The Layup Drill — March Madness

By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly

Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. This month, we take a look at Dennis Rodman, Ichiro and the alligator, bad neighbors, and lots more.  

An international incident

Dennis Rodman visited North Korea and partied with Kim Jung Un. This is not a joke.  As part of a new television show on HBO, Rodman visited North Korea and had a good time, even hugging the leader of one of the countries in the “Axis of Evil.” Rodman and Kim attended a basketball exhibition game in which the Harlem Globetrotters played alongside North Korean players. The game ended in a tie. At the conclusion of the game, Kim and Rodman celebrated with multiple toasts and a feast. Rodman characterized Kim as a friend.

Rodman stated that Kim only wants President Barack Obama to call Kim to discuss basketball — a sport said to be popular in North Korea — a similar interest between the leaders of the countries. Let’s face it, that won’t happen.

In what can only be seen as irony…or a logical next step, North Korea threatened to attack the United States days after Rodman left the country. I really didn’t know that Rodman was that bad of a guest. He hangs out with Kim Jung Un, and the country threatens to destroy America. Kim is probably not such a good friend.

More problems in Korea

North Korea is not the only country with problems in the region. A South Korean basketball coach has been arrested for trying to fix four basketball games. Kang Dong-hee benched his two best players in an attempt to lose in exchange for $43,000 from two gamblers. The league indicated that it would ban Kang permanently if he is found guilty.  This is the latest in sport fixing scandals in South Korea, as the country has recently seen scandals in soccer, baseball, and volleyball. The country has strict laws on gambling, yet the past couple years have seen an influx in fixing of games to satisfy gamblers.

Bad neighbors

If you want to purchase property or be a landlord, here are two names that you might not want to see on a tenant application:

Robert Swift

A former Seattle SuperSonic, Swift has fallen on hard times. Since being drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft by Seattle and playing several years in the league, Swift headed to Japan to play professionally.  Swift, who is part Japanese, fizzled out of the Japanese league and headed back to Seattle, where he owned a home.

Despite earning millions in the NBA, he lost his home to foreclosure, but refused to leave. A new owner purchased the home in January but was unaware that Swift still occupied it. Pictures of the home reveal a little of what has happened to the ex-NBA star. Beer cans and trash decorated the yard and inoperable cars were parked in the driveway.

When threatened with forcible eviction by the King County Sheriff, Swift left the home, but not without leaving his memories.  Animal feces, bullet holes, and punched out holes in the wall welcomed the new owners when they were finally able to enter. Swift did not leave a forwarding address, but as one commentator stated, wherever it is, its probably not a good place.

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Tim Lincecum (Photo by SD Dirk)

Tim Lincecum

Yes, one of our top 10 sports figures of 2012 makes the list of bad neighbors. Lincecum’s ex-landlord is suing the pitcher for $200,000 in damages claimed to have occurred when the San Francisco Giants pitcher “trashed” the apartment he was renting at the time.  After Lincecum’s lease expired, his former landlord claims that he lived there without paying rent for several months. It’s also alleged that he stole and destroyed household items.  The case will land in a courtroom unless Lincecum decides to settle. Lincecum makes a reported $22 million a year. Although it may be the “principal” of the matter, the bad press may hurt the former UW Husky.

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic, the equivalent to soccer’s World Cup and a fill-in for the sport since it was eliminated from the Olympics, began this month. Opening games were held in Japan; Taiwan; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Phoenix, Ariz. China, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan took part.  Japan was the only country out of the four that advanced to the semifinals.  Notably, the United States was eliminated in the second round by Puerto Rico. Japan won the only other World Baseball Classics in 2006 and 2009, but was also eliminated by Puerto Rico on Sunday, March 17.

Ichiro and the alligator

Notable by his absence this time around, the Japan team does not have Ichiro Suzuki at the World Baseball Classic. The former-Mariner and now Yankee decided to attend Spring Training in Florida, instead of playing for Japan. Ichiro has been able to take advantage of the Florida sunshine and golf courses. While at a golf course this spring, Ichiro ran into an alligator at a hole. Alligators are familiar with local Florida golf courses, yet startled the veteran center fielder.  Long story short, Ichiro is still alive, as alligators are more interested in the Florida sun than chasing major league ball players.  No word if Mariner fans informed the alligator where Ichiro was golfing.

Hoop Dreams

Osamu Abe is a 6’7″ forward with dreams of playing in the NBA. He played professionally in Japan, but like many, his dream is playing in the best league in the world. If he makes it, he would join our favorite, Jeremy Lin, as the only Asian players in the league. The catch is that in the ultra-competitive world of the NBA, Abe is the longest of longshots. He is 42 years old and without a basketball resume in the States. He came to the States to train and tryout with an NBA team. He trained at a local gym in the Seattle area, but did not receive any calls. Abe had tried out for teams in the NBA Developmental League in the past, but was unable to get a spot on a team.

Certainly you have to wonder about coming to the United States without any ties to the NBA to get a shot at playing.  It’s a story that Hollywood would love to make a movie about, if his dream ever came true. Although Abe did not succeed, his story is inspiring for the fact that he did not give up on his dream and appears to have worked hard toward his goals. He may have come up short in not making it to the NBA, but his dedication to the game and his willingness to travel from his home in Japan to workout in America is admirable.

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Erik Spoelstra (Photo by Keith Allison)

NBA in Asia

NBA basketball may be coming to Asia this fall as the NBA is rumored to be playing a preseason game in the Philippines. Jeremy Lin and the Houston Rockets will be playing the Indiana Pacers in an exhibition game next fall. If you didn’t know, basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, and it’s not a stretch to say that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is as popular as Manny Pacquiao in the country. The NBA has not confirmed the game happening, but many have been buzzing since rumors have spread. The Philippines deserves this game and would come out in full force and sell out wherever the NBA decides to have the preseason game.

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Patrick Chen

Patrick Chan 3-peats as Men’s Skating Champion

Canadian Patrick Chan won the men’s world figure skating title this month. It’s the third straight title for 2011’s Canadian Athlete of the Year. The 22-year-old skater is primed as the favorite for the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia.

Following up

Last month, we talked about the University of Louisville’s Peyton Siva and his successful career with the Cardinals. The former Franklin Quaker had more success this month as he was chosen as the Big East’s Scholar Athlete of the Year.  Siva has a 3.44 GPA majoring in Sociology.  He was chosen out of all basketball players in the 16 schools of the Big East.

In addition to his work in the classroom, Siva is doing work on the court, too.  For the second time, he’s earned the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East Tournament as the Cardinals won the Big East Championship.

Only one other player has won the Most Outstanding Player award twice. Louisville also earned the number one overall seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  Good luck to Siva, we’ll keep Louisville in mind when filling out our brackets.

In our write-up on Asian hockey players, we neglected to mention Larry Kwong as the pioneer of Asians in the National Hockey League. Kwong’s career in the NHL may have only lasted just one minute on the ice with the New York Rangers during the 1946-1947 season, but its effects has been far reaching. Kwong, a 5’6″, 145 pound Chinese Canadian, had much of his hockey success playing for the Rangers’ farm team that played in Madison Square Garden. Despite dealing with racism, Kwong’s presence in New York City drew many fans, including the unofficial mayor of New York’s Chinatown at the time. Kwong will turn 90 years old in June. He has been honored as a pioneer in the sport. (end)

Jason Cruz can be contacted at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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