stop praying. Get up off your knees cause it’s not happening again. I could get the ball so I got it, but I’m not trying any harder.”
Game five was a considerable downer as the other team had only two players. We won by forfeit, but with nine players on hand including Lake Howell and VCU legend Joey Rodriguez, scoreless Frank, Luis Brito and big man Dee Proby, we gave up some bodies and played a scrimmage. The core of our team went down 22-4 before drawing the obligatory get your head out of your ass speech from Magic Juan.
We crawled back into the game, but Magic Juan left at the half leaving me in control. Dee Proby and Drew Bachanov shot lights out from three point range down the stretch, and we trailed by 2 with 11 seconds left. Joey Rodriguez drew up a sideline out of bounds play that got Proby an elbow jumper, but he missed. Alex Castillo got the tip in to tie the game. Our opponent threw the ball the length of the court and out of bounds untouched with 6.5 seconds left. Rodriguez drew up a screen the screener action that freed B Rich for an open three and the lead with 2 seconds left. Bachanov missed at the buzzer on the other end, and we capped a double win.
Game six featured the Posse at it’s best. JWill was back in the lineup with former FSU player Luke Loucks and veteran Kyle Methany, who had been declared out indefinitely earlier in the week. Austin Rivers sat on the bench bemoaning the lack of quality in this year’s Pro Am and contemplating the availability of a new Clipper’s big man. Just behind the bench, Pausha regaled us with tales of his and Chandler Parson’s efforts to recruit Clipper big man DeAndre Jordan to the Mavs. Juan was on fire in pregame cautioning the team that our opponent had beaten a team with three professional basketball players.
JWill, “Which three?”
Juan, “Well, I’m not gonna name names.”
JWill, “I thought that was a reasonable question?”
Juan relented and named the three players. We rolled by 20 and the game was stopped with 2:13 to play in the fourth.
Last night, I was standing outside the Rec five minutes before tip off and not one player had arrived yet. Texts to Juan went unanswered. I noticed a Mercedes enter the parking lot and a few moments later I was greeting Memphis Grizzlie Courtney Lee, who was making his 2015 Posse debut. Courtney was accompanied by two guys, but neither looked to have shoes to play.
Over the next few minutes Juan, B Rich, Luke, Rocky and Alex arrived, but that was it. We had five. It was a strong five and we played well from the start despite the fact Juan did not address the team. During the quarter break, there was a discussion of shoe sizes and Rocky ran out to his car to grab a pair of shoes for what turned out to be Courtney’s brother Cody, who was added to the score book and entered the game a few minutes later. Cody, a D-3 all american, had a solid game and Juan was quick to offer his assistance in finding Cody a contract to play overseas if he was “about that life.”
Juan left at the half for Atlanta. His estimated time of arrival was 4am. B Rich noticed Juan was gone, and I told him of his departure for Atlanta.
B Rich paused and asked, “Where’s his bag?”
Me, “Probably in his car.”
B Rich, “He rode with me and he didn’t have a bag.”
Which led us to the obvious conclusion that Juan left for a three day road trip without so much as a toothbrush or fresh drawers.