When Barangay Ginebra San Miguel opened the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup, they were regarded as one of the heavy favorites to win it all. After all, they are the defending champions. Super import Justin Brownlee is back and the whole Barangay was ready for yet another championship run. But, in typical fashion, Ginebra started out rather mediocre.
In their first six games, the Kings went 3-3 and were not living up to expectations. They became lethargic as a team and in particular, very stagnant offensively. Part of it were injuries to different players such as Jeff Chan, Joe Devance and Art Dela Cruz. But a huge chunk promptly goes to one of their main problems for the past few conferences: getting points outside of Justin Brownlee.
It was clear that Ginebra relying too much on the heroics of Brownlee. It reached its tipping point in their game against powerhouse San Miguel Beermen, he was forced to play all 53 minutes of the game just to squeak out a narrow overtime win.
Although Ginebra’s core has been solid ever since having Brownlee’s services, it was clear that it was time for some change and to get some help, at least on the scoring load.
LA Tenorio, the iron man himself, is not getting any younger. Scottie Thompson is not yet a clear cut scorer. Japeth Aguilar is not really a natural shot creator in the post and Greg Slaughter has been a shell of himself as of late.
Cue in Stanley Pringle.
In a blockbuster trade that was seemingly a long time coming, Ginebra finally acquired Pringle from Northport Batang Pier for Sol Mercado, Kevin Ferrer and Jervy Cruz. On paper, the trade looked one sided. After all, Pringle is viewed as one of the best local scorers in the league who was a runner-up in last season’s MVP race. His three replacements, on the other hand, are only considered by many as role players from a champion team.
We have to understand, however, that Ginebra gave up bench depth in order to get Pringle. Aside from depth, they also sent out three key pieces of their championship runs.
Mercado was Ginebra’s primary perimeter defender and backup point guard at the same time. There were instances where he would even guard the opponent’s import. Ferrer brought versatility as a wing who contributed significantly not just offensively but also on defense. Cruz, on the other hand, is an old school big that fit perfectly into the triangle offense because of his automatic mid-range shooting.
In short, Pringle came in at a steep price. Ginebra gave up plenty of facets into their game just to fill in one need that they massively lacked. Has it been worth it?
After four games of suiting up for Ginebra, Pringle has been averaging 17 points per game on 49% shooting, three boards, and four assists a night. In an instant, he brought the secondary scoring punch Ginebra badly needed outside of Brownlee. Even better is how he’s shooting at almost fifty percent in the field which is ridiculously high for a high-usage scoring guard.
Ginebra has also won three of its last four games with Pringle, including a Manila Clasico win last Sunday. With that alone, it looks like the gamble for Pringle has been very much worth it. Pringle’s best and most impactful game, however, came in their matchup against Alaska where he finished with 27 points and eight assists.
In half court sets, Coach Tim Cone effectively uses Pringle on pick and roll situations and isolations to either score or make plays for his teammates. One particular set is having Pringle come off screens on a horns formation with a rolling Japeth Aguilar and a popping Brownlee which is a nightmare for every opponent.
Because Pringle is not only a threat as a pure scorer but also a savvy playmaker, Ginebra can now exercise him as the point guard of the team while relegating Tenorio as a spot up shooter especially on end game situations. LA has responded as he has been shooting 38% from the three point arc in this conference.
Of course, what Pringle really brings to the table and perhaps the most important one, is his ability to create shots not only on half court sets but especially on fast break opportunities. He brings the excitement and that “showtime” feeling that Ginebra is known for.
Pringle’s transition to his new team is safe to say, on par so far. Ginebra may have lost some bench production as even Mark Caguioa, himself, has been reinserted into the rotation. But despite that, the arrival Pringle also gave way for the three key players of Ginebra to modify and amplify their gam: LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson and Justin Brownlee.
With Pringle being the main facilitator during crucial stretches of the game, Tinyente Tenorio has emerged as one of the designated spot up shooters of the team waiting for plays to develop. However, this does not necessarily mean that LA is now expected to fire at all times and be the team’s marksman a la Jeff Chan. Because he has been shooting at a respectable percentage from behind the arc, as soon as the ball dropped in his hands, the defense will surely collapse and LA is savvy enough to make the proper reads off of a scrambling defense.
In the long run, this will also benefit the Gineral. Since he no longer carries as much of a burden to create plays for his team once Brownlee is heavily defended, expect fresher legs for LA moving forward and continue to add to his legendary mileage as the league’s Iron Man.
Scottie Thompson is another player that need be noticed as soon as Pringle arrived with the team. After being a regular starter, he is now coming off the bench as the backup point guard. As expected, his playing time and his statistics took a dip. But we have to take a look at it outside his statistical production.
Thompson is much more aggressive now looking for his shots since he will be the main playmaker off the bench. Another exciting development for him too, is how he is now focused on finishing fast break plays for himself rather than being tentative like in the past.
Scottie and Pringle running the break together is such a joy to watch that Ginebra fans are sure to be nostalgic of the Fast and the Furious era.
Lastly, having Pringle on the fold makes Justin Brownlee be the Justin Brownlee that we all love as Ginebra fans, and love to hate as supporters of opposing teams. Because of the gravity that Pringle brings against the opponent’s defense, Brownlee can now take fully take advantage of his matchups without about worrying double teams and trapping defenses all the time.
Just watch his masterful 49 point performance against Magnolia last Sunday and see how an unstoppable force demoralized an elite defensive team.
Safe to say, ever since acquiring Stan the Man, Ginebra has been rejuvenated. He has brought a breath of fresh excitement not only to the team but also to its legion of fans.
However, if the Gin Kings is to be successful to defend their championship moving forward, they still need to have a total team effort and be the Ginebra team that won three championships with Brownlee. Stanley Pringle is a good start to figuring things out.