The STAR Hotshots just lost their second consecutive game. Right now, they are at 1-2. Last year, people won’t be bothered by this because this is a team known for slow starts. But this time, it doesn’t look like one of those slow starts. Something’s different. Something’s missing. Although they lost both games by just two points, it felt different. It’s like we were watching another team, not the team that won four consecutive titles last season.
Marqus Blakely, who has been with the team for five conferences already, shared his thoughts on what’s going on with the Hotshots. This was after Coach Tim Cone’s post-game walkout. Coach Tim didn’t talk to his team anymore and went straight home after another disappointing game.
[blockquote author=”Marqus Blakely (via InterAksyon.com)” pull=”normal”]It wasn’t exactly the kind of play that we wanted. But we didn’t lose that game on that last shot. It started with our defense and our flow, our execution on offense. We just got to grind it out and finish games. We lost close games by two, we had a chance down the stretch. But in the fourth quarter, we lacked the fire and desire.[/blockquote]
Fire and Desire – Definitely the appropriate words that would describe how they would play night in and night out during their Grand Slam run. They were tired, but they found a way to grind it out at the end. Right now? Parang nawala na lang bigla.
The fans and the media started to put the blame on STAR’s dynamic duo of James Yap and PJ Simon. It’s easy to do this – put the blame on their shoulders – as they haven’t been producing numbers like they used to this season, especially here in the Governor’s Cup – Simon (6.0 PPG, 0 percent 3FG, 6.7 FGA/G) and Yap (9.0 PPG, 16.7 percent 3FG, 32.4 percent FG).
But it’s been proven before that they could live with either or both players struggling. There’s one man in the paint that would save the day for the team. The one that would complete the STAR’s “Big 3”. The heart and soul of STAR, Marc Pingris.
Marc Pingris isn’t the most talented player in the PBA and he is undersized for a big man. His game is purely predicated on PUSO – hustle, effort, and defense. But it’s undeniable that he’s the main barometer for the Hotshots’ success. His energy on defense and doing the little things rubs off on his teammates and translates into wins for the team.
Unfortunately for STAR, Marc Pingris is not like himself anymore this season. Parang nawala yung gana, yung gutom, yung puso. It’s very evident here in the first three games of the Governor’s Cup.
ACTIVITY ON OFFENSE
In the past seasons, Marc Pingris averages about six to seven attempts at the basket per ball game. But in their last two losses here in the Governor’s Cup, Pingris only attempted a combined six attempts from the field. Doesn’t he want to get involved in their offense a little bit more?
This is not to say that he should be like James Yap and PJ Simon in terms of scoring. What I’m saying is that he needs to be more aggressive inside the paint to open up things for the two outside. If he will just stand there and run through the motions on offense, it won’t help their cause. Looking at his shot chart for the first three games, it could benefit them if Pingris could be more aggressive near the rim (although it isn’t his fault entirely that he’s situated in the high post most of the time because of the triangle).
In their game against the Bolts, the Hotshots were expected to dominate the boards because they were up against a smaller team. But they weren’t able to do so. It didn’t help that Pingris only had two rebounds in that game. But to be fair to Pingris, Blakely also struggled as he only got eight rebounds. However, it was just an off night for Marqus. For Pingris, there has been a decline in terms of his rebounding performance over the past conferences. He usually averages close to eight or nine rebounds per game since the 2012-2013 season. But here in the Governor’s Cup, he’s only averaging six rebounds per game. Mark Barroca averages close to five rebounds per game and he’s a point guard. I’m sure Marc Pingris could do better than six rebounds per game.
When we talk about defense in the PBA, Marc Pingris’ name comes up probably eight times out of 10. But is Pingris still one of the best defenders right now in the PBA? According to the numbers, it looks like this hasn’t been the case for the “Pinoy Sakuragi.”
|2014-15 Philippine Cup||103.0||103.0||0||94.6||96.0||-1.4||+8.4||-7.0||+1.4|
|2015 Commissioner’s Cup||105.4||102.9||+2.5||107.2||92.2||+15.0||-1.8||-10.7||-12.5|
In the Philippine Cup, Pingris’ presence on the court didn’t result into a defensive advantage for the team and when he’s off the court, the Hotshots were able to allow fewer points to the opposing teams (although they scored fewer points also). And just last conference, his defense was worse. When he’s off the court, the Hotshots were a +10.7 points per 100 better in terms of defense. All in all, he had a rating of -12.5 in the Commissioner’s Cup, which places him in the bottom ten.
This conference, it’s still the same story. His DRTG is at an all-time low hovering around the hundreds. Back in the 2012-2013 season, he had a career-best DRTG of 92.1. But here in the Governor’s Cup, he’s averaging a DRTG of 105.3.
Has he lost his step defensively? Looking at the endgame between GlobalPort and STAR wherein Stanley Pringle easily scored the go-ahead basket easily against the defense of Pingris, it looks like that’s the case. Sabi nga ni Coach Yeng, walang malas sa depensa.
So, what is up with Marc Pingris? Is he already tired of winning? Is he just waiting for the playoffs to step up his game?
If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s Marc Pingris reaction after being defeated by the Bolts. There was a look of frustration on his face. Maybe he’s beginning to realize that the team needs more from him. Maybe he’s frustrated because he knows he could’ve done better. We won’t really know what that meant but its better to think of it in a positive way.
What we can take from all of this is that STAR needs the Marc Pingris of old. More than the scoring of James and PJ, the Hotshots need that fire and desire back from Pingris. STAR’s next couple of games will be crucial. Is that fire and desire still there for Marc Pingris and the rest of the Hotshots? Or will it continue to just fade away (together with their hopes and dreams of defending the last jewel of their GrandSlam)?
Featured Image Credit: Paolo Papa, Sports 5; Jerome Ascano, SPIN.PH (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)