In an offseason marked by a slew of power-shifting trades, Ginebra stood pat and held on to their chips.
Outside of drafting former National University sniper Matt Salem in the Rookie Draft and signing Jose Rizal University gunner Teytey Teodoro to a one-conference deal, the Gin Kings had a pretty quiet break—a stark opposite to that of San Miguel’s, who are now made deeper by offseason acquisitions Terrence Romeo, Paul Zamar and Ronald Tubid.
But for head coach Tim Cone, the team already has what it needs.
“There’s something to be said about continuity. We felt that staying intact was paramount for us. We know who we are, we know what we wanna do. We feel we can improve and grow even without changes,” Cone told FOX PH during the first-ever PBA Media Day at Solaire Resort and Casino yesterday.
“I know a lot of other teams are grabbing new players and stuff, but we feel we could go to another level while staying intact. We feel we’re right there. We really think our continuity might be our edge heading into the All-Filipino Cup,” he added.
That advantage will be tested by the looming dominance of the Beermen, who were already favorites to begin with even before the arrival of their trade hauls. But even if those transactions tip the scales in their rivals’ favor, Cone thinks that they have enough tools to be able to score a repeat of the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup, where they booted San Miguel in six games for the title.
“I think that we’re one of the few teams that match up well with San Miguel. We take away a few things that they normally get from other teams, and we have a couple of guys that can match up with June Mar and Christian Standhardinger,” the 21-time champion coach said.
“It doesn’t mean we can stop them, by any means. The job is going to be really really hard, but among the other teams out there we have the best chance only because we match up size-wise.”
Of course, much of their success in trying to stop SMB’s bid for a fifth-straight All-Filipino title will rely on whether or not the team’s stars can stay on the floor. Last year, the periodic absences of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar spelled the difference between many of their wins and losses, but thankfully they’ll be entering the season with a clean bill of health.
“A lot of it was about health,” Cone explained. “The good news is we’re healthy. Greg is healthy, Japeth is healthy, as long as those guys stay healthy, we’re gonna be competitive. We’re gonna compete against anybody for any championship. We’re real pleased with that.”
The only problem that they’re facing now is the relatively short preparation over the break. The 61-year-old mentor said that Ginebra was supposed to kick off the season on January 19 in Guam before cheduling changes forced them to scramble to get back to practices earlier than expected.
Cone hopes that wouldn’t pose a big problem as the opening nears.
“We have a very, very short window to get prepared. Basically we’ve been making habol. The good news is we’re healthy. But now, it’s about getting into proper state.”
Ginebra will be battling TNT to open Season 44 on Sunday, January 13, at the Philippine Arena.
(Photo from PBA Images)