Cone looks for consistency amid Gin Kings’ tight schedule
Using steely resolve in a second half that all seemed lost, Barangay Ginebra played with cutthroat efficiency to upend Rain or Shine on Sunday night and pocket a victory that got the Gin Kings’ title-retention bid in the Governors’ Cup off to a swashbuckling start.
But head coach Tim Cone hardly felt a need to revel in the result.
“We’re just happy to get through this one,” he said shortly after the 116-108 triumph at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao. “We go Sunday, Wednesday, Friday, [then] Sunday. And all the three teams we’re playing are all going to have new imports, so this one was really important to get.”
“We’ve got to get the ones we can get because our schedule is so compressed. It’s almost like playing a best-of-seven right now,” he added.
Ginebra is one of the three PBA teams whose schedules in the season-ending tournament were compressed as it is their stars who are likely going to make up the roster for the National Team that will host Lebanon and Jordan for the sixth and final window of the International Basketball Federation World Cup Asian Qualifiers later this month.
The Gin Kings get back to work on Feb. 8 against early leader NLEX, kicking off a torturous stretch where they play five clubs over the course of 12 days.
And as Cone mentioned, three of those five sides—the Road Warriors, Magnolia, and Blackwater—will be fielding a new reinforcement, meaning whatever readiness they were able to gain from early scouting is pretty much moot now.
NLEX skipper Kevin Alas, who is hoping that NBA veteran Wayne Selden Jr.’s arrival could bolster their chances of taking down the crowd darlings, understands the advantages his team can milk.
“We could only hope that they’re not yet at a hundred percent when it comes to conditioning as they just got back to practicing,” he told the Inquirer.
“Perhaps it would also be an advantage for us that they haven’t been able to see our new import,” he added.
What gives Cone relief ahead of Ginebra’s seemingly steep trek is that it should feel all too familiar for the Gin Kings.
“We’re playing every play date, but the good news is we’re experienced in playing in a seven-game series, so hopefully, we’ll do better,” said Cone, whose crew is coming off a Commissioner’s Cup finalé that went the distance.
“But we can’t ping-pong it back and forth like we did the [Bay Area] Dragons. We gotta follow it up on Wednesday against a team that’s playing extremely well,” he added.
According to Scottie Thompson, the club’s cornerstone, there’s a bigger payoff that Ginebra can actually gain from going through tight schedule.
“I think this will be nice for us as this could help us with our momentum,” he told reporters Sunday night. “That’s what we hope will happen.”
“This conference, the imports are high-caliber. So we need to be able to help out Justin [Brownlee],” he added. INQ