Cone says return of fans, Brownlee has Ginebra excited after failed title defense
Tim Cone said Barangay Ginebra is still reeling from its unceremonious exit during the PBA’s recent Philippine Cup, but it’s not just a failed title defense that has the Gin Kings pumped up for the season-ending tournament.
“With the return of the fans and Justin’s (Brownlee) arrival, there’s a lot to be excited about,” Cone told the Inquirer on Saturday.
The return of fans to playing venues, something that the league is working feverishly to accomplish for the Governors’ Cup, will benefit the crowd-favorite Kings the most. Barangay Ginebra’s never-say-die spirit is often fueled by its oversized and loud cheering section, which often dwarfs opponents’ supporters. And playing two tournaments without its acknowledged “sixth man” has hamstrung Barangay Ginebra somewhat, although enough to stop the Kings from ruling one of two tournaments played in empty, bio-secure environments thus far.
And having Brownlee back is a bonus for the Kings, who definitely are eager to put their quarterfinal elimination behind them.
“We’re still hurting from the last bubble, and that is motivation enough to get us fired up,” Cone said.
Brownlee allows the Kings to skip the process of feeling out a team’s reinforcement. The do-it-all dynamo has helped the Kings to four championships so far.
An athletic forward who can pretty much play every position, Brownlee allows Cone to plug holes Ginebra may have in its roster.
“Justin does a great job of filling the gaps of our team. Where we were weak, he makes us strong,” the two-time Grand Slam mentor said.
“[P]lus, of course, his knowledge of the league and the chemistry he brings to the team is a difference-maker,” he added.
But Brownlee has yet to join the team because he has to process his working visa before flying to the country. Brownlee’s problem in securing a work permit underscores the problems the league is having with pinning an opening date, which has been moved from its intended Nov. 28 schedule.
3×3 gets going
While teams have been anticipating a Dec. 5 opening, PBA chief Willie Marcial said that hasn’t been set in stone just yet.
“We can only know for sure once the imports have all arrived,” Marcial said on Saturday.
In the meantime, the league office is keeping its hands full with its inaugural 3×3 tournament, which kicked off without a hitch on Saturday at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Purefoods TJ Titans and Platinum Karaoke kicked off their campaign in the three-a-side event on a high note by turning back their respective opponents.
The Titans held off Limitless Appmasters, 21-9, in the first match of a heavy 17-game schedule.
Platinum Karaoke later joined Purefoods on top of Pool A after routing fellow guest team Zamboanga Valientes, 21-7.
The 3×3 tournament will keep the league busy as it awaits for teams to shepherd their imports into the country and give them time to practice with their teammates.
The PBA is also laying the groundwork for the return of fans, reaching out to the local government units of its regular playing venues—Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay and Ynares Center in Antipolo—to get the green light to allow spectators back in arenas.
The league has also submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases a set of proposed protocols that will govern fan return for comment and approval.