October 16, 2017

Sony plans to broadcast 100 NBA games with Hindi commentary in India this season

After a short, eventful off-season where (thankfully) it felt like the NBA never really went away, the new season is almost here, tipping off on October 17 - or the morning of October 18 if you are watching from India. There are going to be a number of players in new jerseys this season, and many teams literally wearing new jersey designs, and the potential of new legends to be made.

In India, there is also going to be a lot more NBA in Hindi.

With a mission to penetrate the popularity of the game deeper into the Indian market, the NBA and its Indian broadcast partner Sony Pictures Networks (SPN) have decided to air almost a 100 regular season games with Hindi commentary this season. The games will also, of course, continue to be simulcast in English as usual in Sony's other sports channels live.

According to the Economic Times, the move comes on the back of a trial period last season, when fourteen playoff games were broadcast with Hindi commentary on the Ten 1 channel. As per data provided by NBA India, the games with Hindi commentary were viewed on TV by 8.9 million people in India.

Sony SIX and Sony SIX HD, for the last few seasons, have broadcast two live games almost every morning during the NBA season in India in English. Now, two games per week - during the weekends - will be broadcast on Sony Ten 3 and Sony Ten 3 HD in Hindi, along with the Live wraparound show ‘Around the Hoop’

More via The Economic Times:

“India is one of the top 2 priority markets for us,” said NBA India managing director Yannick Colaco. “We want to popularise the game of basketball and NBA in India. That means we should make it more accessible for the audiences. With this move, we will be able to engage with not just existing, but also potential fans.”
Talking about statistics from last season’s trial run, Colaco said in the Hindi-speaking markets (HSM), the viewership of the telecast with Hindi commentary was double of that with English commentary.

A panel of expert commentators has been engaged to deliver analysis in Hindi for each game, said Rajesh Kaul, president of sports and distribution business at SPN.
The commentators have undergone training to fine tune their abilities in presenting NBA games, which included personalised training by long-time Indiana Pacers’ play-by-play announcer Chris Denari.

चलो बहुत अच्छी बात है. अब पहले से और ज़्यादा प्रशानशक NBA बॅस्केटबॉल का आनंद ले सकेंगे. With the Warriors sure to make another deep playoff run, I'm waiting to see who will be the first commentator to call Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson the छिड़कना-वाले भाईलोग #Splash Brothers.

Rajasthan (Boys) and Tamil Nadu (Girls) win 2017 Sub Junior Nationals in Didwana, Rajasthan

The annual gathering of India's finest, youngest national-level basketball players - the 44th Sub Junior National Basketball Championship for Boys and Girls - came to a conclusion in Didwana, Rajasthan, on Saturday, October 14 with some celebrations for the home side. Rajasthan boys got sweet vengeance in the final over Madhya Pradesh, who had defeated them in last year's final. Tamil Nadu girls also upset Chattisgarh's hopes of retaining their 2016 title with a final win earlier in the day.

The Sub-Junior Nationals - also known as the "minis" - featured 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories competing from October 8-14 this year at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The Championship was organised by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh boys, the winners from last year, came into the finals with hopes of adding another jewel in their crown. But backed by an enthusiastic home crowd, Rajasthan came out fired up, taking a 28-17 lead in the first quarter and extending the game to a blowout by the end of the third. Prashant (28) and Lokendra (21) led Rajasthan to an impressive 87-59 win and a gold medal. MP were led by Rishikesh's 16 points.

The girls' final was a close, fast-paced game, where Tamil Nadu's rising star Sathya stole the show, dropping 43 points for her squad. Chattisgarh, looking to repeat their 2017 win, were leading 37-29 at halftime, but a 39-22 third quarter run by TN turned the scores around, and TN held on the final period to win 88-81. Kirti (24) and Ruksar (18) led the way for Chhattisgarh in the loss.

Earlier in the day, Chhattisgarh's boys defeated Uttar Pradesh to secure the bronze medal. The girls' 3rd-place game was won by Maharashtra, who defeated the host team Rajasthan.

Final Scores
  • Boys: Rajasthan (Prashant 28, Lokendra 21) bt Madhya Pradesh (Rishikesh 16, Bhagat 14) 87-59 [28-17, 7-10, 31-18, 21-14].
  • Girls: Tamil Nadu (Sathya 43) bt Chhattisgarh (Kirti 24, Ruksar 18) 88-81 [18-18, 11-19, 39-22, 20-22].

Final Standings

  • 1. Rajasthan
  • 2. Madhya Pradesh
  • 3. Chhattisgarh
  • 4. Uttar Pradesh
  • 5. Punjab

  • 1. Tamil Nadu
  • 2. Chhattisgarh
  • 3. Maharashtra
  • 4. Rajasthan
  • 5. Karnataka

October 14, 2017

2017 SLAM Top 50: Paul George, No. 9

In a new role on a new team, Paul George is in position to reach his lofty goals.

