Barangay Ginebra has addressed its big-man problem and will put a restructured team to the test right away when it clashes with cellar-dweller but unpredictable Globalport Friday in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.
With the energetic, 6-foot-7 rookie Yousef Taha acquired on Tuesday, the Gin Kings will come into their 7:30 p.m. contest with the Batang Pier with a new air of confidence in their bid to snap a tournament-worst five-game losing streak.
“We got him because we really need somebody to plug the hole in the middle,” said coach Siot Tanquingcen of Taha, who joined the Gin Kings from Air21 in a swap with Mike Cortez. “But sometimes, it takes a conference, or a year before we know (the results).”
Cortez, reunited with his former college coach Franz Pumaren at Air21, will also be in the spotlight when the Express collide withBarako Bull in the 5:15 p.m. game.
“Thank you, boss,” Pumaren was heard telling Ginebra board representative Robert Non Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum after the Taha-Cortez deal was approved by the Office of the Commissioner in the morning.
Pumaren had wanted a formidable point guard, and Cortez remains to be one of the best in the league, though his playing time with the Kings dwindled with the arrival of LA Tenorio from Alaska.
Ginebra is in one of its worst streaks in years, no thanks to a guard-heavy lineup that has gotten a tremendous pummeling from the field in the last month or so.
With Taha around, Ginebra now has a rebounder who can ease some of the burden off the shoulders of scorers like Tenorio, Mark Caguioa and rookies Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen. Ginebra opened with two straight wins but has been on a tailspin ever since.
And the Kings will be in for a battle tonight against the Batang Pier, whose 1-7 record doesn’t reflect how good they are playing.
Reports have it that last year’s scoring champion, Gary David, had already started practicing with Globalport, giving former two-time MVP Willie Miller some help offensively.