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NBA Not Complaining About San Juan Time-Share

By Gabrielle Paese

October 3, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Last week, the Montreal Expos players said it again. This time they said it slowly, so even Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig could understand it: "Read our lips: No split season."

The Expos were happy campers as they packed up and left San Juan this past Sept. 11. Their message was clear: Good riddance Puerto Rico. Your clubhouse is too small, it takes too long to get to your island and we're too travel-weary to come back. Thanks but no thanks, the Expos seemed to say as they wheeled their luggage to the team bus en route to the airport. On the whole, we'd really rather be in Montreal.

If the Major League Player's Association has as much say as I think they do, it means the Expos will really play all their 2004 home games in Montreal, payroll be damned.

What a relief it was then to hear Philadelphia Sixers point guard Eric Snow and Miami Heat coach Pat Riley hold forth about the fun they're going to have in Puerto Rico next week when the two teams meet for an exhibition game Oct. 7 at Roberto Clemente Coliseum.

"I don't think you'll get many players complaining about going to Puerto Rico twice," said Snow during an "NBA en Espanol" conference call Tuesday. "We need to expand our game and this helps us, it helps the league and broadens peoples' minds."

Riley echoed his comments.

"There's a lot of basketball interest down there and it's part of the NBA mission to take our team and our sport down to Latin America," said Riley. "The kind of basketball that was played at the Americas [Olympic qualifying] tournament, we want to bring that kind of basketball to the fans. Part of this game is that we're always reaching out."

Major League Baseball should take notes. Or at least mimic the rhetoric. Hispanics are the largest minority in the United States. Latin players make up more than 30 percent of the league. By contrast, the NBA has but a handful of Latin players on its rosters. None are household names the way Sammy Sosa, Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez are in baseball. And yet, here you have a league that played 22 regular season games in San Juan, yet did next to nothing to highlight Puerto Rico's rich history of the game.

Meanwhile, the NBA has virtually no connection to Puerto Rico (Butch Lee, Ramon Ramos, Ramon Rivas, Jose "Piculin" Ortiz notwithstanding) and even less of a present tense (Carlos Arroyo, Danny Santiago). Yet there was Gabriel Gabor, the media director for the NBA en Espanol (Wait a minute, he has no counterpart in MLB), conducting two conference calls for the Spanish-speaking media last week with a translator to promote a mere training camp game? Hell, the Chicago Cubs wouldn't even allow the Spanish-speaking media into their clubhouse during the three-day September series in San Juan.

So tell me again why Puerto Rican promoter Antonio Munoz was so keen to give MLB nearly $10 million in guaranteed revenue the league so badly needs, only to have baseball basically thumb its nose at a return go here?

For that kind of money we could have the NBA kissing our sandy beaches and hanging backboards on our palm trees. Basketball is already more popular than baseball on this Caribbean island.

Think it can't happen? Angelo Medina Productions' Angel "Peewee" Perez says talks with the NBA about a 2004 regular season NBA game in San Juan are already under way, despite the fact that the new 20,000 state-of-the-art Hato Rey Coliseum won't likely be finished until the summer of 2004.

Rios earns Eastern League MVP honors

Alexis Rios, one of Puerto Rico's top baseball prospects, was named Most Valuable Player of the double A Eastern League this season, leading the league with a .352 batting average. At 22, the Guaynabo native, who was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 1999 draft, looks like he'll live up to his billing. The outfielder hopes his stellar season at double A will earn him more playing time when the Caguas Criollos take to the field for the winter league season.

Arroyo invited to White House

Puerto Rican point guard Carlos Arroyo, whose star is on the rise with the Utah Jazz, was invited next week to meet U.S. president George W. Bush during a ceremony at the White House honoring Latin American players in pro sports. Arroyo will travel to Mexico City next week, where the Jazz take on the Dallas Mavericks in an exhibition game Oct. 5.

Martinez continues sailing success with Continental title

Former Pan Am Games boardsailing medalist and two-time Olympian Rosarito Martinez teamed up with Kamil Berrios last week to skipper their Hobie 16 catamaran to the North American Continental Hobie 16 women's title at Dewey Beach, Dela.

Martinez, who retired from competitive boardsailing in 1998 and took up Hobie 16s for fun, finished with a total of 16 points and eight first-place finishes, one third, one fifth and one eight in the 11 regattas held Sept. 26-29.

Brandi wins fifth USTA circuit title of 2003

Puerto Rican tennis player Kristina Brandi is riding the wave of summer success well into the fall. Last weekend, she won her fifth USTA pro circuit title of the year at the $75,000 Coleman Vision Tennis Championships in Albuquerque, N.M. She also bumped her ranking up into the 90s, which she is hoping will be good enough to earn her a qualifying spot at the Australian Open early next year.

Brandi, the tournament's fifth seed, beat Venezuela's Milagros Sequera, seeded third, 6-2, 6-2, in the final. Two weeks ago, the 26-year-old defeated Allison Bradshaw to win the third-tier USTA Women's pro championships, a $25,000 USTA circuit event in Peachtree City, Ga.

Brandi was a silver (doubles) and bronze (singles) medalist at the Pan Am Games this past summer in Santo Domingo. She is climbing back up the rankings after being sidelined with a wrist injury in 2001. The former WTA tour player was ranked in the top 50 for six straight years and ranked as high as No. 23 before the injury.

Brandi, born in Florida to Puerto Rican parents, joined the Puerto Rico tennis program in 2002. At the 2002 Central American-Caribbean Games, she won singles and doubles gold medals and was instrumental in Puerto Rico's move to Group I in Fed Cup play earlier this year.

This past August, she was named USTA Circuit Player of the Week. Her other USTA circuit titles this year werre Louisville in August, College Park, Md., in July and Charlottesville, Va., in May.

Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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