This article was first published in my #SLAMTop50 contribution for SLAMOnline.com on October 4, 2017. Click here to read the original piece.

Four summers ago, I interviewed a 23-year-old Paul George at an NBA carnival in China. It was the ‘NBA Nation’ in Wuhan, a fan-event in the most populous city in central China featuring basketball clinics, Pop-a-Shot games, and the Phoenix Suns Dance Team. The main event, however, was George. Then a rising star for the Indiana Pacers, PG was coming off a breakout 2012-13 season where he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, became an All Star for the first time, and was named to the All-NBA Third Team. But just months before, his magical season had ended in heart-breaking fashion as the Pacers went down to the Heat in a memorable seven-game Eastern Conference Finals.

In going up against the best in the League, George had gotten his first whiff of success, and he sounded confident when he told me that his rise to superstardom was just getting started. “I’m nowhere close to getting what I want to achieve,” he said, reflecting on his NBA journey so far. “But I think I’m taking the right steps and going in the right direction. I can see myself being an MVP in the League. I think, if I’m not in contention for an MVP award, or leading my team to the Championship, then I think I’d be selling myself short as a player. In the near future, I wanna have the MVP award, be on the Olympic team, be a perennial All-Star, hopefully First-Team All-NBA as well.”

But sometimes, even the best laid plans of a super-athletic swingmen can go awry. A year later, George suffered a horrific compound fracture on both bones of his lower right leg during a 2014 FIBA World Cup scrimmage in Las Vegas. The setback virtually cost him an entire season of progress and raised questions if he could ever soar towards greatness again.

It put his ‘Wuhan Checklist’ on hold. MVP award? Nope. Championship? Not close. First Team All NBA? Nah.

But by 2015-16, George bounced back with a bang, playing 81 games and averaging career highs in scoring and assists. Last summer, he fulfilled his wish of playing in the Olympics and helped bring back a Gold medal from Rio. In 2016-17, he continued his rampage and boosted his scoring output to a career-high 23.7 points per game. The ‘perennial All Star’ wish had also been fulfilled. George put up an unstoppable performance in last season’s playoffs with 28 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over nearly 43 minutes per game. Just like in the old days however, it was that old foe—LeBron James—that proved to be the thorn in PG’s side, and the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the First Round.

Despite the loss, George’s comeback from the career-threatening leg injury was complete. Even if he doesn’t have quite the athletic hops he did in his younger days, PG has matured into a better scorer and smarter defender.

But with a drastic change of scenery, he will now find himself evolving into an exciting new role: George was traded over the offseason to Oklahoma City to join reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, not long before OKC pulled off another heist and presented Carmelo Anthony to the explosive Thunder mix, too.

He may no longer be the first option, or on many nights, even the second option on offense. But as the ideal two-way player who can be an elite perimeter defender, an offensive threat, and effect the game without the ball in his hands, George could have the Thunder soaring this season. None of that confidence I saw in Wuhan has wavered. George is still gunning for that MVP trophy. With Westbrook and ‘Melo by his side, he has said that the Thunder have the feel “of a championships team.”

Playing in a different NBA jersey for the first time in his career, this isn’t going to be the 2013 “Rising Star” PG, or the 2015 “Hobbled with Injury” PG, or even the 2016-17 “Bounce Back To Scoring Stardom” PG. The OKC version of Paul George will be something we’ve never seen before. Still only 27, we are going to see PG enter his prime years, a superstar in a new role. A man on a mission to complete his checklist.

October 9, 2017

Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan, legendary former Indian basketball coach, passes away at 83

One of the most successful and distinguished basketball coaches in India, Lt. Col. Makkolath Rajan passed away at age 83 in Kozhikode (Kerala) on Sunday, October 9. Rajan, who made his mark for India on both the national and international stage and coached India's only Olympic basketball team, had been hospitalised with pneumonia symptoms in Kozhikode a few weeks ago.

Rajan was the head coach of Team India's men's national team for the country's most famous international basketball outing: the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The team lost all seven games they played in Russia but their place in Indian hoops history was secured with this historic accomplishment. Rajan also coached India at the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, plus the FIBA Asia Basketball Championships in 1973 (Manila), 1985 (Kuala Lumpur) and 1989 (Beijing).

Rajan is the winningest coach in India's national basketball championships, with many gold medals collected in the 70s and 80s with Services. He coached Madhya Pradesh and served as Associate Secretary of the Kerala Basketball Association (KBA) from 1976-85. He held several posts with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) over the years.

