PBA Commish Cup Import Lowdown: Lamizana and Butch
MANILA, Philippines - Now that the 2014 Philippine Cup has been handed to the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, the attention of all ten (soon to be twelve?) teams is going to be diverted to the season’s second conference — the Commissioner’s Cup. The unique feature of this conference, of course, is that teams are allowed to employ “big” imports. This is in contrast to the third conference, or the Governors’ Cup, where teams are allowed only the services of “small” imports.
In this particular conference, unlike in the Commissioner’s Cups of 2012 and 2013, there will be a height limit imposed on the teams’ imports, and this limit is based on how well each team fared in the previous conference. Because they finished in the bottom two spots of the team standings, the Air 21 Express and the Meralco Bolts have the luxury to choose imports who are no taller than 6-foot-11 (around 210cm), while the rest of the field can employ imports who are, at most, 6-foot-9 (around 205cm).
This is a bit of a strange rule because it gives the impression that height equates to talent or skill, which, of course, is a non-truth in sports. I would much rather have had the bottom two teams be allowed to employ a second import, or, more specifically, to follow the model of the Chinese Basketball Association, where, generally speaking, weaker teams are allowed to have Asian imports aside from the “general” import. This is why guys like Zaid Abbas, Jackson Vroman, Sam Daghlas, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, Hamed Haddadi, and even our own Marcus Douthit have been able to play in the CBA. That, I think, would have raised the level of competition better.
Anyway, I digress. I’m here basically to look at the ten imports who will show their wares in the 2014 Commish Cup. Traditionally, PBA teams rely heavily on their imports for practically everything, from scoring, to rebounding, to defending, and, in some cases, even playmaking. The expectations are extremely high (which explains their skyrocketing salaries), and the pressure can really take its toll.
In this first part of this series, we will look at the imports of both Air 21 and Meralco. These are, respectively, Herve Mamadou Lamizana of the Ivory Coast and Brian Butch, formerly of the NBA D-League's Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Air 21 Express import: Herve Mamadou Lamizana
Home country: Ivory Coast (He holds dual citizenship — Ivorian/French)
Born: Jan. 22, 1981 in Abijan, Ivory Coast (age 33)
Listed height: 6-foot-10 (207cm)
US College: Rutgers University
NBA Draft: 2004 — Undrafted
Has played in: Turkey, Israel, South Korea, China, UAE, Japan, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Bahrain
Last played for: The Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association
Averages: 13.8ppg, 8.3rpg, 1.5bpg, 12.5 EFF
Notes: Lamizana is a long, tall, athletic big man who is known more for his ability to block shots than anything else. Despite his size and length, he is not a really impressive rebounder, and he is not a sure thing when finishing around the basket. He has a penchant to take midrange shots, but he is far from consistent.
Lamizana played for Ivory Coast in the 2013 Afrobasket tourney, where he helped the home team to a fourth place finish, losing to Senegal in the battle for third. Lamizana was one of the top big men in that tournament, where he normed 10.4ppg, 6.0rpg, and 1.4apg while leading the entire tournament in blocks — 2.4 per game.
He last played professionally in China for the Sichuan Blue Whales. He played alongside Iran’s Hamed Haddadi up front. Lamizana, however, saw action in just 6 games as he was far from effective against some bulkier imports from the other squads. His best game was erupting for 33 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 blocks against the Foshan Long Lions (Dralions or Dragon-Lions), while his worst was shooting 2/10 and scoring 11 points and grabbing just 3 rebounds against the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. With Lamizana on the team, the Blue Whales were just 1-5 in their first six outings. He was replaced by NBA journeyman DJ White, who was rumored to be the import of the San Miguel Beermen here till they inked former New Jersey Net Josh Boone.
Given how the Express already have a defensive-minded Asi Taulava in the mix, coach Franz Pumaren really looks to give opposing imports a lot of fits in the paint. I don’t think they got Lamizana because of his scoring prowess, which might mean guys like Mac Cardona and Joseph Yeo will remain as the top options on offense.
Meralco Bolts import: Brian Butch
Home country: USA
Born: Dec. 22, 1984 in Wisconsin (age 29)
Listed height: 6-foot-11 (211cm)
US College: University of Wisconsin
NBA Draft: 2008 - Undrafted
Has played in: China, Germany, Greece, and Puerto Rico
Last played for: The Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the NBA D-League
Averages: 7.9ppg, 4.1rpg, .520 FG%, 6.6 EFF
Notes: Butch’s biggest achievements are the following: being named Most Valuable Player of the 2010 NBA D-League All-Star Game and being named the NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year in that same season. Butch is a big guy who likes to mix it up in the paint and is really comfortable finishing from as far as 10 feet out. Despite being nearly 7-feet tall, he is mobile enough to play even the PF spot, though he should exclusively play the slot for the undersized Bolts.
The knock on this guy, however, is that it seems his best is behind him. Butch was maybe the best all-around center in the D-League in the 2012-2013 season, averaging an impressive double-double line — 12.7ppg, 10.9rpg, and 1.0bpg. His production, however, dipped this past season. His numbers went down to just 11.8ppg and 8.8rpg for the Bakersfield Jam, and, after being shipped to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, his stats fell even further. His efficiency rating dropped from 11.8 EFF with Bakersfield to a measly 6.6 EFF with the Mad Ants.
Another ominous thing about this former Wisconsin Badger is how he almost never seems to stay put as an import in foreign leagues. With the exception of playing 20 games for Giants Nordlingen in the German league, Butch has never played more than a handful of games with any one foreign club. He left the Jiangsu Dragons after just 2 games in 2008, played just 3 games for Ilisiakos in Greece in 2009, and left Atleticos de San German of the Puerto Rican league after playing in only 2 contests. It sure looks like there are a lot of red flags for this kid who once represented Team USA in the Pan-American Games. His skill-set undoubtedly makes him an interesting fit for a Meralco squad aching to fill its middle, but the question is will he stay long enough to make a good impact? - Rappler.com
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