February 28, 2012

Kevin, Kobe, & Kyrie: Special ‘Ks’ leave a mark at the All Star Weekend

Kevin Durant won the All Star MVP Award. Kobe Bryant broke Michael Jordan’s All Star scoring record and had his own nose broken. Kevin Love won the three-point shootout. Kyrie Irving was the best young star amongst a host of young guns at the Rising Stars competition. And a certain ‘King’ James – for his brilliance and for his mistakes – made some headlines in Orlando during the mid-season festivities.

Click here to read full article

February 27, 2012

India wins Mid Zone qualifiers to secure a spot at the U18 FIBA Asia Championship

Once again, India faced no challenge from the basketball forces of neighbouring South Asian nations as they strolled through the Mid Zone Qualifiers this past weekend in New Delhi (Feb 24-26 2012) and secured a spot for themselves in the U18 FIBA Asia Championship, set to be held in Mongolia in August.

Click here to read full article

February 26, 2012

Photos: Clippers @ Lakers from the Staples Center on Jan 25th

About exactly a month ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a defining chapter in the beginning of a new rivalry. After picking up Chris Paul, the LA Clippers have skyrocketed up, both in excitement and in results. But the Clippers share their arena with another team in Los Angeles - a team that has a far more glittering past - the Lakers. Even with age catching up to them, Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Metta World Peace, and the rest of the company are still quite a threat. On the other hand, Chris Paul brought along the charge with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Caron Butler on his side.

The two teams played each other for the second time in the regular season on January 25th, 2012. It was a close and exciting game throughout, won 97-92 in the end by the big brothers - the Lakers - who were led by Pau Gasol and a clutch performance by Kobe Bryant, which overshadowed Griffin's bigh night.

Here are some photographs I clicked from the game (I was sitting way up in the highest pressbox!) and then later, from the Lakers locker room. I also wrote a detailed feature about this game and the growing battle of Los Angeles for my blog on NBA.com/India.

Pre-game National anthem... Here is the Staples Center!

Chris Paul leading the Clippers offense.

Blake Griffin trying to take on Pau Gasol 1-on-1

Kobe starting to takeover

Don't mess with World Peace!

Lakers locker room filled with media after the game

Pau Gasol getting interviewed postgame

And here he is, the Black Mamba himself... Kobe Bryant! I asked him if the Lakers and the Clippers are a rivalry now, to which he scoffed and answered, "Rivalries are only made in the playoffs!"

February 25, 2012

Rising Stars, Shining Stars, & Fading Stars – Preview of the 2012 All Star Weekend

Cleveland. Minnesota. Charlotte. Utah. Night in and night out, NBA players across the North-American hemisphere are putting in work, some are putting on a show, while others are quietly stacking up wins. Distracted by the big city/big team hype, you may not hear about many regularly, but nearly every NBA city has a rising star to watch for the future, a shining star enjoying his prime, or a fading star that still has enough in his tank for a few last miles.

Click here to read full article.

February 24, 2012

Karnataka to conduct State 'A' Division League Basketball Championship for Men

The Karnataka State Basketball Association (KSBA) will be conducting the State "A' Division League Basketball Chamspionship for Men for the 'Prof NC Parappa Memorial Trophy' from February 24-26, 2012. Matches will be held daily from 5 PM onwards at the Sri Kanteerava Stadium Basketball Courts in Bangalore.

The following teams will be participating in this tournament:

1. Vijaya Bank
2. MEG & Center
3. ASC
4. KSP
5. JSC
6. HAL
9. CMP
10. Kormanagal Sports Club

February 23, 2012

India to play in Mid-Zone FIBA Asia U18 Championship Qualifiers in New Delhi

India’s U18 Men’s Basketball team will play in a Mid-Zone Qualifying Tournament against Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka in New Delhi from February 24-26, 2012. The team that wins this tournament will qualify for the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship, which will be held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, from August 17-26.

