Ginebra, TNT kick off season of chasing San Miguel Beer
Barangay Ginebra battles TNT on Sunday at the cavernous Philippine Arena to formally open the PBA’s 44th season, but coach Tim Cone said that the Gin Kings’ crosshairs remain focused at San Miguel Beer.
“I don’t think there are teams to beat, I think there’s a team to beat and that’s [the Beermen],” the decorated mentor said. “Until someone knocks them off their stretch of four [Philippine Cup titles] in a row, I don’t think you can look at it as ‘teams’ [to beat] at this point. It’s just one team right now.
“There’s all kind of reasons to make them favorites, and it’s up to us—the rest of the teams—to improve and go out there and get them,” Cone added. “We were able to get them in the second conference. Of course we got Justin Brownlee at that point, but I think we can hold our own.”
But Cone, the grizzled tactician behind two Grand Slams and owner of the most championships for a coach in the league, knows that the rest of the PBA is catching up.
“No doubt, teams have improved. Teams improve every year—through the draft, through experience or knowledge of each other, getting guys back off injury,” he said.
And Cone believes that the Kings are at the forefront of that movement.
“At this point so far, we’re healthy, which we haven’t been for a while,” he said. “Art dela Cruz is coming to lineup. I think he’s going to make a huge impact. He’s really playing under the radar. Nobody’s talking about him but I think you’ll be talking about him months from now.”
Aside from Dela Cruz, Ginebra is looking to make the most out of rookie Teytey Teodoro.
“I hope he can help us,” LA Tenorio told the Inquirer in Filipino. “I can see he’s ready for the PBA. He’s like a veteran; a shooter, too.
“So I think he’s one of the key players we need in the team considering the kind of system we’re running.”
TNT, for its part, will be drawing boosts from its old reliables when they take on the crowd darlings in the curtain-raiser that will feature the usual parade of teams’ muses.
The festivities will start at 4 p.m.
KaTropa will be fielding a squad now devoid of star guard Terrence Romeo but one with newcomers like Brian Heruela, and big men David Semerad and Mike Miranda.
The event will also feature performances by Parokya ni Edgar, rapper Shanti Dope, and the TNT Boys.
Also scheduled is the annual Leo Awards, where the league are set to name the past season’s top individual performers.
June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer is the favorite to win a fifth straight MVP trophy, with NorthPort’s Stanley Pringle providing the challenge.
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