After grabbing their first and only championship trophy in 2012, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters continued to become strong title contenders conference after conference.
They have always landed in the top four of the league standings. They have always made it past the quarterfinals, save for the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup where they were eliminated by Barangay Ginebra despite their twice-to-beat advantage.
They had four opportunities to bag another title, but they fell short all four times. That classic double-overtime Game 7 thriller against Talk ‘N Text in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup was one for the books.
Such almost-but-not-quite moments have been heartbreaking, but it’s better to have fought and lost than never to have fought at all, right? RIGHT?
As the new season opens, can we finally say that the Elasto Painters are ready to graduate from their bridesmaid duties? Can they finally get to the finish line and win it all the way for a change?
|Paul Lee||Jeff Chan||Gabe Norwood||Beau Belga||Raymond Almazan|
|Chris Tiu||Jericho Cruz||Jireh Ibanes||JR Quinahan||Jewel Ponferada|
|Maverick Ahanmisi||Jeric Teng||Don Trollano|
Rain or Shine unloaded several seasoned guards to vacate slots for their rookies.
Ryan Arana‘s creativity on offense, peskiness on defense, and antics with Almazan off the court will be missed as he was traded to Barako Bull in exchange for the Energy’s 2016 second round pick. Barako then shipped Arana to
its sister team San Miguel.
Jonathan Uyloan was relegated to ROS’ unrestricted free agent list and was immediately picked up by Globalport. TY Tang, on the other hand, decided to retire and bid goodbye to his basketball career after seven years of being an Elasto Painter.
With all these changes, Jeric Teng was able to hold on to his spot on the roster. Woozah!
Newly-drafted players Maverick Ahanmisi (3rd overall pick) and Don Trollano (15th) were already signed, while Josan Nimes (12th) will most probably be part of the lineup after his NCAA stint.
Jewel Ponferada, along with the pick used to draft Simon Enciso (17th), was acquired in exchange for Jervy Cruz. Ronnie Matias, who used to be a defensive anchor for ROS, is reportedly making a comeback but he was not included in the roster as of this writing.
There’s arguably no team in the PBA who could top Rain or Shine’s familiarity with each other. They usually don’t make many changes in the offseason, so the mixing and matching of this incoming batch is probably the most they’ve done in shaking up the roster. It’s clear that they’re slowly rebuilding and investing in younger players, while ensuring that their core remains intact.
News just came in that Paul Lee will be out for two months due to a knee injury and this is going to hurt their chances (more on this later). But veterans Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Beau Belga, Chris Tiu, and Jireh Ibanes are still there. They will be instrumental in helping the newbies integrate into the system and retain the chemistry and camaraderie that ROS have been known for.
The Painters have also been consistently good in distributing the ball. They had an average assist rate of 59 percent last season, which means close to six out of ten made shots came from assists. With the absence of Lee and the departure of Tang and Uyloan, they’ll be banking on Tiu, Norwood, and newcomer Ahanmisi to do bulk of the court general work.
According to a report from Interaksyon, Paul Lee could possibly be out for a couple of months. His absence will definitely be a huge blow to Rain or Shine’s campaign. He’s proven time and again how well his moniker suits him. Coming from his most lethal season yet, it would have been exciting to see him go toe-to-toe once more with the likes of Jayson Castro and Terrence Romeo. However, the basketball gods have other plans. Those epic showdowns will have to wait.
Lee is the Elasto Painters’ biggest offensive threat and most reliable facilitator. With him on the sidelines, a huge chunk of scoring will be lost. To counter this, Chan should bring out his sniping chops, Norwood should activate his FIBA mode, Tiu should unleash his master gwapo moves, and Jericho Cruz should showcase his slashing abilities. Raymond Almazan should also solidify his presence inside and contribute better and more consistently.
I’ve always had high hopes for Almazan and I’m still waiting for him to really make a dent as Rain or Shine’s main guy in the middle. With competition getting tougher, he can’t continue putting up an average of 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds. I’m not expecting him to match June Mar Fajardo’s numbers, but hey, I believe he can be more dominant in the paint if he tries harder.
The acquisition of Ponferada supposedly strengthens the team’s frontline. Sure, they got taller but we’ve yet to see if this is a good move. ROS have struggled in rebounding for as long as I can remember, so at the very least, Ponferada should be able to help in crashing the boards.
I’m placing my bets on Maverick Ahanmisi. Surprisingly picked ahead of more popular names like Art Dela Cruz, Scottie Thompson, Baser Amer, and Garvo Lanete, an impressive maiden conference would be his best response to the naysayers and best repayment to the trust that ROS placed on him. Now that Lee is nursing an injury, there is more pressure for him to immediately deliver and make an impact.
The Elasto Painters will remain in the upper echelon of the standings but I don’t think they can get rid of the “perennial contender” tag just yet. A semi-finals stint is highly likely, but the Philippine Cup trophy might continue to be elusive for Coach Yeng Guiao.