And now that the dust has settled and the Los Angeles Lakers are crowned as the 2020 National Basketball Association (NBA) bubble champions, let’s shift our focus on our very own Philippine Basketball Association bubble in Clark, Pampanga. I am just happy that our league is back on its feet after a long hiatus after being interrupted in March early this year.
Let’s check how teams are holding up this season.
TnT Tropang Giga
With a 5-0 win-loss record, they are off to a good start. This team is built to make it all the way with the acquisition of Poy Erram in the offseason, the stellar output of RR Pogoy, the steadying presence of Jason Castro, the much improved play of Bobby Ray Parks and the timely inside and out play of stretch 4 Troy Rosario.
As I earlier anticipated, TnT is a force in this All Filipino Conference and they are showing true to form. What people thought was a guard heavy line up has been beefed up by Erram, the free agency signing of utility big man Lervin Flores, and the conversion of David Semerad as a stretch 4. The 3 are being complemented well by the veteran trio of holdovers in Rosario, Jay Washington and the ageless workhorse Harvey Carey.
Watching a couple of TnT games made me realize the coaching skills of Mark Dickel (TnT consultant). He utilises a full 12 man roster in each game to ensure fresh legs all 48 minutes. The Tropa hounds the opposing backcourt all game and continues to put premium on their drive and kick bread and butter play with a little bit more variation particularly in player movements. The spreading of the minutes see development of younger talent in the likes of Simon Enciso, Almond Vosotros and Samboy De Leon. When the young ones get challenged, Castro and backcourt veteran Ryan Reyes come in to put sanity back in their offensive patterns.
Will we see TnT snatching the crown away from the San Miguel Beermen? With the way they are playing, this team has the best shot to pull the rug under the defending champs, moreso now that the Beermen are without injured Most Valuable Player Junemar Fajardo.
The Tim Cone Magic
With the other half of the PBA’s giants, Greg Slaughter, deciding to sit out this year, many experts predicted the Barangay would have a difficult time being competitive this conference … or so they thought. Never under estimate the genius in head coach Tim Cone.
He knew that Slaughter could produce a double double any given game date but without him, the veteran coach had to make do with a committee of talents to replace his production. And the source comes from 2 unheralded players in Prince Caperal and rookie Arvin Tolentino. Along with the steady output of Scottie Thompson, Joe Devance, and Stanley Pringle, Ginebra is in a good spot with a 4-2 slate as of this writing. I like where they are now. They only trail TnT and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters this conference. With the tournament running only a one round elimination sprint, coach Tim Cone’s wards can continue to blend more together and peak at the right time in this bubble cup.
Will Cone finally give an all Filipino crown to Ginebra? They still have the tools to make it with a high caliber coach to guide them all the way.
Will it Rain or Shine?
Years after Yeng Guiao took his talents to the Manny Panglinan group, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters continue to be a consistent playoff threat in the league. Led by veterans Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga, RoS continues to play steady, blue collar basketball that keeps them in contention all the time. At a 4-1 slate, coach Caloy Garcia’s wards look solid thus far in the season.
This team hardly drafts blue chip players. They settle for unheralded talents who fit their system. Who would imagine the likes of Rey Nambatac, Kris Rosales and Javee Mocon would start carving their own names in the PBA? Even Norbert Torres and Jewel Ponferada give good quality minutes of rugged play down low. While teams target marquee players to beef up their rosters, Rain or Shine goes under the radar and prefers to develop players within. Kudos should be given to the trainers and coaching staff of the Elasto Painters for building a system that could withstand time … whether it rains or shines.
These 3 teams are good favourites to give the defending champion San Miguel Beermen a run for their money this year. It will take some adjustments on the Beermen side to fill the void left by their MVP and thwart any major threat to their crown. I am happy that the PBA is back. I miss the days of having dinner while watching our very own league on tv. I do hope that in due time, hopefully soon, that I could watch the games live in the venues again. Something most basketball fans in the country would like to do … hopefully soon.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)