Star, Rain or Shine kick off PBA Season 41
Driven by its commitment for the country, there’s no better way for the Philippine Basketball Association to unfurl its 41st season by paying respect to the Gilas Pilipinas national team.
New and fresh faces will be seen from among the 12 ball clubs with their gorgeous muses in tow, but recognizing the feat of the 12-man squad that almost made it to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics next year should easily be the highlight of a glitzy kick-off ceremony today at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Headlined by Asia’s best point guard Jason Castro of Talk ’N Text, the Nationals placed second behind the Chinese in the recent Fiba Asia Championship in Changsa, China, where the champion secured the lone continental ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
Other members of Gilas are Ranidel De Ocampo, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Gabe Norwood, Terrence Romeo, Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, Dondon Hontiveros, Asi Taulava, Marc Pingris, JC Intal and naturalized center Andray Blatche and the coaching staff led by Tab Baldwin.
Besides the league’s fresh support to the national squad, the new season ushers in a new commissioner in Chito Narvasa and 18 rookies starring top picks Moala Tautaa and Troy Rosario of TNT.
The battle in the Philippine Cup gets off the ground with the Star Hotshots and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters taking center stage.
Star Hotshots head coach Jason Webb will unravel a new system and test the novel method against the Elasto Painters, a perennial title contender in the previous three conferences.
“We’re running something different,” said Webb, thrust into the limelight after coach Tim Cone left for Barangay Ginebra during the off-season.
Flourishing with the triangle during Cone’s reign, the Hotshots will now run a faster pace with the same seasoned players in James Yap, PJ Simon, Mark Barroca and Marc Pingris taking the lead.
“We have some ideas from the triangle, and you’re going to see some of it. But overall, it’s a little different,” said Webb, a second-generation coach known for his gung-ho style during his playing days.
Some of the most beautiful volleyball celebrities will walk in the parade of teams with Ateneo star Alyssa Valdez leading the pack as Talk ‘N Text muse.
Spiker Alexa Micek will parade with San Miguel Beer while La Salle’s Mika Reyes will be there for Barako Bull. Global Port will have singer-actress Karylle, Blackwater will bring along Max Collins and TV5 actress Eula Caballero will tag along with Meralco.
Other beauties on show are Mutya ng Pilipinas first runner-up Julee Ann Marie Bourgoin (Rain Or Shine) and Miss Universe Philippines MJ Lastimosa (NLEX).
The Elasto Painters will launch their campaign with almost the same nucleus and a few new pieces that coach Yeng Guiao knows would be vital to finally claim success in the All-Filipino conference.
As the only team to make the semifinals of all three conferences last year, the E-Painters have kept Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan within the fold as well as Chris Tiu, Jeric Teng, Jericho Cruz, Jireh Ibanes and JR Quinahan.
Gone were wingman Ryan Arana, who was dealt to San Miguel Beer for a future pick, and point guard TY Tang, who opted for retirement.
Power forward Jewel Ponferada, a new trade acquisition in exchange for Jervy Cruz, will help pack the paint with Almazan, Quiñahan and Belga, while adding fresh blood are rookies Maverick Ahanmisi, Josan Nimes and Don Trollano.
“We always reach the finals, but the ultimate goal, really, is to win the championship,” said ROS assistant coach Caloy Garcia.
Rain Or Shine won its only title in the 2012 Governors Cup. They lost the Commissioner’s Cup title to Talk N Text last season and also bowed out of the semifinals in the Philippine Cup and Governors Cup.
Matching the Elasto Painters’ front court are the Hotshots’ Norbert Torres, Jake Pascual and Ian Sangalang, who is back from an ACL injury.