Click here to read full article

February 20, 2012

Li-N-A: Jeremy Lin busts the myth of basketball genes

Jeremy Lin is not the first Asian-origin person to dominate on a basketball court. Asians of all backgrounds have been breaking ankles, hitting threes, dunking and shutting their opponents down, and they’ve been doing it in playgrounds, in sweaty gyms, in schools, colleges, and in professional leagues around the world. Lin isn’t even the first Asian to be an NBA star: a certain 7 foot 6 behemoth by the name of Yao Ming would like to take credit for that. Many others from China or Japan or Iran have had their brief stints at the highest level of the game.

Click here to read full article

February 17, 2012

14 Indian basketball Coaches to visit US as part of Sports visitor exchange

Basketball continues to bring the two largest democracies in the world together.

While the USA and India may be on opposite spectrums of the scale in the basketball world, the game has proven to be a crucial medium for the two countries in recent years.

As part of its newest step, the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, along with the National Basketball Association (NBA), announced that 14 Indian basketball coaches have been chosen for a 10-day basketball Sports Visitor exchange. The delegation of Indian coaches will be in the US from February 17th – 27th, 2012, starting their programme in capital city Washington DC and even travelling to Orlando for the NBA All Star Game, set to be held on Sunday, February 26th.

The US Department of State has announced that the Indian coaches will be meeting US Basketball Coaches during their time in Washington, working with young American athletes, participating in basketball clinics with Special Olympic athletes, and engaging in activities that focus on teambuilding and injury prevention.

This is of course not the first time a programme like this has been organised for the Indian coaches: in mid-2010, American basketball coach JD Walsh, who has been heavily involved in teaching basketball in India, took 10 Indian coaches to the George Mason University (GMU). That initiative was sponsored by the International Sports Initiative grant, awarded through the SportsUnited Division of the US state department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

In recent years, the NBA has also been involved with basketball diplomacy between the US and India: A year ago, NBA legend George Gervin and WNBA player Katie Smith visited India as part of a US Dept of State sports envoy. Last month, former NBA player Muggsy Bogues came to India to also be part of an NBA and US Dept of State collaboration programme as part of a trip made by the US Senate India Caucus to India.

February 16, 2012

India climbs two spots to 47th in FIBA Combined World Rankings

While India’s Senior Men’s team disappointed with their performance at the FIBA Asia Championship last year, the slight improvement made by India’s Women’s and India’s Youth Boys’ teams have helped move India two spots up in the ‘Combined’ rankings of International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rankings to 47th place in 2011.

Click here to read full article.

February 15, 2012

Photos: Muggsy Bogues holds clinic in New Delhi

The shortest player to ever play in the NBA - Muggsy Bogues - came to India over a month ago and held a clinic at the Modern School (Barakhamba) in New Delhi on January 9th, 2011. Around 75 local schoolkids attended this clinic and Bogues was also welcomed by five visiting members of the American congressional delegation.

You can read my extensive interview with Bogues during his time in India here.

But of course, no amount of articles and interviews can describe complete story... So here are some photographs of the Charlotte Hornets' legend Muggsy Bogues in New Delhi!

Bogues demonstrating a dribbling drill at Modern School

Bogues meets India's two Senior National Team coaches - Pete Gaudet (India Women) and Kenny Natt (India Men)

More dribbling lessons...

Bogues with Shiba Maggon - India's basketball referee, Youth Girls coach, and former Senior International player.

"Crossover dribble... And then EXPLODE for the lay-up!"

So it also happened to be Muggsy Bogues' birthday when he was in India (Jan 9th!). NBA-India's Senior Director of Development presented him a birthday cake.

Joining Bogues at the event was Senator Mark Warner from Virginia, the Senate India Caucus Chairman, along with four other members of the Caucus from across the USA, who are on an official visit to India from January 7-14th. The NBA presented them with practice jackets that matched teams those closest to their hometowns!

February 14, 2012

All for one / All 4 Win

Basketball, as a game, offers uniquely opposing perceptions from different-thinking players and lovers of the game. On one hand, it is a game where five individuals, all taking on the court at the same time, mesh and mold perfectly together to make a strong unit to defeat their opponents. It doesn’t matter who the individual is or how much he scores as long as his team outscores the opposing team at the end of regulation.

