Cone sees Brownlee, Balkman turning into ‘mortal enemies’ in PBA Finals
Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman celebrated a championship together with Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League almost three months ago.
On Friday, the two will find themselves back in the finals stage. Only this time, they will be on opposing sides playing for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone expects Brownlee and Balkman to put their friendship aside and figure in an ultra-competitive matchup the moment the ball goes up in the air in Game 1.
“I’m sure in the beginning there’s gonna be giggles and laughs between the two of them maybe a few high fives privately but once the series gets going, I tell you, those guys are so competitive,” Cone said after Ginebra knocked outed Rain or Shine in Game 4 of the semifinals Monday night to set up a best-of-seven duel with San Miguel Beer.
“The two of them are gonna be mortal enemies out there. They’re former teammates, but I think they’re really gonna go at each other,” added Cone. “I don’t know how much they’ll guard each other. I assume, Balkman will guard Justin a lot but I’m not sure how much Justin will guard Balkman.”
Balkman and Brownlee had already faced each other when the Puerto Rican forward led the Beermen past the Gin Kings, 104-97, in the elimination round on June 3.
In that keenly-awaited showdown, Balkman finished with 27 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks while Brownlee had 18 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks.
Brownlee, who is making his third finals appearance with Ginebra, admitted it will feel different not being on the same team as Balkman.
“I guess it feels a little weird,” Brownlee said on Tuesday. “He’s on the other side now. That’s my brother for life but now he’s an opponent.”
Balkman believes it’s going to be a dogfight come Friday.
“We all brothers, but it’s gonna be a fight until the end. We’re both trying to win a championship.”
Cone can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
“It will be an interesting matchup and it’s ironic that we both got these guys late, we were both at the bottom of the standings when they came and they’ve brought us all the way back to the top of the mountain and now they square off with each other so that’s a very nice story right there.
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