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2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs preview

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2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs preview

Post by Ginebra Tambayan on Wed Dec 14, 2011 1:05 pm

2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs preview
Jaemark Tordecilla, InterAKTV · Wednesday, December 14, 2011 · 9:07 am

The PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals are upon us, an early Christmas gift for the hoops addicts. While there are still eight teams left, the playoffs tend to go by in a blur. Here’s a breakdown of who will stay long, and who won’t.

JUST HAPPY TO BE HERE

8. Powerade Tigers


AKTV/Leslie Sy

Every year, Gary David would set the PBA Philippine Cup on fire with his scoring binge, and every year, casual fans and commentators would begin talking about just how underrated he is. As the conference goes along, people would stop talking about him and forget about his exploits. Then when the next conference begins, he’d put up crazy numbers again, and people would go on again about how he’s underrated. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The reason people stop talking about Gary David midway through each tournament is because his teams don’t win. In fact, the record of his teams in the Philippine Cup is this shockingly bad: David has NEVER played in a quarterfinal playoff series in an all-Filipino tournament.



To be sure, not all of it is his fault. He has played on some terrible teams, and he has spent most of his career on squads coached by Bo Perasol, who isn’t exactly known as a winner in the league.

But not all of David’s teams were completely devoid of talent. From 2006 to 2008, he played alongside top-tier stars Arwind Santos and Ranidel de Ocampo. Yet with David as their top perimeter option, the best they could muster was an eighth-place finish. In the old format, the ninth- to sixth-place teams competed in knockout wildcard rounds prior to the quarterfinals. With Powerade again finishing eighth this conference, the only reason David is even playing in his first Philippine Cup quarterfinal game is because more teams are now seeded into the quarters automatically.

So while not all of it is his fault, perhaps it’s fair to say that some of it is his fault?

Of course, the Tigers have plenty of talent, with Doug Kramer completing his metamorphosis into a low-post beast and young guns Marcio Lassiter, JVee Casio, and Sean Anthony proving that they are gamers in the league.

But Gary David is still the best player on their team. And as great a player as he is, history shows that you’re just not gonna win too many games if Gary David is the best player on your team.

THE WILDCARDS

7. Barako Bull Energy


AKTV/Paolo Papa

Prior to the season, Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi proclaimed proudly that for better or worse, his team would be built around two-time Most Valuable Player Willie Miller. More than a few eyebrows were raised — which is apt, considering Willie Thriller’s penchant for eyebrow-raising during games — but after the elimination round of the Philippine Cup, Barako Bull is utterly, completely Miller’s team. In fact, Barako is like the team version of Willie Miller himself.

As anyone who has followed his career knows, that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Miller can at turns be brilliant, maddening, enigmatic, electric, and pathetic, and so Barako Bull is at turns brilliant, maddening, enigmatic, electric, and pathetic. Just like you never know if you’ll get an explosive or an embarrassing performance from Miller, you just never know if Danny Seigle will show up looking like he’s 24 years old, or 44 years old. You never know if Dylan Ababou will play like a five-year veteran or a struggling college freshman. And down the lineup it goes.

Absolutely nothing about Barako Bull will suprise me in the playoffs. They could get plastered by Talk ‘N Text by 30 points in the quarterfinals, or they could make a run all the way to the finals. Either way, I’d be like, “Meh.”

6. Meralco Bolts


AKTV/Pranz Kaeno Billones

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend who had tuned out of the PBA several years back. He said he wanted to give the PBA a chance, given that the NBA lockout was still in full swing. He just couldn’t do it, he said, because he watched one game and it was so ugly — the teams were playing too much one-on-one and there was very little rhythm and flow in the game.

I asked him if he watched a Meralco game, and he answered in the affirmative.

Meralco plays ugly. More importantly, however, Meralco wins ugly.

Take a look at its lineup, and compare it to the lineups of Barako Bull and Powerade; can you say that those teams are significantly worse than the Bolts? And yet, Meralco finished two games better than both teams.

To the naked eye, it defies explanation. The Bolts don’t even have a true point guard, with talented chuckers Sol Mercado and Chico Lanete at the helm instead. Coach Ryan Gregorio doesn’t even seem to draw up any plays, just giving Mercado and Mac Cardona the green light to jack up shots. The bullstrong Gabby Espinas is one of the PBA’s best rebounders, even as he leads the league in turnaround, fadeaway shots from the post that clang off the back rim.

Sometimes, it catches up to Meralco, like when they got their butts handed to them by Rain or Shine in a 44-point blowout. But more often than not, the Bolts’ junk-ball style frustrates opponents and tempts them to match Meralco, bad shot for bad shot. With a tough, physical frontline led by Espinas and Asi Taulava on hand to clean up after their guards, they could certainly afford to play that way. They match up well against the Petron Blaze Boosters — Espinas plays Arwind Santos about as well as anyone in the league — and in a short series, they could certainly muck things up well enough to keep things interesting.

