NONE of us in our table recognized Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao when he walked in at the Emerald Room of the Gateway Suites where the PBA Philippine Cup pre-finals press conference was being held.
Yeng wore a baseball cap and was dressed casually in jeans and T-shirt. The place was full when he got there.
For a moment, I wondered how serious he was in acquiring the much coveted Philippine Cup trophy which has eluded him throughout his PBA career.
When he got the chance to speak, Yeng said he has the highest respects for Talk ‘N Text, the team he has to topple to get the title, and its coach Norman Black, whom he has worked closely with in the past and whom he considers his good friend.
“But we have to set all these aside. We are going to a battle, fight a war, and I am not going to be nice to anyone,” warned Yeng.
Like his counterpart Black, Yeng is looking forward to a highly physical series, and is thankful that all his players are healthy. He said he defied the doctors’ orders by cutting the recovery period of his players short and asking them to report to active duty earlier than the timetable prescribed for them.
Norman also assured everyone that his charges are all injury-free and are in good condition to withstand the rigors of a highly physical series.
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Although the Elasto Painters consider themselves the underdogs and PBA coaches have picked the Tropang Texters to win the series, Norman refuses to be complacent.
“Rain or Shine is very physical and they do things that we also love to do. In the end, someone has to give.”
Norman said he doesn’t care how the series goes. “All we want is to win four games. If it goes four games, it goes four games. If it goes seven, it goes seven.”
Norman is confident TNT has what it takes to make it.
“I have very good players, I consider myself a good coach but I’m not going to win basketball games without talented players who are willing to work hard and are dedicated to winning. They know how to win,” said the coach who won a grand slam for San Miguel over two decades ago and a record five consecutive UAAP titles for Ateneo .
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“So who do you think is going to win?” asked Jared Dillinger’s mom Gemma who shared the same table with us.
The scribes seated beside her chorused that the only thing they could predict is that this is going to be a very tightly fought series.
From the podium, Gabe Norwood seemed to affirm this forecast by declaring that the finals protagonists are the league’s top two teams.
Gemma said it was just too bad that she was returning to the United States that night and would not be able to watch the games.
Gemma said she has to get back to work or she’ll lose her job. She is an urban planner for the US Department of Defense in San Diego.
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Very recently, PBA head statistician Fidel Mangonon III released the statistical standings after the semifinal round of the ongoing conference. The top five players qualified to compete for the Best Player of the Conference plum are Arwind Santos of Petron, Calvin Abueva of Alaska, Sol Mercado of Meralco, Jayson Castro of Talk ‘N Text and his teammate Ranidel De Ocampo, in that order.
If you ask me, either Jayson or Ranidel has a better chance to win the award because their team made it to the finals.