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'COOL CAT' CHARGING
Published on December 12, 2011
MIKE Cortez is on a roll and so is Barangay Ginebra.
The 2003 top draft pick continued to crank up his all-around game, not only helping the Kings stretch their winning streak to five but also earning for himself the Accel-PBA Player of the Week honors for the period Dec. 5 to 11.
It was only the second such citation for Cortez since Jan. 2-8 of the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference, while he was still with Alaska and Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen is foremost among those glad to see him playing without the injuries that have made his career an up-and-down one the past few years.
"Mike has always been a good player," noted Tanquingcen of the guard who led the way in their back-to-back wins over Barako Bull and Talk 'N Text in the week that was that put them at No. 4 following the 14-game eliminations.
"I think he's back playing comfortably with his teammates and he is being aggressive, which is good for him because he has the capability to make an impact in the game."
The time the player called "Cool Cat" has been spending long after practices are over is also paying huge dividends. "He is reaping the benefits of his hard work," stated Tanquingcen.
Solid testament to this is Cortez's two-game averages of 17.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 blocks that helped jack his conference norms to 10.3 points, 3.6 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
His points are just behind Mark Caguioa's 13.9 and ditto for his dimes to Jayjay Helterbrand's 3.7. But what makes Cortez more lethal is the fact he is shooting at a sizzling 21-for-42 from beyond the arc, which is the best in the conference.
Not bad at all for the 31-year-old who has also strutted his wares for Magnolia, San Miguel Beer and Air21 before being acquired by Ginebra late in the 2009-10 season.
Cortez's brilliance also comes at the most opportune of times, like when he made two of three three-point attempts and issued four assists in the final quarter to help the Kings peel away from an erstwhile tight game against the Tropang Texters en route to a 96-82 win last Sunday.
Cortez also scattered 11 of his team-high 17 points against the Energy three days before in leading the perennial crowd favorites to an 88-83 win.
A tougher grind lies ahead for Cortez and Ginebra for they have a best-of-three quarterfinals duel lined up against opening day tormentor Rain or Shine and its own slew of guards, led by Gabe Norwood and sensational rookie Paul Lee.
For sure, Cortez is looking forward to that challenge. (NC)
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