Grantland, Pacific Rims paperback and glimpses from Tony Lu's photo collection

Big things happening. I had to cut my trip to Manila in half -- from two months to one -- and usually that would be a minor tragedy in my life. This time, however, things are a little different. I flew back to the States to begin the hiring process at Bill Simmons' new website, Grantland. Like most American guys my age, I've been reading Simmons since I was 13 or 14, and he's right up there with David Halberstam and Darcy Frey with sports writers who've had the greatest influence on me. So naturally I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to work for him, but I'm equally honored and excited to be working with the "murderers row" of writers and editors he's assembling as contributors and full-time staff. The site launches later this month, and I'll be starting as soon as I pass through the ESPN/Disney hiring gauntlet.

Also exciting: free entry to Disneyland, Disneyworld, Epcot, EuroDisney and Hong Kong Disney! I will be like the guy who visited all of the world's Starbucks franchises, except that for me it will be riding "It's a Small World" in three different continents, assuming they have it everywhere.

The Pacific Rims paperback release in Manila went well. We had to pull every string we could find to get the books released from customs, but even on short notice we managed to attract a decent-sized crowd, including PBA player Tony dela Cruz and Philippine women's national team member Melissa Jacob. James Quizon, a Pinoy basketball fan so passionate about the game that he made me a Ninong (godfather) to his baby boy, also made it to the book launch, and I wasted no time in trying to indoctrinate little Qube in the ways of basketball fandom. Here's a picture of me, Qube, James and his wife Cheryll.

Here in the United States, the paperback will be released June 7 and is already available online for pre-order. Hopefully I can use the occasion to visit some major Filipino hubs -- Southern California, Toronto, Seattle, Vancouver, Alaska -- where I haven't yet held events.

My experience in May shooting a 4-part miniseries on Philippine basketball for National Geographic TV was as unforgettable as it was overwhelming. I hope to write something substantial about it and don't want to give too much away, but I can't resist posting a couple photos I snapped of pictures from the legendary collection of Tony Lu, the omnipresent photographer who has shot practically every significant Pinoy basketball event in the past three decades.

This is, to my knowledge, the only known photograph of Billy Ray Bates's "Black Superman" sneakers, which Grosby made for him at the height of his powers and mid-1980s celebrity while playing with Ginebra.

A young Bates decked out in Eighties fashion -- stonewashed jeans, fanny pack and heart necklaces in the colors of the (Italian? Mexican?) flag.

Tony Lu with Chris Mullin during the 2000 NBA Finals. I love how obvious it is that Tony just ran up on Mullin in the middle of his workout and asked for a picture, and the look on Mullin's face is 25 percent exhaustion and 75 percent "WTF?" Thumbs up!

Finally, Tony Lu and the Bushwackers! Sorry for the glare, but it's fun all the same. Whoever has the time and energy to catalog Tony Lu's photo collection will really find some treasures. I hope it's digitized someday.