Rajan was a distinguished medal winner for his role in Indo-Chinese war.

Rajan's wife passed on a message via Rajan's former player in the 1980 Olympics team, Amarnath N Nagarajan. "He was someone we all looked up to and will continue to do so. He is an inspiration to all of us. He always wanted us to be healthy and fit. Let's all remember and follow that in our busy lives. Sports was a way of life for him. He was a celebrated sportsman and brought laurels to the country. His discipline and dedication towards sports and the Army will always be remembered."

October 8, 2017

Hoopdarshan Episode 53: Shooting our shots - 2017-18 NBA Preview with Vince Granata

With the new season on the brink, Hoopdarshan is back with a lengthy discussion on All Things NBA. In Episode 53, co-hosts Kaushik Lakshman and Karan Madhok are joined by Vince Granata to give thoughts, predictions, and flaming hot takes on the Warriors' chance of a repeat, the future of new-look Cavs and Celtics in the East, player movement around the league, too much Jeff Green, and a Laker family of Balls.

Listen to Episode 53 now! Also included: Our Championship and MVP predictions and some recent news out of Indian basketball like the FIBA Asia Champions Cup, Amrit Pal Singh with the Sydney Kings, and Amjyot Singh's G-League ambitions.

Hoopdarshan is the truest voice of Indian basketball, and since we're such hopeless fans of the game, it will become the voice of everything basketball related we love, from the NBA to international hoops, too. On every episode of Hoopdarshan, we will be inviting a special guest to interview or chat to about a variety of topics. With expert insight from some of the brightest and most-involved people in the world of Indian basketball, we hope to bring this conversation to a many more interested fans, players, and followers of the game.

Make sure to follow Hoopdarshan on Soundcloud or search for 'Hoopdarshan' on the iTunes Store! Auto-sync Hoopdarshan to your preferred podcast app NOW!

Hoopdarshan can be found on...

October 7, 2017

2017 Sub Junior National Basketball Championship to tip off in Didwana, Rajasthan

Deep in the heart of the Thar Desert is Didwana, a city known more for it's mandirs and mathhs than its sports. For the next week, however, this Rajasthani town will be the place to get a first glimpse at the future of Indian basketball.

From October 8-14, the 44th Sub Junior National Championship for Boys and Girls - the Sub-Junior Nationals - will be held at Didwana's Bangour College Stadium. The championship will feature 30 boys' teams and 24 girls' teams in the U14 age group from various Indian States and Union territories, and will be played in a league/knockout format. The Championship is being organized by the Rajasthan Basketball Association under the aegis of the Basketball Federation of India (BFI).

Madhya Pradesh Boys and Chhattisgarh Girls are the defending champions from the previous edition held in Hyderabad last year, retaining their trophies from previous years.

The opening ceremony will be held on Sunday, 8th October with Yoonus Khan (PWD and Transportation Minister of Rajasthan) as the Chief Guest.

Participating Teams

  • Group A: Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Maharashtra.
  • Group B: Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha.
  • Group C: Karnataka, Goa, Gujarat, Nagaland, Puducherry.
  • Group D: Kerala, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura.
  • Group E: Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Uttarakhand.
  • Group F: Delhi, Assam, Jharkhand, Manipur, West Bengal.

  • Group A: Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi.
  • Group B: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab.
  • Group C: Haryana, Chandigarh, Goa.
  • Group D: Telangana, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Group E: Gujarat, Assam, Jharkhand, West Bengal.
  • Group F: Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand.

The reigning champs MP and Chhattisgarh will hope to stamp their place as dynasties in this format, as MP look for their fourth consecutive title and Chhattisgarh for a three-peat. Last year, Rajasthan's boys squad lost in the finals and the girls finished fifth, and the hosts will have the support of the home crowd to push them forward. Haryana boys will be another contending squad to watch out for. In the girls' bracket, Chhattisgarh are likely to be challenged by the strongest teams from the South: Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

September 30, 2017

Al Riyadi win 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in China; India's ONGC return winless

For Lebanon's Al Riyadi, the final of the 2017 FIBA Asia Champions Cup presented a familiar challenge. It was the same competition, the same time of the year, the same arena, the same city, and the same opponent: China Kashgar. But after losing in a close battle in last year's final, the Lebanese squad bounced back in style to get their revenge. On Saturday, September 30, at the 2017 final of Asia's premier club basketball tournament, Al Riyadi blew out China Kashgar in their homeland to clinch the gold medal at the Chenzhou Sports Center in Chenzhou, China.

Ten of the top club teams from different countries in Asia took part in this championship, held from September 22-30. India's representative at the FIBA Asia CC was once again Dehradun's squad ONGC - champions of the Federation Cup. But missing a couple of their key players to injury or other professional duties, ONGC lost all of their preliminary round games to return winless from Chenzhou - just like last year.