Click here for full article

February 11, 2012

Harish Sharma (1958-2012): Indian Basketball’s visionary leader passes away

It is difficult to mourn a person’s death when you’d rather remember their life. And Harish Sharma, the visionary leader of Indian Basketball, certainly led a memorable life.

Click here for full article.

February 10, 2012

Taking my talents to... SportsKeeda.com

For those who have long followed this blog, fans of basketball in India and fans of the NBA, you may know that a lot of my posts also appear on SportsKeeda.com: the portal for sports fans and writers in India.

Starting this week, I will be officially joining SportsKeeda as a freelance writer. Keep checking SportsKeeda.com/Basketball for my features on India Basketball and the NBA.

Thanks for following and I hope you keep reading! I also write two features a week for NBA.com/India. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter, where I'm a lot more interesting.

February 8, 2012

FIBA Asia releases 2012 Calender

From Lebanon to Malaysia, and from Mongolia to Japan, high-level basketball will travel all across the massive continent of Asia this year: FIBA Asia has released the complete Calender of dates and venues of its events in 2012, highlighted by the 4th FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo this September.

The calendar will tip off with the 23rd FIBA Asia Champions Cup, FIBA Asia’s premier event for club teams, which will be hosted by Lebanon at Beirut from June 2–10th, 2012. The top club teams from the top basketball nations in the continent take part: last year's competition was won by Al-Riyadi Beirut in Pasig, Philippines.

In August, the best U18 players in Asia will compete in the 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship, which will be held in the Mongolian capital of UIaanbaatar from Aug 17-26. This is the first time that a FIBA Asia event will be held in Mongolia! Future stars of Asia will be showcased here: China won this championship with a dominating performance in Yemen two years ago, and India, who featured the likes of Arjun Singh and Rakesh Kumar Yadav, finished 13th despite a good showing. After India's good performance at last year's U16 Boys' Championship, we will be hoping that some of the confident young talent now matures to help the squad make a mark in Mongolia this year.

Known previously as the FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup, the 4th FIBA Asia Cup, which features the the 10 top senior National Teams in Asia, will be held in Tokyo, Japan, from September 14-22. The champions from the 4th FIBA Asia Cup will earn a direct qualification to the 27th FIBA Asia Championship in 2013. The previous edition of this cup was held in Lebanon and won by the hosts.

The best under-18 women players will compete at Batu Pahat in Malaysia, at the 21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women, which is the last FIBA Asia event of the year, from September 29th - 6th October. This is the qualifying event for the 2013 FIBA World U19 Championship for Women. The 20th edition of this tournament was held in Thailand in 2010 and won by China. India will be competing in this championship, showcasing the up-and-comers in the women's section from around the country.

Here is the complete 2012 FIBA Asia Calender:

  • 23rd FIBA Asia Champions Cup - June 2-10 - Beirut, Lebanon
  • 22nd FIBA Asia U18 Championship - August 17-26 - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
  • 4th FIBA Asia Cup - September 14-22 - Tokyo, Japan
  • 21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship for Women - September 29-October 6 - Batu Pahat, Malaysia.
  • February 5, 2012

    Lost Ones

    This post right here goes out to all of those great NBA players stuck in below-average teams, surrounded by bad talent or sometimes bad management, losing games night-in-and-night-out, but keeping their heads up high as true professionals should. They are some of the best players in the league today, but haven't received the hype or the respect because of their poor squads. Some of them need to be released from their misery and traded away, some just need a little more help on their side to show the world what they're capable of.

