Early in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup, only two teams remain undefeated. One of them is the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, who have been a top-tier PBA team for extended periods over the past decade. The other team is the Mahindra Enforcers.
Yep, that was not a typographical error.
This is the same Mahindra (formerly KIA) team that drafted Manny Pacquiao in the first round during their maiden draft. The same team that was instantly the butt of jokes, even before they had played a single game. And while they have shown flashes of brilliance, their franchise record through the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup is a mere 16-39, and they have yet to qualify for the postseason.
This might finally be their conference though.
What has changed with the team? Well, a new coach has helped revitalized this squad. And nope, I’m not talking about Manny Pacquiao.
Mahindra assistant coach Chris Gavina has been the biggest difference so far. Taking over from Chito Victolero, the Enforcers took a chance on the young Gavina, who was the team’s strength and conditioning coach in prior campaigns. Under his watch, Gavina has helped Mahindra become a more aggressive team on both the offensive and defensive end.
Here is a comparison of Mahindra’s numbers and league rank in 3 conferences this season.
|MAHINDRA||2016 GOV CUP
(thru 4 games)
|2016 COMM CUP||2015-16 PH CUP|
All of Mahindra’s numbers have taken a great leap forward, compared to the past two conferences. They’re shooting the ball much better, and have been more aggressive in getting to the line. On the other end, their defense has improved a ton as well. And while the sample size is small, they’ve managed to win against the Star Hotshots, San Miguel Beermen, and Alaska Aces, three title contenders.That’s a pretty good achievement for a rookie head coach.
Part of the reason for their surge this conference has been import James White. Through four games, he’s been putting up 29.0 points and 13.5 rebounds (including a 20-rebound outing against Star in OT). He has an impressive 32.5 Player Efficiency Rating, and his shooting at a TS% of 66.1% and an eFG% of 62.7%.
In past conferences, Mahindra has usually played better when they have an import (see: PJ Ramos, Hamady N’Diaye). This time around though, it isn’t just a one-man show. Five other players have been averaging at least 8 points this Governors’ Cup. Veteran forwards KG Canaleta and Aldrech Ramos show why this team traded for them during the offseason. Point guard LA Revilla has been an efficient floor general, prior to a broken nose suffered in practice that will sideline him for a couple of games. Newly-acquired swingman Paolo Taha has been a revelation. Asian import Iman Zandi gives them a calm, stable presence on the wing.
It may be too early to tag Mahindra as a darkhorse Finals contender, and besides, that’s not their goal anyway. The mission is to finally break into the postseason, something that they’ll definitely accomplish if they keep up this level of intensity. And as for being the laughing stock of the league? Well, that hardly applies anymore.