Rain or Shine’s 2013 Commissioner’s Cup didn’t end the way many expected it to. Reaching the playoffs as the 2nd seed with a twice to beat advantage against Ginebra, the Elasto Painters ended up succumbing to the peaking Gin Kings in their 1st round match-up. With a longer break than normal because of the FIBA games, Coach Yeng and his boys are entering the final conference of the season not only having put the previous conference behind them, but they have also placed themselves in a very favorable situation to defend their Governor’s Cup title.
The 2013 edition of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters has got to be the most talented team in recent memory. Mainstays Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan and Beau Belga are among the league’s premier players in their respective positions and this core is being complemented by a mixture of talented veterans (JR Quinahan, Jireh Ibanez, Ryan Arana etc.) and future stars (Paul Lee, Chris Tiu, Jervy Cruz). Keeping true to the team’s core values of continuity and family, Rain or Shine wisely did not make any changes in its personnel. Instead, they welcomed one back in former best import awardee, Arizona Reid as their reinforcement for the upcoming conference.
For Flag and Country
Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga all chose to become heroes and suit up for Smart Gilas Pilipinas. While Belga has had ample time to recover after not making the 12-man roster, Norwood and Chan have only two full days to get ready for the team’s opening day game vs. San Mig Coffee on August 14. Both player’s value to the team are irreplaceable, but expect Coach Yeng to ease them into the rotation for the first few games as they nurse themselves and get their bearings back.
In his previous stint with Rain or Shine in 2011, Arizona Reid finished the Governor’s Cup averaging 28.7 points, 15.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1 steal and half a block per game, earning him the conference’s best import award. After his stint in the Philippines, he suited up for Benetton Fribourg Olympic in Switzerland’s professional league. In 25 games there, he averaged 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 30.4 minutes of play. Early on, Reid has already impressed many with his conditioning and improved all-around game. In a recent tune-up match against Ginebra, he led the Painters to a 101-99 win, scoring a game-high 34 points to lead all scorers.
But, what exactly does Reid bring to the table for Rain or Shine? Let’s break down his strengths and weaknesses.
Reid plays with a constant motor and intensity that perfectly complements Rain or Shine’s style of play. With a fast pace an integral part of Rain or Shine’s winning formula, Reid’s preference for a quick and attacking brand of basketball will allow Rain or Shine to run every chance they get (something that they couldn’t do with Bruno Sundov and Jamelle Cornley in previous conferences).
Once the team brings the ball within the vicinity of the three point line, Reid instantly becomes a huge scoring threat. His ability to score inside while also occasionally hitting the outside shot should keep defenses on their toes whenever he’s on the floor. When he finds himself in a bind, Reid is also more than a willing passer, something that is integral for imports in the PBA, where imports face defenses that are designed to stop them every single game. In terms of rebounding, Reid will be able to complement Rain or Shine’s big front line well. His vertical certainly won’t surprise anyone, but his constant activity on the court allows him to snag boards, (especially on the offensive glass) at a pretty respectable rate.
Lastly, the familiarity with Coach Yeng’s system and with some of his teammates should help Reid and the Elasto Painters come out of the gates strong. With this year’s Governor’s Cup shortened because of the FIBA preparations, a strong start may just be the difference between a twice to beat advantage in the first round (yes, it still matters) and another early exit.
Defensively, Reid is a big body that will definitely add to the physical and bruising style of defense Rain or Shine employs. However, like most Elasto Painter imports in the past, Reid doesn’t really block shots. In Switzerland last year, Reid only managed to block seven shots in 33 games. While those numbers stand to improve as he plays against relatively smaller competition here, it would be best to not expect much from him in terms of sending back shots.
On offense, Reid is also not a traditional post presence that many fans clamour for. Sure, he will be able to score in the post, but these will usually come through face-up drives, cuts to the basket or shots off offensive rebounds. This will be a good source of points inside for the team, but interior scoring of this fashion is also easier to defend and stop (see pre-Gilas Japeth Aguilar).
But how exactly would Reid fit into Coach Yeng’s system? Let’s break down some sets that the team runs and see how Reid might fit into some of them.
*Forgive me for the illustrations, since there aren’t any clear videos of PBA games available, I just did the best that I could with MS Office to come up with the images below. =D
First, we look at how the team might try to get Reid some room to operate in the post.
Next, we look at two plays that the team may use to get Reid some room to operate out on the perimeter.
Here’s the first:
*All three sets diagrammed above were plays that are part of the Rain or Shine playbook. Of course, new sets may be used that could better take advantage of Reid’s versatility. Also, with the current make-up and tendencies of Governor’s Cup imports, don’t be surprised to see A LOT of one on one, isolation play over actual sets across the league this coming conference.
Reid’s return to Rain or Shine did not address any of the team’s main weaknesses (rim protection, back to the basket offensive presence), but his versatility should complement the team’s game plan on both ends of the court.
Team Strengths: An Assisted Pace
When talking about Rain or Shine’s strengths as a team, one would immediately point to its fast pace of play as their biggest advantage and also what gives them their identity as a basketball team. Playing an uptempo style of basketball allows the team to gain more possessions and scoring chances. By immediately pushing the ball up the court, the Elasto Painters are able to get more easy fast break chances or get into their offensive sets even before opposing defenses are able to set-up.
The team is able to achieve this by:
1) looking to run every single chance they get and,
2) allowing all five players on the floor to bring the ball up (yes, even the bigs).
But, a fast pace is only half of what makes Rain or Shine’s offense a juggernaut. To complement their pace, Coach Yeng has installed a system that not only encourages pushing the ball up the floor as fast as possible, but one that also puts a premium on sharing the basketball. In the Governor’s Cup, Rain or Shine was the top assisting team, averaging 21 assists per game. That statistic is made even more impressive if you consider that not a single member of the team ended up averaging more than five dimes a game. With majority of the assists not coming from a singular source, the team is continuously able to field an offense that’s dynamic and continuous regardless of the five that’s on the floor.
When you have a team that pushes the pace, makes the extra pass and doesn’t think twice about taking that open shot, it produces an offense that is the best in the PBA. And coming into this conference, it is this offense that is Rain or Shine’s greatest asset and its key to a successful campaign.
Team Weaknesses: Bricks and Whistles
Despite such a potent offense, Rain or Shine has actually struggled to convert their shots from beyond the arc (last in the Commissioner’s Cup at 27.4%). While this may be a one conference fluke given the absence of top gunner Jeff Chan for most of the tournament, most of the team’s other local players were not able to hit more than 30% of their three point attempts.
On the defensive end, playing such a physical brand of defense without a true rim protector often leads to foul trouble for some players. With only Belga and Quinahan having the size and heft to truly become a presence in the paint, having one of them saddled with foul trouble puts pressure on the team’s smaller frontline of Cruz, Ibanez and Matias.
Expect Rain or Shine to come out of the gates strong behind some very strong play from Reid. However, the tired legs of Norwood and Chan will catch up with them late in the conference, leading them to stumble into the 3rd or 4th seed in the playoffs.
As long as they don’t draw Alaska with a twice to beat advantage in the quarterfinals, I still see this Rain or Shine team making it back to the finals to defend their crown and hopefully, have their story come full circle.