In the rematch of the 2016 final, Al Riyadi and China Kashgar set up a battle of the titans. But from the tip-off, Al Riyadi were immediately the hungrier of the two squads. Al Riyadi jumped up to an easy lead in the first quarter and extended their advantage to a 20-point lead, 46-26 by halftime. Kashgar had no answers for Al Riyadi's imports Robert Daniels (21) and Quincy Douby (17) who led the way to an easy 88-59 victory. This is Al Riyadi’s second overall Champions Cup title after first winning the plum in 2011. They also gave Lebanon their fifth Champions Cup crown overall, tying Iran for the most titles in the tournament’s history.

Earlier in the day, Kazakhstan's BC Astana edged Iran's Petrochimi 81-78 in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle to secure 3rd place at the competition. Anthony Clemmons (22) and Justin Carter (19) led the way for Astana, while Behnam Yakhchali paced Petrochimi with 18 in the loss.

China Kashgar's guard Darius Adams was named MVP of the tournament.

Once again, India's representative at this tournament were ONGC from Dehradun. But while the club side is dominant in domestic tournaments, they had a difficult time keeping pace with most of the talented squads at the FIBA Asia CC. ONGC were led by former India captain Trideep Rai in his first major stint as coach, and relied on the likes Anoop Mukkanniyil, Yadwinder Singh, and Riyazuddin to marshal them forward. But the squad had to survive without the services of two of their (and India's) best talents: captain Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi, who was on the team list but couldn't play due to injury, and Amritpal Singh, who has recently signed a contract with the NBL's Sydney Kings in Australia. ONGC were placed in Group B of the preliminary round stage along with Shabab Al Ahli (Dubai), Al Riyadi (Lebanon), Dacin Tigers (Chinese Taipei), and China Kashgar (China).

From the very first game against Dacin Tigers, ONGC were given a rude wake-up call. Featuring Indian-American former NBA player Sim Bhullar, Dacin raced to a 28-9 lead in the first quarter and didn't let their foot off the accelerator until they were leading comfortably in the final quarter. Led by Chia-Jung Chang (22) and Tzu-Kang Wang (17) Dacin won the game 94-62.

ONGC's tournament didn't get any easier, as, two days later, their next challengers were hosts and reigning champs China Kashgar. ONGC had no answers for Darius Adams, who led a balanced Kashgar attack with 25 to help his side to a 92-47 victory. ONGC struggled offensively except for a decent scoring night by guard Arjun Singh (17).

ONGC's worst performance came the next day against the eventual winners, Al Riyadi. The Lebanese side showed no mercy from the tip-off, taking advantage of ONGC's careless errors (31 turnovers) and soft defense to drop over 30 points in the first three quarters of the game. Al Riyadi's offensive explosion led them to a 127-51 victory, led by Quincy Douby (22), Amir Saoud (21), Jean Abd El Nour (18) and Wael Arakji (17).

ONGC still had an opportunity to make it out of the group stage against their closest opponents in the group, Dubai's Shabab Al Ahli, in their last preliminary stage game. ONGC stayed neck-to-neck with Shabab throughout, trailing only 39-36 in halftime. But a scoring drought in the third quarter cost ONGC some momentum, and despite an exciting late charge, they couldn't stop Shabab from surviving with a 72-71 victory. Qais Omar Alshabebi led all scorers with 26 for Shabab while Khalifa Salem added 16. Veteran ONGC guard exploded for 20 points while Arjun Singh pitched in with 17 and 10 rebounds in the loss.

The loss left ONGC at the bottom of Group B with a 0-4 record and knocked them out of qualification for the knockout stage.

Without Bhriguvanshi and Amritpal, there were no individual superstars to rescue ONGC in crucial stretches, but the team featured a balance of players who all averaged around 10 points per game, including Mukkanniyil, Riyazuddin, Arjun Singh, and Yadwinder Singh. Mukkanniyil and Yadwinder each averaged 9 rebounds per game, too. Much of the responsibility for carrying this squad came on the shoulders of veteran (over 30) players, and despite their best efforts, they simply didn't have enough in the gas to eke out a victory.

Final Standings
  • 1. Al Riyadi (Lebanon)
  • 2. China Kashgar (China)
  • 3. BC Astana (Kazakhstan)
  • 4. Petrochimi (Iran)
  • 5. Chooks-To-Go (Philippines)

All Tournament Team
  • Darius Adams (China Kashgar) - MVP
  • Robert Daniels (Al Riyadi)
  • Quincy Douby (Al Riyadi)
  • Arsalan Kazemi (Petrochimi)
  • Justin Carter (BC Astana)