LAS VEGAS, USA – Jimmy Alapag was showing a quiet demeanor every time the camera tried to catch an emotion from him. He wasn’t cheering that much. He couldn’t show the excitement that he felt when the Kings scored. He was behind the bench players – observing, taking down notes, talking with his fellow assistant coach, and looking at the statistics as they were handed to him.
This was classic Jimmy Alapag when he’s focused on his work, especially in basketball.
But there was an unmistakable excitement when Rappler and the ESPN5 crew from the Philippines finally caught up with Alapag at a restaurant outside the Thomas and Mack Center where the NBA Summer League was being held.
His kids were just as excited to see him back. They all wanted to be carried individually by their father. Alapag was staying at the team hotel while wife LJ tended to the kids at a relative’s house where they were staying.
It was on Easter Sunday when the former Gilas Pilipinas captain got the message from Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac.
“I was so excited when I finally heard back from Vlade,” shared Alapag. “As a matter of fact, it was Easter Sunday in Manila. My kids were up early and my wife had asked if Vlade had messaged back. It was 6 am. Sure enough, around 10 am, he messaged that same morning.”
Alapag’s wife, LJ Moreno, also recalled: “Actually, I was here in LA during that time. He sent, ‘Love, here’s the message.’ I felt his excitement. Of course, I was very happy for him. It’s NBA. You know Jimmy, he eats, breathes and sleeps basketball. So, I was very excited.”
For Divac, it was something they had already talked about at FIBA gatherings.
“I know Jimmy from FIBA basketball and we talked about possibilities of getting here to learn and it’s a great opportunity for him” Divac said in a quick chat with Rappler. “He wants to be a coach and learn from different ways and this is one way to try and make it happen.”
Photo by Paul Mata/Rappler
The opportunity to be in the West Coast also allowed Alapag to reconnect with his family. Just after the game against the Dallas Mavericks, some family members were there waiting for him at the restaurant.
“It’s the first time for my parents and my siblings and I had been together – I’ll probably say in the last 10 to 12 years – just because everyone is with their family and everyone is busy with their schedules. It was great to have them here," he shared.
Alapag said he’s glad his family got to see how far he has gone in the sport.
“They were super excited – with my parents being based here in the States for so long now,” the former PBA stalwart said. “Again, growing up with my dad, watching the old Lakers-Celtics back then and for my parents to see me now, I’m wearing Sacramento colors and actually on an NBA staff, it’s great to see them happy.”
“They’ve been following me way, way back since my grade school days to support me while I was still playing,” he added. “And so to be able to have a chance like this, and not just for my parents but my entire family, who came up from Los Angeles to see me here.”
LJ made sure to attend all the Kings' games together with their 3 kids, even if it was getting late in the evening.
“Stage-wife as usual. I was taking videos. I wasn’t even paying attention to the game ‘cause I was just really taking videos of him and finding him there by the bench,” she said. “And then I just watched the last two minutes. Okay, it was actually an exciting game.”
“Jimmy knows and everybody knows, I watch basketball because of him when he used to play,” LJ continued. “Otherwise, if he’s not there, I don’t really like. I wouldn’t really watch. I wouldn’t be that excited. ‘Cause he’s there, that’s what makes me excited.”
Alapag couldn’t help but feel grateful for the one-of-a-kind NBA experience.
“It was funny before I left Manila, people kept mentioning that I was the first person to be here and to have an opportunity like this,” he said. “Again, I’m thankful. If this lays down the ground for future Filipino coaches and hopefully, for a Filipino player to be here in the NBA sooner than later. That’s what it’s all about. Thankful to be here and thankful to be representing the Philippines."
“Again, I feel so fortunate to play the game for so long, as a player and now coaching in the last few years,” said Alapag. “At the root of it, I’m still a fan of the game. I love watching basketball. I love being around the game and being connected to it. Having this opportunity has been everything.” – Rappler.com