    These are the NBA's Lost Ones, players who all play in Sub .500 teams in the NBA (sorry Love and Rubio, T-Wolves touched 12-12 last night!):

    Steve Nash: The former two-time MVP is the poster boy of this list, qualifying for all of the above categories as a 'Lost One'. Nash is still a top player in the league. He's averaging 14.7 ppg over an incredible 54.7% shooting in addition with league-leading 9.9 assists a game. Yes, two days away from his 38th birthday, Nash is STILL leading the NBA in assists. His team, however, is only 9-14 so far, and after spending the golden years of his career in Phoenix with Amar'e Stoudemire, Shaun Marion, and Joe Johnson, his best teammates are now Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley. But Nash remains a pro, and just a few days ago, broke the Suns' franchise assist record. I've always been a fan of the Suns, but this legend needs to be traded to a contender so that Phoenix can rebuild and Nash, still chasing that elusive championship, can get one last shot at the promised land.

    Deron Williams: A few years ago, the 'best point guard in the NBA' argument featured Williams and Paul. Whatever the hell happened? New Jersey happened. Ever since being traded from Utah to one of the worst teams in the NBA, Williams has been in the league's lostlands. At this point last year in Utah, Williams was having the best season of his career, averaging 21.3 ppg with 9.7 apg before being traded to the Nets. He saw out a injury-plagued second-half of the season with the poor team before having a great summer vacation playing for Besiktas in Turkey, getting his jersey retired in the process. His name may not be mentioned regularly amongst the best PGs in recent months, but Williams is still getting consistent averages of 20.2 ppg and 8.7 apg. Unfortunately, the Nets are awful, holding on to a 8-17 record and have been playing mostly without their only other legit starter, Brook Lopez. Williams is in the last year of his contract: will the Nets trade him away or bring in someone else - like Dwight Howard - to keep him when they make their move to Brooklyn? Or will Williams see out this year and return rejuvenated after signing with a different team next season? Still only 27, he has many good years left under his belt: expect Deron not to be a 'Lost One' for too much longer.

    Monta Ellis & Stephen Curry: The Golden State Warriors backcourt deserve a mention together. Ellis (21.5 ppg) and Curry (16.8 ppg) are on paper one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA. So why the stacked losses? Golden State are 8-13, but their is cause for optimism in the Bay Area. This is an improving team under coach Mark Jackson, and although Ellis (25) and Curry (23) still haven't been able to carry their squad into the playoffs, they are both young and have a promising future ahead. Now only if they can stop getting injured every couple of weeks...

    Kyrie Irving: Why am I putting a rookie just 21 games into his NBA career on this list? Because this rookie really deserves more shine and more victories than his current 9-13 Cavaliers. Irving is living up to the hype of being the #1 draft pick, rewarding the post-LeBronacalypse-era Cleveland with 18 and 5 early in his career. More importantly, the Cavs are winning... well relatively. This is a team that only won 23% of their games last year. Now, because of a depleted Eastern Conference, Cavs are only one and half games away from grabbing a playoff spot! And even if they don't, and this continues to be another losing season in Cleveland, few people in the city will notice because they know they have a team leader to build their future around. Hopefully he can be surrounded by some good talent over the next few years to show his complete potential.

    John Wall & Tyreke Evans: I have a reason for putting these two former Kentucky guards together. Both are monsters of the stat-sheet and exciting talents to watch, both are only a few years into their career, and both of them have the same question marks hovering over them: leadership and maturity. Wall's Wizards (4-20) and Evans' Kings (8-15) are two of the biggest stinkers in the NBA. The talent in these two guards is undeniable, but neither has yet figured out how to convert that talent into team wins. Surrounded by young talent, both have a long way to go before graduating away from the 'lost ones' list (Wall's way up is much longer than Evans'), but these two are too gifted to be ignored or denied. One day, one or both are going to figure it out and become superstars in the league.

    Carmelo Anthony: Wait, WHAT? you may ask me... Isn't this guy a starter in the All Star Game this year? Doesn't he play under the flashing lights of New York City, along with fellow stars Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler. Doesn't he average almost 24 points a game? Hell, isn't he one of the best offensive players in the NBA? Yes, yes, yes, yes, to all your questions. Yet, Melo embarrassingly finds himself on this list. His much-publicised trade to New York hasn't been working out too well so far for Anthony or his teammates. The Knicks are losing a lot, and despite the talent on their roster, find themselves at a lowly 9-15 and below Cleveland in the East. Without a talented point guard to run the squad and a consistent focus on team defense, the Knicks are imbalanced and Anthony's individual brilliance isn't enough to fix that. Still, a talent like him - and the talent that surrounds him - can't be kept quite for too long, can it?

