Done with national team, Gilas standouts shift focus on club duties
Looking at the quick turnaround from serving flag and country to resuming the title chase of the most popular team in the land, it’s understandable to see how weary the schedule would be for key members of Barangay Ginebra.
“We approach it with great difficulty!! Just kidding,” coach Tim Cone said as he, Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo return to their familiar Ginebra uniforms following the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers against Meralco on Wednesday in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The 5:45 p.m. game at Smart Araneta Coliseum will be the first of a hectic week for the Gin Kings, who will face four teams in a span of seven days that includes the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, Converge FiberXers on Sunday and Terrafirma Dyip next Wednesday.
It will also see how Brownlee can quickly refocus on domestic duties after an impressive Gilas Pilipinas debut in the sixth window, how Thompson shakes off the disappointment of missing two clutch free throws against Jordan and how Malonzo can provide an impact after logging significant minutes in both games.
But Cone, who is also shifting back to mapping out a strategy for Ginebra, is confident that those three will do just fine.
“Our guys are great at moving on and controlling what they can control. We don’t control scheduling, but we do control our response to the challenge. Justin, Scottie and Jamie will be fine,” said Cone.
Ginebra hopes to do just fine against a Meralco side that won its last two games to climb into sixth place at 5-3. Another victory may put the Bolts in serious contention for the top four, which would result in a twice-to-beat advantage at the end of the eliminations.
Also crucial is the 3 p.m. opener between Phoenix and Rain or Shine, a game that has implications in the race for at least the eighth and last quarters spot.
Phoenix holds the advantage at 3-5 following its upset of Converge three days prior, and getting past Rain or Shine, tied at 2-6 with NorthPort and Terrafirma, may be the result that could help the Fuel Masters seal a playoff seat.
Out to keep themselves in the hunt are the Elasto Painters, who will parade a new import in Jordan Tolbert after Greg Smith II went down with an injury.
Almost all games this week are crucial. NLEX meets Terrafirma while Magnolia plays NorthPort on Thursday while Friday’s opener pits Converge and Meralco, all at the Big Dome. INQ