A lot of things happened since Tim Cone left Alaska for San Mig Coffee almost two seasons ago.
Both squads have won championships with new Alaska mentor Luigi Trillo showing that he is now his own man and Cone continuing to prove that he is still one of the best coaches in the PBA.
More than a week before the Governors’ Cup kicked off, both squads played a practice game that wasn’t so friendly, proof that there is no love lost between the two sides and most especially, between Cone and his former team.
San Mig and Alaska go at it officially this time at 7:30 p.m. today as they seek to enhance their playoff chances in the season-ending tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Trillo is armed with the motivation to humble Cone this time, more so after he was—as he described it a few days after the incident—berated by his former head coach after a fight almost erupted between Calvin Abueva and Joe Devance in that practice game.
“I am not his assistant anymore,” Trillo, who served 13 years as Cone’s deputy, had told the Inquirer while watching a Gilas Pilipinas game during the 27th Fiba Asia Championship last month when asked about the incident. “He can’t do that to my team anymore.”
Devance returns from a one-game suspension—ironically enough—for igniting the fight that got teammate Marc Pingris suspended for two games for exchanging blows with Globalport rookie Kelly Nabong.
Alaska is a rung up on the Mixers at 3-2, though the Aces haven’t been as consistent as they would want to be, unlike in winning the Commissioner’s Cup where they lost just a total of four games.
The Mixers won that practice game by a mile even with Pingris not practicing with the squad because of his commitment to the national side.
Meanwhile, Barako Bull tries to firm up its chances of making it to the top four earlier when the in-form Energy battle the sluggish defending champion Rain or Shine crew in the 5:15 p.m. opener.
Rain or Shine has gone 1-3 in its last four games and isn’t exactly playing the way it is capable of.
The Energy, on the other hand, practically entered the playoffs with a 98-97 decision of the Batang Pier on Friday and the only disadvantage that they have coming into this game is that they could prove to be a more tired unit, considering the age of their roster.
Tournament format calls for the top four teams after the elimination round to earn a twice-to-beat privilege against the bottom four squads in the quarterfinals, making every game starting today crucial.