FOR the second consecutive year, PBA legend Jimmy Alapag joined the coaching staff of the Sacramento Kings to help guide their young squad through the rigors of the annual Summer League tournament.
Held over nearly two weeks on the University of Las Vegas campus—located just 10 minutes away from the world-famous Strip—Summer League is the place to dream for NBA hopefuls and coaches alike.
Taking place just weeks after the NBA Draft, the tournament not only allows fans to catch a glimpse of their team’s newly acquired rookies but see first-hand some of the best talent the G-League has to offer.
Just as importantly, Summer League also allows potential coaches the chance to prowl the sideline and display their X’s-and-O’s acumen during the speed of an NBA game, showcasing to general managers and higher-ups just how well their rookies operate under their tutelage.
With coaching staff positions as competitive as roster spots around the league, the opportunity to help lead a squad in Vegas is one of the best ways to feature yourself as a potential coaching candidate down the line; a working interview that can make or break a career.
For Jimmy Alapag, it’s familiar territory.
Just over a year since earning a spot on the Kings’ staff following a phone call to former general manager Vlade Divac, the retired sharpshooter returned to Vegas to help lead a squad keyed by rookie Davion Mitchell.
Entering the tournament as one of the fascinating teams in the desert thanks to Mitchell and an array of young talent, Alapag, and the Kings surpassed even the most optimistic of predictions by routing the Boston Celtics on Tuesday for the franchise’s first Summer League title since 2014.
Thankfully, the championship-winning coach was willing to sit down with us to discuss his coaching career, changing league rules, and what the future holds for basketball in the Philippines.
The Olympic Games just concluded, and the national team failed to qualify, extending the drought to 12 consecutive Games the national team has missed. However, the team also rose to 31st in the FIBA world rankings. Given that, what is your opinion on the current state of basketball in the Philippines?
I think the National program is in a period of transition at the moment. But the encouraging part is the amount of young talent in the country. Their challenge will be to find ways to build a strong sense of chemistry and camaraderie as they prepare for the World Cup hosting in 2023.
Do you think we will see the Philippines qualify for the Games in the near future?
I think the goal is always to see the Philippines on the Olympic and World Stage. It's a difficult task, but I think we have shown in the past we can compete against the best of the world.
Coaches, unfortunately, don't possess the ability to affect the game in the same way players do. Since transitioning to the sidelines, have you found it difficult to fight the urge to suit up and show the younger players how it's done?
Not at all. I'm thankful for the time I had playing the game. I gave the game everything I had, but the fulfillment now comes from being able to share the knowledge and experience I've learned through the years with the next generation of players.
You were one of the most effective 3-point shooters in the PBA during your career, but lately, one of the most effective tools for shooters in the NBA has been the tendency to lean into defenders in the hopes of drawing a foul. What's your opinion on the league's new Summer League rule that prohibits "unnatural shot motions”?
I think the game is always changing and evolving. I think the "lean in" has been an effective tool for the offensive players, but the new rule will challenge players to be more creative in finding ways to score.
You've spent this summer coaching Davion Mitchell, one of the most highly anticipated players in Vegas due not only to his skill but because of his potential fit alongside De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton. What are your impressions of him so far, and do you think he'll play well alongside the Kings' backcourt tandem?
I have been extremely impressed with Davion. He's a natural leader with an incredible work ethic. And he's a winner! I have no doubt he will be a big boost to the team for the upcoming season.
Should we be expecting to see you prowling the coaching sidelines this season?
I'm just thankful for another experience here in Vegas for the Summer League. I've had the chance again to work with some great people the past few weeks, from coach Bobby [Jackson] and the staff, the players, and management. We'll see what God has planned next for me.
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