“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!

Northport Batang Pier

How far does the ceiling go for Northport?

The Batang Pier have been one of the steadiest teams in the league for quite a while now. They’ve been steady in a sense that, you already have a decent gauge of what to expect from them coming into ANY conference of the PBA.

They play with a unique kind of speed. They can be entertaining in spurts. Most importantly, they’re just, eh.

They’ve never been a team that’s exuded excellence, and there’s a number of reasons for this. They’ve had depth, but never enough talent.

Last season, they hovered around the 7-9 range, then only to completely miss out of the playoffs during the Governors Cup. Mo Tautuaa hasn’t made the leap fans expected him to have after receiving a fresh start with the Batang Pier. Sean Anthony is a solid player, but he has his limits. Stanley Pringle is one of the best players in the league, but one player can only do so much.

Yet, this season, there is some reason to be hopeful. Robert Bolick is a top-level talent, yet he’s the type of hard-nosed worker Coach Pido Jarencio will have plenty of fun with. Maybe Tautuaa makes the leap from solid big to close to franchise-level center. Pringle will continue to do Pringle things. Till then, we wait if the Batang Pier can go beyond whatever ceiling they’ve seemingly hit.

TNT KaTropa

This is a spot the TNT franchise hasn’t been used to in quite some time. Things around the group feel unstable. There’s plenty of ways to interpret that, but really, you only need to look at one place to truly understand this: their record.

Their performance during the Governors Cup was their worst ever since the 2013 edition of that same conference. They haven’t always been at the top of the heap, but since then, TNT has always had a sure slot in the playoffs. Suddenly, it no longer feels like that.

The unstable nature of things doesn’t help the feeling of uneasiness around the fanbase. The Terrence Romeo and Mo Tautuaa experiments failing during last season do not help things at all.

Where do things go now for TNT? Romeo and Tautuaa were supposed to be building blocks for their future as their core guys start to age day by day. Jayson Castro isn’t as blurry as he used to be. Kelly Williams continues to be quite the force, but he isn’t getting any quicker. Ryan Reyes can only do so much as a 35-year-old.

There aren’t any answers they can lean on to with the current makeup of their roster. Since that’s the case, maybe they have to take things step by step. Cliche, but it’s something that holds true when it comes to rebuilding any type of sports team.

Championships are far away. For the meantime, just getting that sure slot in the playoffs once more may do wonders for the embattled franchise. Lose that instability, and take off from the success of that afterward.

Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters

Phoenix’s track record during the 2018 season is easy to scoff at. Yet, this team is easily one of the most promising as we enter a new PBA season. Sneaky moves have given Coach Louie Alas plenty of talent to work with, and the result is a team that should be must watch from the get-go.

Calvin Abueva is easily the biggest name among Coach Louie’s crop of players, but there’s more to that than just Abueva’s name recall. The Beast is the type of ballplayer Coach Louie loves to work with. Hard working, has an incredible nose for the ball and has motor that is never-ending. Even better for both sides: Calvin no longer has to carry the burden of being THE guy. He’s kind of like their Draymond Green now, a complementary piece who holds things together. There is value in keeping things together for your team. We’ll be witness to more of that in the first full season of the Abueva-Coach Alas pairing.

Matthew Wright is undoubtedly THE guy for this Phoenix franchise, and he’s a great fit beside the destructive Abueva. Wright is calm, cool, yet deadly. His point of pin downs are unassuming, but when points start to pile up, you suddenly realize the kind of damage he can bring if you aren’t careful.

Their two main guys fit very well, but the rest of Phoenix’s roster is filled with promise as well. Doug Kramer and Dave Marcelo make for a wide frontline opposing teams wouldn’t want to face with. Prepare the Salonpas.

Jason Perkins impressed during his rookie season. He’s no longer Hefty Lefty. Maybe we can call him Sexy Lefty now. No matter what his moniker may be, he’s surely Steady Lefty. He will produce no matter what. If he takes a leap this year, Phoenix could be in for even better things.

LA Revilla is one of the best young guards in the league. Alex Mallari is a terrific pickup that bolster’s their wing depth. There’s plenty of other quality players in this roster, a testament to the sheer depth of this Fuel Masters team.

However, they have to go out and prove it on the court first before we brand them as title contenders or whatnot. For now, they are must watch. Call them dark horses if you will. Just like Matthew Wright jumpers off pin downs, if you aren’t careful, you may be too late in realizing Phoenix is a silent assassin who can do damage to any team in the league. Watch out.

All images courtesy of PBA Images unless otherwise stated.