    February 3, 2012

    Vidya Niketan (Boys) & Bishop Cotton Girls' School win 2nd Bangalore School Basketball League

    After weeks of intense competition between some of the best High-School teams in Bangalore city, the squads from Vidya Niketan and Bishop Cotton Girls' School won the 2nd Bangalore School Basketball League on Tuesday, January 31 2012. The finals of the league, organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) and IMG-Reliance, were held at the Vidya Niketan School in Hebbal, Bangalore. The league was held in association with the Karnataka State Basketball Association (KSBBA).

    After only being up by two at halftime, hosts Vidya Niketan began to stretch their lead in the second period in the Boys' final against the squad from Delhi Public School (Bangalore South). A strong effort by Venkatesh of Vidya Niketan helped lift his side to a 59-45 victory. Kedar had 19 points for the losing side.

    In the Girls' final, Bishop Cotton got out firing on all quarters from the beginning against Kumaran's Children's Home, holding a 15 point lead at halftime and finally cruising to a 46-30 victory. Bishop Cotton were powered by Lopamudra, one of the best young talents in India, who scored 16 points in the final.

    Lopamudra (Girls) and Ventakesh (Boys) were named the best players of the tournament, while further awards were given to Kruthikaran of Bishop Cotton and Kedar for DPS (Bangalore South) as 'Most Promising Players' of the tournament.

    For the teams who qualified for the finals of this league, the cash prize was of Rs. 75,000 and Rs. 50,000 for winners and runners-up in each category. Chief Guest K. Govindraj, the President of the Karnataka Olympic Association and Senior Vice President of the BFI distributed the cash awards and prizes.

    Final Scores

    Girls: Bishop Cotton Girls School (Lopamudra 16) bt. Kumaran's Children's Home (Akshaya 10, Sahana 10) 46-30
    Boys: Vidya Niketan School (Venkatesh 25, Samarth 11) bt. Delhi Public School (Bangalore South) (Kedar 19) 59-45

    Best Player (Boys): Venkatesh (Vidya Niketan School)
    Best Player (Girls): Lopamudra (Bishop Cotton Girls School)
    Most Promising Player (Boys): Kedar (DPS - Bangalore South)
    Most Promising Player (Girls): Kruthikaran (Bishop Cotton Girls School)

    February 2, 2012

    Indian-origin girls Sophia Bhasin & Shilpa Tummala become High-School Basketball stars in US

    They live in different states and are two amongst thousands and thousands of high-school basketball stars in the USA, but Sophia Bhasin of Cajon High School (San Bernardino, California) and Shilpa Tummala of St. Mary's High School (Phoenix, Arizona) have a genealogical keeping them parallel: they are both of Indian-origin. The two young players have been making waves in the High-School girls basketball circuit in America and have both earned impressive Division I basketball scholarships for college.

    Bhasin was born in Punjab, India, and moved to the US when she was 8 years old. She didn't start playing basketball until the 7th grade, but has since developed into a star at Cajun in California. The 5-foot-7 guard has been an important contributor to a side with a 32-3 record that finished fourth in the state of California. She has been a scoring and triple-double threat for her side, averaging 25.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 8.8 assists, and 4.7 steals per game for her team.

    Then there's 5-11 Tummala, who was born in Phoenix but her parents moved to America from Andhra Pradesh in India. Tummala is a great inside-outside threat who has worked hard for St. Mary's in Arizona to now find herself ranked at #68 by ESPN HoopGurlz in girls basketball across the US.

    Both these young girls have broken traditional barriers set by the Indian cultural upbringing as well as expectations of basketball in the US, where Indian-origin players rarely make a mark. As a reward, both have committed to scholarships to Division-I basketball programmes at major colleges in the US: Sophia Bhasin will be attending Long Island University in New York while Shilpa Tummala has committed to attend the prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

    Glenn Nelson of ESPN wrote a special feature on the two Indian-origin girls. Here are some excerpts:

    "Honestly, it wasn't very common for an Indian girl to be so actively involved in sports," Tummala said via email. "The fact that I played basketball competitively and devoted so much of my time to basketball shocked many people in my community."

