Can TNT achieve the Grand Slam?
As the PBA’s final conference for its 2010-11 season opens this June, attention will inevitably fall on Talk ‘N Text’s bid for a historic Grand Slam.
To date, only Crispa, San Miguel Beer and Alaska have won the triple crown. These are huge accomplishments given how hard competition is and how unpredictable imports can be.
Just ask Great Taste, Toyota, Sunkist and Tanduay—PBA teams that tried to win the prize but just couldn’t complete it.
Take for example Tanduay. A “slam” in 1986 could have capped a year of firsts for them as they finally won PBA crowns after over a decade of trying. In the final conference, they couldn’t match up with eventual champion Ginebra and runner-up Manila Beer which both had great pairs of imports.
Talk ‘N Text will be interestingly hounded by the question throughout the last conference because it is the barometer story of the league. The Tropang Texters will be unable to ignore whether they can achieve it or not and will be asked unceasingly by well-meaning scribes who need an update on the story.
Nevertheless, the slam will inevitably be TNT’s guiding light for the conference because achieving it has never been easy in the nearly four decades of the league.
The Tropang Texters have been presented with the rare opportunity to be etched in the PBA history books as only one of a handful of Grand Slam teams. They will try to focus on one game at a time, as they say, and with Talk ‘N Text, they haven’t really lost a lot this year, so staying together won’t be much of a problem.
But can they do it?
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There’s no question they can. The import issue will be vital but that will all depend not on the individual skill of the guest player they will get but on the competition. Talk ‘N Text will be one of four teams with a 6-foot-2 limit on its import and how that player performs against the other teams will break down the import factor for TNT.
But it’s the local lineup that is always a headache for opposing teams because they have Fil-Ams who play like imports and homegrown players who shine every so often.
Chot Reyes has the luxury of assembling different combinations of fives on the floor that have talent and a work ethic envied by other teams.
Just like the other Grand Slam teams, TNT has the advantage of having two strong fives in a single unit. Jimmy Alapag, Ryan Reyes, Kelly Williams, Jason Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Ali Peek, Jared Dillinger and Larry Fonacier can be jumbled together and can zoom at the same pace and rhythm that Reyes wants them to play.
Their system focuses on attacking relentlessly without spending too much time posting up their big men. If they need to slash to the basket or pop from the outside, they can do it whenever they want to do so.
The rest of the field has its Third Conference challenge: Stop TNT from winning the Slam. It will take a lot to do it but will give the team that does it the incredible satisfaction of having stopped a formidable team from reaching a hallowed plateau.
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