By Ged Austria

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!

San Miguel Beermen

SMB, since winning the AFC in 2015, has always been labeled the team to beat in each and every conference. They always have a target on their backs, most especially every AFC since they are the defending 4-peat champions. For this coming season and conference, every fan is excited, every other team is intrigued by how the Beermen will perform. This is mainly because of a surprising blockbuster trade that most basketball fans didn’t see coming.

Terrence Romeo is a Beerman. To add to that, this is also the 1st time that both Junemar Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger would start a conference where they are both healthy. Standhardinger had nagging knee issues back in the previous Commissioner’s cup. While Junemar, unfortunately, was sidelined with the majority of the previous Governor’s Cup due to a microfracture in his shin. To add to that, they also acquired Paul Zamar right after his break out season with Blackwater and their former defensive energizer Ronald Tubid is returning.

It is what people say that this team has the most talented individuals in recent memory, or possibly in the history of PBA. Ever since winning their 1st chip back in 2015 and elevating San Miguel back to their glory days, the players and the core unit has been used to winning and used to the pressure that comes with it. They are definitely ready to face on the coming teams and challenges, as the pressure of winning is nothing new to them at all.

Magnolia Hotshots

The Hotshots, for the longest time, have always been competing in the PBA playoffs. And in some instances, get the chance to go deep in the playoffs and even compete for a championship. In recent memory, the Hotshots has also become a team to beat and playoff contender since Coach Chito Victolero started handling the team. It also seemed as they have finally figured out on going deep into the playoffs and possibly competing for the championship on a consistent basis.

The past season, Magnolia, along with San Miguel Beer, were the only two teams to go into the PBA Finals in two conferences. Only time will tell if we will see the Hotshots regularly make the playoffs, while also consistently going deep into the tournament.

Magnolia’s championship last Governor’s Cup conference was extra special and kind of bittersweet for some die-hard fans. This is because it was their 1st ring since the Tim Cone era, and also the 1st since the departure of James Yap. The reason why some die-hard fans have mixed emotions because they are not used to seeing PJ Simon, and Pingris up the stage but without James Yap. As long as the Hotshots are healthy this season, we expect them to be at least a top 4 team in the PBA. They are still packed with talented guards with the Lee, Barroca, Jalalon trio. They have bigs that can fill up the inside but also stretch the floor, and they also have the ever-reliable vets in PJ Simon and Pingris who will return at some point in the season.

Alaska Aces

The Aces, aside from the last Governor’s Cup, have actually struggled the past two seasons. Alaska has always been known as a grit and grind team and as a team that’s also always a threat to contend for the playoffs. Alaska had their fair share of ups and downs the past seasons and they always come up short when it matters the most. Closest to a winning conference was 2015 AFC Finals Game 7 vs SMB. They have always made the finals but always ended up losing and becoming a runner-up, which really hurts for an Alaska fan.

When the last conference ended, many people expected that the Aces will make another run this upcoming AFC. They seemed rejuvenated and back from the dead, as they were obviously they were in such a groove and in sync as a unit the last conference.

Unfortunately, just a few days before the start of the PBA season, it was announced by Coach Alex Compton at the media day that Vic Manuel will be missing the AFC due to a back injury, and Simon Enciso will be out 6 weeks due to a knee procedure. This is a tough blow for the Aces where they basically lost their two of their best players. Both Vic Manuel and Enciso were having tremendous performances for the Aces last season, especially in the Governor’s Cup. They were among the main reasons why they got to the finals, aside from having import Mike Harris. Compton also said that Banchero, who is arguably their 3rd best player, has multiple minor injuries but may be ready to play. The vets and captains Jvee Casio and Sonny Thoss are also listed as day-to-day. The season hasn’t even started but things look dark for the Aces. They may have to bank on their role players, and even the rookies like Jesper Ayaay and GBoy Babilonia, so they can end up with a winning record this AFC.

All images courtesy of PBA Images unless stated otherwise.