Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hooping in Taiwan

And God said: "If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity."
-Deuteronomy 25: 11-12 from the Bible

And the atheist said: "Not only is there no god, but try getting a plumber on weekends."
-Woody Allen


Disclaimer: There's prolly no way around my coming off like the white oppressor in this post, traveling to a foreign land, telling the brown man what it means to be "civilized" like the quoted word is an absolute. But let's face it. The US dominates the hoop world like--piggybacking off the above analogy--the slavemaster dominated the slave. The US being the slavemaster (blacks in this case, ironically but rightly so) and smaller countries like Taiwan being the slave. That's why there's only one Jeremy Lin in the world. That's why I'm writing this post, not to flaunt basketball superiority by virtue of my being American, but to get the point across that if these smaller countries want to up their stock, they gotta change their games 180.


I absolutely hate hate hate HATE to say it, but I gotta come clean: most everything I wrote in "Hooping while Asian" has to be taken back. The intractable verdict, after assessing and evaluating six weeks' worth of evidence in the laboratories of both outdoor and indoor courts in Taiwan: Asians can't hoop! We just can't, and it's so sad and I've immense trouble in admitting it. But it's the truth, and most of my (two) readers will know by now that truth is right there at the top of my value priorities; that it must be uncovered, admitted and demonstrated by any means.

The b-ball style of play here is night-and-day from what we've come to take for granted in the US. Wherever you go in Taiwan, you'll see half-court 3-on-3 pickup games, never any other number. But that's fine. The problem isn't in the immutable 3-on-3; it's in the phrasing "half-court," which by itself is misleading. It's more like "paint" 3-on-3 pickup, meaning 95 percent of the action is taking place within 15 feet of the basket. Why this is, I don't know. But it seems to have been written in the genetic codes of every hooper here. The ball is always always checked at the free-throw line, or just above. Shots are thrown up (and for the most part, I mean literally thrown up) at a respective distance. A player who waits at the perimeter wing for a skip pass is rare as the sighting of UFOs, or a rational Christian. Invariably, this "paint" play is problematic for multiple reasons:

1) Spacing. They develop ABOMINABLE spacing habits. It's easier to get around on wheels through Times Square than it is to drive through the clusterfuck paint traffic in a 3-on-3 game here.

2) No reason to develop a perimeter game. Because all the action takes place pre-arc, hoopers here rarely get the chance to work on their outside games. They don't get reps practicing the abovementioned spacing; or L/V cutting; or catching the ball at the wing, pivoting/reverse-pivoting into a triple threat; or finally, shooting from the outside. Essentially they don't get to simulate real game situations, where play is inevitably pushed out farther from the hoop. This would prove, predictably, to be a torrential disaster come pick-up 5-on-5, except my Taiwanese kin have found a loophole to conceal the ugly wound of perimeter inability. That is...

3) No such thing as man-to-man. When finally Taiwanese hoopers decide to play 5-on-5, they do so with an inalterable footnote attached to the game: we play zone at all times, no exceptions. This is without doubt the most frustrating part of playing here. I know you might be able to get me with the cultural relativism on this one, except that you can't. And here's why. Not only do they abandon real game simulation in 3-on-3, but they eliminate that opportunity completely in actual, real games. Which means there's zero chance to develop individually in playing against a pick-up zone. Forever and always it's pass, swing pass, stand in the same spot, shoot. Rinse, lather and repeat.

  I don't think the preference to play zone is unique to Taiwan; when I studied in the Dominican Republic, they played the same exact way. My guess is that everyone conforms his/her play to fit the FIBA standards, which encourage and promote zone defensive sets.

But here's where I'm confused. It's obvious that everyone here worships the NBA. They've got blown-up Kobe and Bron-Bron billboards in the heart of downtown. On ESPN, NBA highlight segments last forever, while the SBL (Taiwan's pro b-ball league) gets the bastard-child treatment. A good majority of the pick-up hoopers I play against wear NBA jerseys while playing. (This upset my own expectations: hoopers here ain't repping J-Lin like I thought they would be.) And thus, the logical question arises: if they worship the NBA as fervently as they do here, why don't the hoopers here go for imitating the American style of play? Why stay adamant in their 2-3 zones? In 3-on-3, why not extend the action out to the arc? Why the errant dribbling? Why the herky-jerky movements? Why the 90 mph passes coming at your face from three feet away?  

I don't get it. I just don't get it.

The other week I saw a male coach teaching his girls how to cut to the hoop; they weren't angling inward from the free-throw line extended; no, they were angling in from the short corner, which gives them very little space to use the backboard for their layups. What was more appalling, the coach was throwing them lead passes a foot from the basket, which meant they couldn't even lay the ball up on the side they were cutting on; they had to take an extra dribble and lay it up on the other side. You think I'm done but of course, there's more: after these girls took their dribble from left side to right side, they turned to their right shoulder and used their right, inward hand to lay the ball up, which sat just below their neck. What this means, gentlemen (I don't imagine any ladies to be reading this post), is that ten times out of ten, they will get blocked.

Needless to say, it starts with the teaching.

Maybe it really is time for me to get my "white colonizer" on and show these primitive peoples the way of the civilized.

S.Dot OUT!

No comments:

Post a Comment