THE DARKHORSES

5. Rain or Shine Elasto Painters


AKTV/Pranz Kaeno Billones

It’s almost a shame that Rain or Shine has to play Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals; these are, after all, the two most entertaining teams to watch in the PBA, and it’s a shame that one of them only has three games left in the tournament.

Much has been made this conference of all the attention on Paul Lee. In a famous Twitter post, Meralco guard Sol Mercado openly questioned all the hype surrounding Lee, saying that there were many other players on Rain or Shine who deserve similar acclaim.

Except that Mercado is wrong; the hype for the No. 2 overall pick is deserved, because while other players make Rain or Shine good, Paul Lee makes Rain or Shine special. Everyone knew about his scoring prowess from his amateur days, but Lee has surprised everyone, even his own coach, with his leadership, court vision, and instincts. Yeng Guiao, who has never been known to gush about his players, has spent most of the conference gushing about how “special” Lee is. For people who’ve been watching closely, they’d see just how the rookie has made the team his, on and off the court. He’s the one who barks the orders and acts as the alpha dog on the team, and all of his teammates have followed suit.

Twice this conference, Guiao put the ball in Lee’s hands in the dying seconds of the ballgame: against Powerade on October 9 and against B-MEG on November 25. On both occasions, Lee missed the shot, but I don’t think Guiao minded one bit; even though the rookie guard missed then, having experienced the pressure would only increase the likelihood of Lee making those shots down the road.

Will Lee have gotten better enough to make those shots against Ginebra in the quarterfinals? It should be entertaining to find out.

4. Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings


AKTV/Paul Ryan Tan

Ginebra fans on the Internet, bless their heart, just love to complain. They spend their time online nagging about everything from player transactions to other players’ comments on Mark Caguioa’s hairstyles to Snow Badua’s trade rumors.

But the thing they love complaining most about is the coaching.

Which is weird. Consider last season, for example. With a lineup composed mostly of aging, if still great, veterans, the team managed to finish third in the Philippine Cup, just one game behind Talk ‘N Text and San Miguel, two teams that had decidedly more talented lineups. In the Commissioner’s Cup, the team defeated the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national team despite its import, Nate Brumfield, giving up about six inches to naturalized center Marcus Douthit, before giving the eventual champions Tropang Texters all they could handle in the finals.

Then in the Governors’ Cup, the team lost its starting power forward, Rudy Hatfield, and even though management didn’t bother signing up a replacement, the team still finished in a tie for second place at the end of the semifinal round, and only lost out on a finals appearance because Petron Blaze had a better quotient.

And yet, when you talk to Ginebra fans, you would think then-head coach Jong Uichico spent the whole season burning effigies of Robert Jaworski on the bench, with the way they were calling for his head.

This year, Siot Tanquingcen was pretty much subjected to the same treatment, with his coaching being openly questioned. And yet the gambles Tanquingcen put in place earlier in the season — force-feeding minutes for the young guys, benching Mark Caguioa mostly in favor of Mike Cortez at shooting guard, playing KG Canaleta and JC Intal heavy minutes in small-ball sets — have paid off in the form of the team’s five-game winning streak. The Ginebra coaching staff will never get the credit they deserve for the job they’ve done for the Gin Kings, but the crowd darlings are poised to finish in the top four for the fourth straight conference despite having massive holes in their lineup — holes that they’ve been able to fill with ingenious coaching.

If Ginebra ends up beating the young, dangerous Rain or Shine team, then it’ll be because Tanquingcen and company coached their butts off.

THE FAVORITES

3. Petron Blaze Boosters


AKTV/Paolo Papa

The erstwhile San Miguel franchise has been so good for so long — only once in the past eight conferences did the team finish out of the top four — that it’s easy to forget how much they’ve been overachieving. Everyone expected Jay Washington and Rabeh Al-Hussaini to miss a significant chunk of this season’s campaign, but the Petron Blaze Boosters had heavy casualties that they weren’t expecting, such as the loss of Dondon Hontiveros and the nagging injuries of Chris Lutz.

And yet, they’ve kept on ticking. Ato Agustin and his crew — the biggest coaching staff in the league has almost as many assistants as healthy players on the bench — deserves a lot of credit for doing a bang-up job. But it’s been the superstar play of Arwind Santos and Alex Cabagnot, with important contributions from their supporting cast, that has carried Petron this far.

Which makes one wonder if the Boosters aren’t in a Wile E. Coyote situation, when they suddenly realize that they’ve been walking on air all this time, and end up falling on the ground. Santos and Cabagnot have been stellar; for my money, they are the best players in the PBA at their positions. But how long could they keep it up?

2. Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters


AKTV/Paolo Papa

Talk ‘N Text is a great team led by a great coach. Its players know what it takes to win in the PBA playoffs; they know how to dig down for that extra ounce of spirit to come through in the end. They may be ravaged by injuries now, but with their experience, grit and talent, it’s hard to count out the Tropang Texters.

And yet, as great as Talk ‘N Text is, and as brilliant as their players are, I couldn’t stop thinking about one particular player: Japeth Aguilar.

The former No. 1 overall pick just might be the most athletically-gifted player to ever lace up in the PBA, and that makes him one of the most exciting players to watch. And yet his gifts, because they are so obvious, also make him the most frustrating player to watch. One could imagine Barako Bull centers Mick Pennisi and Dorian Pena licking their chops at the thought of matching up with the notoriously-soft Aguilar.

The other night against Petron Blaze, when Aguilar was having a zero-point, two-rebound night (he ended up with three point, three rebounds, and the game-winning three-point play), I wrote a message on Twitter wondering if it’s fair to expect him to be a superstar big man in the PBA; I asked if maybe he should be looked at, instead, as an extremely rich man’s version of Rafi Reavis.

I didn’t mean that as a knock on Aguilar, even though his agent, who read my message on Twitter, seemed to take it so. Aguilar is clearly more gifted — and better — than Reavis, but they do have the same strengths: protecting the rim, running the floor, and scoring off putbacks. Aguilar has a better jumpshot, which allows him to explode for big offensive nights, like his 27-point performance in his first game for Talk ‘N Text.

But I don’t know if it’s fair to expect that of Aguilar night-in and night-out. Sure, one can say that he’s essentially still a rookie, and he just needs more seasoning. But he’s also 24 years old. He’s still young, but in the history of the PBA, elite big men actually produce superstar numbers even at a young age. If you go down the list of the league’s most physically-gifted big men since the late ’80s — Benjie Paras, Jun Limpot, Marlou Aquino, Danny Seigle, Erick Menk, Kerby Raymundo, Kelly Williams — you’d see that no matter how early or how late they come into the league, they already put up franchise player stats by the time they were Aguilar’s age. And yet, none of them possess Aguilar’s physical gifts.

There has been no “project” big man who later turned out to be a superstar in the PBA; players and teams usually find out, early enough, whether someone can be dominant, night-in and night-out. So maybe Aguilar just might not be the PBA’s next dominant big man, and maybe we just have to accept him for what he is — still a damn good player, who can contribute to a good team like Talk ‘N Text. Maybe he could even help them win a championship.

1. B-MEG Llamados


AKTV/Paolo Papa

The Purefoods core has made it to the finals of the Philippine Cup in each even-numbered year since 2006. The Hotdogs won the title in 2006 and 2010, and narrowly lost the 2008 crown in a seven-game series against Sta. Lucia.

But making the finals of the all-Filipino tournament every other year isn’t due to numbers, and neither is it mere coincidence. In their title runs, each playoff game for the Hotdogs turned into combat. Then-coach Ryan Gregorio leaned on his players heavily during the playoffs, and while it resulted in championships, the strategy also took a toll on their bodies. The year after they win a title, players from the Purefoods franchise end up missing a lot of action because of injuries. A season later, when they’ve recovered, they end up making another title run.

(B-MEG is not the only victim of this phenomenon; look at what’s happening to the injury-ravaged Talk ‘N Text lineup today.)

With that championship core still intact, B-MEG looks primed for another title chase. There is, however, one crucial difference for the Llamados; instead of Gregorio at the helm, they’ve now got Tim Cone.

One of Cone’s biggest priorities when he took over the B-MEG coaching job was to make sure that his players didn’t get beat up too much when trying to score. Installing the triangle offense was one answer, but he also tweaked his system in small ways, like moving James Yap exclusively to the small forward position where he almost never had any ballhandling duties and playing Kerby Raymundo as a “finesse center” at the mid-post.

The most impressive part of the Llamados’ eight-game winning streak heading into the playoffs has been how easy it has been for Yap and Raymundo to get open looks. Under the previous regimes, the duo had to bleed for their baskets, and it was a testament to their talent that they were able to win championships even while playing that way.

The PBA Philippine Cup playoffs is a battle of attrition, and the teams that usually come out on top aren’t just the most talented teams, but also the teams that stay healthy throughout the tournament. There’s no sure thing in the PBA, but with their talent and with the way Cone’s system has made life easier for them, the Llamados sure are living up to their nickname.

Source: Interaksyon.com

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Re: 2011-12 PBA Philippine Cup playoffs preview

Post by bougz on Thu Dec 15, 2011 8:48 am

Go :Ginebra:

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