Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone will find former ward James Yap on the opposite side of the floor once more – and this time, with bigger stakes on the line.
Ahead of their semifinals matchup against the top-seeded Rain or Shine, Cone raved about the aging superstar’s willingness to take on any role that his team needs him to play.
Yap turned back the clock as he blew up for 27 huge points in 32 minutes to help his team edge GlobalPort, 103-97, and avoid being the fourth first-seed to be eliminated by an eighth-seeded squad in the quarterfinals.
“James has always been good at supplying what the team needs whether it being scoring or sacrifice,” Cone said.
The 36-year-old guard continued to see a dip in his minutes and production as he only averaged 7.8 points in 17 minutes per game in the Commissioner’s Cup elimination round for RoS.
His impressive play in Game 1 against the Batang Pier might have prompted coach Caloy Garcia to give him extended action. In the close 113-114 loss, Yap scored 16 points and dished out four assists in only 18 minutes.
True enough, he repaid the trust by knocking down a career-high tying seven triples en route to producing his highest scoring game in four seasons, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
But Yap isn’t the only factor that Ginebra’s preparing for as Cone is also wary of import Reggie Johnson, whom he calls a “smart, mobile big-bodied big man.”
Johnson’s shooting percentages may not be as impressive as his counterparts (48 percent from the field, 21 percent from downtown), but he’s making up for it by posting all-around averages of 23.1 points, 17.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 blocks in 11 elimination contests.
Rain or Shine’s other veterans, according to Cone, will also spell the difference – as usual.
“RoS is just such a savvy basketball team with guys like James, Norwood, Belga and Tiu, and because of that, they don’t beat themselves,” he explained.
Both teams will take the floor in Game 1 on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.