Attempting to win a third consecutive championship, the Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix remain the beast of the East.
The first-place Phoenix, thriving under rookie head coach Ryuji Kawai, could equal the title-winning exploits of the Osaka Evessa, who won the bj-league title in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
After his team swept the Chiba Jets last weekend, Hamamatsu forward Jeffrey Parmer, the league’s 2010-11 regular season and playoff MVP, spoke to The Japan Times about the challenges of staying focused before the playoffs commence in May, while at the same time developing greater effectiveness with recent additions Lawrence Blackledge and Gyno Pomare.
“We’re still trying to work out some kinks. It always takes time when you’ve got new players coming to a new team,” Parmer said. “Everyone’s still trying to find out their roles and playing time but injuries factor into that. It’s a long season, so we’re going to be good when playoffs come around, man. We’re going to be a team to be reckoned with. Same thing as last season, we’re going to come out and get some things done.”
In a 100-86 win over Chiba on Sunday, the Jets converted 14 of 16 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
Asked if Kawai places as much emphasis on this facet of the game as his mentor, current Akita Northern Happinets coach Kazuo Nakamura, the architect of the Phoenix’s two championships, Parmer responded by saying, “Yes, they are the same.”
“We do this running drill that helps us work on our fast break, and as soon as we’re done with that, we go right into free throws. So that helps us shoot when we are tired, as it’s going to be the same way in the game. . . . You’ve got to shoot them when you’re tired. He emphasizes it in that drill and by talking about it, so it’s a big thing. And we know that’s going to help us win games.”
Parmer said he tries to take at least 100 foul shots at every practice session, “because I know I’m going to be at the free-throw line (in games).”
Shifting topics to Phoenix veteran Atsuya Ota, who was named to the Japan national team last year, Parmer pointed out that the big fellow’s gutsy play, size and versatility help create mismatches for the reigning champs.
How is Ota’s approach to the game different after he joined the national team?
“It’s helped tremendously because he played against great competition when he was playing with the Japanese guys,” Parmer said.
Ota’s quickness and ability to knock down the mid-range jumper forces opposing import bigs to defend him earnestly. “It helps us big time,” Parmer said, adding, “You can’t just play off him.”
Ota is averaging 5.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in 42 games (15 starts).
Nickname chosen: The capital city’s expansion team will be known as the Tokyo Cinq Reves.The nickname was chosen out of a pool of 318 submissions from the general public, which was narrowed down to 30 entries. The chosen moniker came from a Tokyo resident, who has requested anonymity, according to a news release issued by the team, which will begin play in the 2012-13 season.There was speculation that the defunct Tokyo Apache’s name might be retained by the new franchise, but the team decided to begin anew with a slightly different identity. But in an artist’s rendition of the team’s new logo, albeit a work in progress, the Apache’s colors (gold and purple) are still featured.
Citing a translation from French for Cinq (French for “dreams”) and Reves (“five”), the meaning is supposed to signify an identity that “carries light on the back and flies away with future as an existence which connects five dreams,” according to the press release.
Battling through the pain: Jets guard Takaki Ishida has endured the misery of a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) sustained before this season while playing for the expansion club.
Last weekend, Ishida, averaging 7.8 ppg in 40 games (23 starts), had 14- and 12-point games against Hamamatsu. In the seven prior games, in succession, he scored 14, 16, 12, zero, six, 13 and 11.
“Ishi played another great game for us. He’s really come on at this time of year,” Gardow said on Sunday. “It’s really good to see his consistency come on. He played well for us all weekend. I’m just really excited about his progress.”
Gardow praised Ishida for his mental fortitude this season.
“He’s definitely my hero, my samurai,” the coach said. “I would give him my healthy knee if I could.”
Upcoming games: Sixteen teams are in action this weekend: Iwate Big Bulls (12-30) vs. Toyama Grouses (21-19), Akita Northern Happinets (25-17) vs. Saitama Broncos (11-29), Sendai 89ers (20-20) vs. Shinshu Brave Warriors (15-25), Yokohama B-Corsairs (22-20) vs. Chiba Jets (14-26), Shimane Susanoo Magic (21-21) vs. Kyoto Hannaryz (26-14), Takamatsu Five Arrows (2-38) vs. Shiga Lakestars (24-16), Rizing Fukuoka (26-14) vs. Oita HeatDevils (16-24) and Ryukyu Golden Kings (33-9) vs. Osaka Evessa (28-12).