As title tiff unwraps on Christmas Day, two talented tacticians say series will be dictated by those on the floor
If Tim Cone and Brian Goorjian have their way, the focus will be on the players rather than the coaching battle that could determine the outcome of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
“I think we both agree that it will be decided by the players, not by us,” said Cone as Barangay Ginebra and Bay Area Dragons begin their championship clash on Christmas Day at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“We just try to be there for them and give them direction, put them in a situation where they can succeed. But when it comes down to it, it’s gonna be what they do on the floor and how they start, how they finish.
“In the Finals, I always say that it’s a player’s game. You know, the players gonna step up and shine and that’s basically what you want. You want to have that shine on them,” Cone added ahead of the 5 p.m. contest that will see a packed crowd to cap off the Yuletide celebration.
Series openers are usually a chance for the two sides to feel each other out. Ginebra won the previous encounter in the eliminations, but Bay Area has since become the team Goorjian envisioned it to be when the Dragons came to Manila last August.
“We’re playing a team that’s got so many great players. And I got a very talented team that I’d be excited about,” said Goorjian, who will take a crack at becoming the second foreign team to capture a PBA crown.
“We’re looking forward to the competition. The game is gonna go down to the players,” he added.
Cone, gunning for a record-extending 25th championship, offered nothing but praise for how the Dragons performed since their guest participation began.
Bay Area initially relied heavily on its imports in Myles Powell and later Andrew Nicholson, who will tasked to reinforce the squad in the series with the former still dealing with an injured foot.
But the Dragons saw playmaker Glen Yang, all-around Hayden Blankley, Zhu Songwei, 7-foot-5 Liu Chuanxing and shooter Kobey Lam produce vital numbers, something that was not lost on Cone.
“What I like about their team is their lineup is so well-constructed,” said Cone. “They got Glen Yang at point guard who reminds me so much of Hector Calma in terms of directing the team, handling the team. They got great wings in Kobey Lam and Blankley. They can shoot it, they can put the ball on the floor, they can run the floor.
“Zhu is massively versatile at 6-9, long. And they got the import who’s absolutely dominant. And then you got the big guy (Liu) who can dominate. He gets to his areas, he gets to his comfort zone and he can dominate.
“Like I said, the lineup is really well-constructed. they got weapons in every position and that’s what makes them so tough.”