We Filipinos have a reputation online for getting overly excited and supportive whenever a Filipino or someone with the slightest Filipino heritage accomplishes something. This goes way back from Jessica Sanchez on American Idol to as recently as this year with 2021 US Open breakout star Leylah Fernandez.
The overwhelming exuberance sometimes leads to unwanted attention and criticism. But for tomorrow, the waves of Filipino pride will be warranted when the Utah Jazz visit the Houston Rockets on Filipino Heritage Night, live at 8:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay or Cignal TV.
For our hoops-crazy country, having two Filipinos meet in the best league in the world is truly a momentous occasion. For Utah, reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson will be under the spotlight. Clarkson, the first relevant Filipino-American NBA player since Raymond Townsend, has found his niche in Utah as their go-to scorer off the bench. It took a while for him to truly find a home after stints with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. But now he’s a vital piece to a squad that was the best team in the West last season and still has championship aspirations this year.
The Houston Rockets put the future of their franchise in the hands of Fil-Am guard Jalen Green. Houston picked Green second in a loaded 2021 Draft class – a boon they got after a forgettable season of rebuilding. Green is as dynamic a scorer as any prospect that’s come into the NBA over the last two decades. But his first four games have made it clear that he’s going to need time to develop.
For now, Green will join Kuya Jordan in the marquee matchup for tomorrow. There’s a great chance this game ends up being very lopsided for Clarkson’s Jazz. Utah is still one of the best teams in the league and is coming in with a healthy All-Star duo of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. The Jazz were the best offensive team in the league last season by rating and were also in the top five for defensive rating.
Houston, on the other hand, has a team of young guys and holdover veteran role players from their glory days. Green is flanked in the backcourt by Kevin Porter Jr., who arguably has as much to prove as Green. Porter Jr. was a few steps out of the league, until the Cavaliers traded him to Houston last season, where he blossomed. The Rockets also have Christian Wood, their big offseason signing in 2020, raring to play up to his massive contract.
So far, Houston’s patched-together squad have yielded zero wins in four outings. They have come close in their last two games against strong teams in the Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks, but they have yet to put together the winning combination in fourth quarters to get them over the hump. Anything can happen in the NBA, but the Jazz are the clear favorites tomorrow.
Besides, the results for this game are almost irrelevant. For a whole nation of hoopers who have been told they were too small or too weak to play basketball at the highest levels, Filipinos get to watch two of their own compete in the NBA tomorrow. Somehow, the dream of having a full-blooded Pinoy make the league doesn’t seem so far off now.
Tomorrow also features what should be a wild meeting between two early favorites – the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls. You can watch this game on NBA League Pass, which you can subscribe to using your Smart prepaid account.
Bing Bong: the Knicks are 3-1 to start the season and are looking primed to make another playoff appearance. To say that their fans are excited is an understatement.
Bulls fans are also riding high as their team started the season at 4-0. The last time they started this hot was in the 1995-1996 season, in which Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman won the first of three straight titles.
The Knicks still have Tom Thibodeau and his physical ‘90s style powering their charge. Julius Randle looks like an early MVP candidate, averaging 25.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 1.8 blocks. Their new additions in Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker have also had their moments, helping the Knicks win some tough early matches.
For Chicago, defense has also been key. Thanks to a new scheme, and offseason additions Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso, the Bulls have forced turnovers and throttled their opponents. They also still have Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, as well as their big acquisition DeMar DeRozan, rounding out their offense.
This should be an exciting game for two fan bases that have been miserable over the last decade. For both teams, this could serve as an early barometer on who’s really a legitimate contender.
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