“Anong cup na ba?”
It’s a question far too common when you start a casual conversation about the Philippine Basketball Association. It’s easy to pin this to the naiveity of the casual fan, but another big reason for this is, the league is simply a chore at times to go through. There will be instances where things overwhelm you due to the number of things happening. Lack of notable events also get to fans. Lack of stability is common in the PBA. Quite frankly, you end up asking yourself too many times: “Ano na ba nangyayari?”
We’re here to *try* to make the experience easier. As a Humblebola team, we’re making the jump by starting to cover the PBA once more.
To start things off, previewing the PBA Philippine Cup!
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel
I kid. There’s more to the Gin Kings than just that.
The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings have in recent seasons, distanced themselves from the disparaging monicker of the vegeratble-which-shall-not-be-named, making it to the Finals in several conferences and even winning back-to-back championships in the Governor’s Cup. It is undeniable that their new found success comes from having the winningest coach in the PBA on their side, as well as arguably the best foreign player the Gin Kings could ask for to bolster their ranks.
While Coach Tim Cone did not transform the team from kangs to kings overnight, he has yet to win the All-Filipino conference with them. Notably this is the most difficult conference for Ginebra as they are forced to play the entire conference without the driving force of their winning ways, Justin Brownlee.
With Matt Salem, their only pick in the recent draft, opting not to sign with them, Ginebra will look to their veterans and rising stars to bring them their first Philippine Cup championship since 2006. Scottie Thompson’s recent Gilas stint unveiled a new aspect of his game, turning him into a playmaker and decent offensive threat to complement his kalawit rebounding. L.A. Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar will remain the key starters for the team while the health and ability to play of X-factors Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter will determine how far into the conference they will go.
With all of the right players healthy, there’s reason for Ginebra fans to be optimistic and excited for this team. If there’s any team under any coach who can topple the Beermen dynasty, it may as well be the Gin Kings.
The Elasto Painters have been a team that cannot be taken for granted but at the same time have not been able to get over the hump. Despite a stellar 9 win 2 loss elimination round record in the Commissioner’s Cup last season, they ultimately fell to the eventual champions Ginebra.
Ever since losing franchise player Paul Lee and long time coach Yeng Guiao, the Elasto Painters have mostly evaded the cellar but have struggled to make their mark as title contenders.
Head Coach Caloy Garcia has demonstrated on several occasions that he is a more than capable coach, but has yet to get over the playoff hump and step out of the shadow of the team’s former mentor, Yeng Guiao.
With the official retirement of Chris Tiu from the PBA, the Elasto Painters will need to rely on pillars Gabe Norwood, James Yap and Beau Belga to provide the firepower. Their Gilas stint will prove valuable for the development of their rising stars in Maverick Ahanmisi and Raymond Almazan who will hopefully be able to better handle the pressure of the playoffs.
For Rain or Shine hopefuls, expect them to have a good to decent regular season, probably finishing in the top half of rankings. It’s in the playoffs that fans will need to buckle up expecting a rough ride.
NLEX Road Warriors
Retooled and ready to go, the NLEX Road Warriors made big moves in the offseason which put them in a better position to be a contender in the league. By acquiring John Paul Erram, the Road Warriors added an 11 points 9 rebound per game big who could provide them with much-needed stability and energy in the paint.
Under the taskmaster tutelage of Coach Yeng Guiao, this conference might be the breakout conference for what may be a sleeping dragon in NLEX. The mix of crafty scorers in Kevin Alas, Cyrus Baguio may finally have the pivot point they have long needed with the acquisition of Erram. Veterans JR Quiñahan and Asi Taulava will provide the foundational anchor of the team on both ends, allowing the younger players room to develop.
NLEX fans can be cautiously optimistic about their team’s chances in the Philippine Cup. While they aren’t expected to be contenders just yet, there’s real reason to expect them to at the very least improve and start the climb toward being contenders. Not to mention that the phenom Kiefer Ravena is set to make his return to the PBA this season, although most probably not in the Philippine Cup. Steps in the right direction is all an NLEX fan can ask for at the moment.
All images used courtesy of PBA images unless otherwise stated.