Barangay Ginebra and reigning PBA grand slam champion Purefoods Star have taken contrasting routes during the first week of the Philippine Cup.
The Gin Kings opened the PBA’s 40th season with a 101-81 rout of the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in front of a new league record 52,621 cheering fans at the sprawling Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Ginebra then silenced its critics spawning from its preseason loss to KIA Motors, this time smashing the Sorento, minus playing coach Manny Pacquiao last Saturday (Oct. 25) in the league’s kick-off leg of the PBA road tour in Lucena.
In contrast, Purefoods Star opened the season on the wrong foot, bowing to a well-organized Alaska squad, 93-73, before falling short of its rally, 87-80 against San Miguel Beer.
After following these two teams’ preseason buildup, it is obvious that the Gin Kings are reaping wins this early, thanks to their early season preparation.
I remember Ginebra coach Jeffrey Cariaso shared how he had to patiently reintroduced the basics of the triangle system to the team, as well as emphasize the details of defense, setting a screen and pick and roll.
Although Ginebra drew the flak for losing too many games in the preseason, Cariaso told his boys that “wins and losses” won’t matter in tune-up matches because what counts is the “W” during the season.
With that mindset in place, it is obvious that Ginebra has played with a sense of focus and intensity in the Kings’ 2-0 start in the Philippine Cup. No hangover whatsoever from the Gin Kings’ bad preseason matches.
Meantime, the Hotshots, who are coming off a triumphant stint last season after winning the franchise’s first-ever grand slam title, opened training camp on Sept. 10, just five weeks before the opening of the 40th season.
The late preparation had a lot to do with Purefoods Star coach Tim Cone’s desire to extend the players’ rest after playing through four championship series dating back to Oct. 2013 in the Governors Cup.
Only Marc Pingris was given a longer break, having skipped the offseason rest by playing for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba World Cup and Asian Games, respectively.
Unfortunately, the Hotshots lost sophomore forward Ian Sangalang to injury (partial tear on his ACL and MCL) during the team’s season-opening game against the Aces, while James Yap skipped the team’s match versus San Miguel Beer due to calf muscle injury.
Purefoods Star, under its former name San Mig Super Coffee, has been in situations like these before. Although this can be bothersome, particularly to Purefoods Star fans, Cone said what’s important is for the players to regain their “winning mentality”, especially as the team faces two more playoff-bound teams in GlobalPort (Oct. 31) and Barangay Ginebra (Nov. 9).
Two of the league’s most popular teams. Two opposing starts for the brand new season. Will Ginebra sustain its early run? And will Purefoods Star overcome its grand slam “hangover” and the injury bug?