    "I do have family back in India," Tummala said. "And yes, most of them know that I am going to play basketball in college. They seem to enjoy the fact that I am going to Harvard next year to play basketball. But, I believe, the 'Harvard' part is what really excites them as they don't know much about my basketball career in America."
    Both Tummala and Bhasin have fathers who became active supporters of their basketball pursuits. Bhasin's twin brother, Ranjit, was who dragged her into the sport. She became a quick study, mastering for example the advanced skill of creating jump shots off the dribble, an attribute that is the foundation of her 25.2-point scoring average this season.

    Bhasin is a dual citizen of both India and the USA. In a story published for San Bernandino's 'The Sun', Bhasin said that she would be open to representing either country. Let's just hope she chooses us!

    Here are excerpts from 'The Sun' article on Sophia Bhasin, written by Pete Marshall:

    "It wasn't that hard (moving to the U.S.) because I had been here before and everyone has to learn English in India," Bhasin said.

    Bhasin, who now has dual citizenship in India and the U.S., knows she is part of two worlds that don't often cross paths. Not only is she from India but she is a Sikh and attends temple on Sundays in Riverside.
    "I don't really consider myself a pioneer," she said. "But I'll always be part of the India community. All of my dad's friends come out and my friends from temple come out and watch me play."
    Her father, V.P., who owns businesses in San Bernardino and Upland, was a cricket player as a youth before his career was cut short by a knee injury. He not only is at games but frequently shows up to watch Cajon practice.
    "I really wanted to encourage her to play basketball, which she really liked," V.P. said in a phone interview.

    "The women's basketball team from India is not very good," V.P. said. "They didn't even qualify for the Olympics (this year). I'd love to see Sophie play for India."
    "I'd love to be able to play for India or America," she said. "I'd be proud of myself as a dual citizen."

    Wishing both these girls the best of luck in hoops... Even if they don't contribute to basketball in India, I'll be proud to see them succeed as Indians abroad!

    February 1, 2012

    26th Federation Cup to be held in Kochi from March 14-18

    The best club sides/units from India's top states will face each other in the 26th Federation Cup National Basketball Championship for Men & Women, which is set to be held at the Rajiv Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Kochi (Kerala) from March 14-18th, 2012. The tournament will be organised by the Basketball Federation of India (BFI) in association with the Kerala Basketball Association.

    There are special eligibility rules for the Federation Cup, which are based on the top eight Men's and Women's teams from the previous year's National Basketball Championship, completed in New Delhi in January 2011. For the Men's championship, the champion club/unit in each state's inter-state basketball championship will be invited to play in the Federation Cup. For the Women's championship, the state teams themselves take part. Indian Railways are represented by the Railways champion unit in both the Men's and Women's championships.

    Men's Section The Champion District/Unit/Club of the State Championship/Inter District/Inter Unit of the following States/Units are eligible to participate taken on the basis of the placings at the 61st National Basketball Championship held at Delhi in 2011:

    1. Indian Railways
    2. Services
    3. Punjab
    4. Kerala
    5. Tamil Nadu
    6. Uttarakhand
    7. Chhattisgarh
    8. Andhra Pradesh

    Women's Section The Women's teams of the following States are eligible to participate on the basis of the results of 61st National Basketball Championship held at Delhi in 2011 but in the case of Indian Railways the Champion unit of Inter-Railway will represent:

    1. Champion Unit of Inter-Railway
    2. Delhi
    3. Tamil Nadu
    4. Chhattisgarh
    5. Maharashtra
    6. Kerala
    7. Andhra Pradesh
    8. Punjab

    The 2011 Federation Cup was held in Raipur, Chhattisgarh last year. Western Railway won the Men's tournament while hosts Chhattisgarh got their hands on the Women's trophy.