This early, three-time Philippine Cup champion Talk ‘N Text, Alaska and Petron are high on my list as far as being the prohibitive favorites in the Commissioner’s Cup is concerned.
The Tropang Texters are returning to the mid-season conference with an intact line up bolstered further by young center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, who arrived in the Talk ‘N Text camp officially on Thursday following the completion of the trade that sent enigmatic center Japeth Aguilar to Globalport.
Throw in American reinforcement Keith Benson, a workhorse in the paint and the Tropang Texters are expected to be in the upper echelon of the standings once again.
Riding on the momentum
Then, there’s Alaska, whose showing in the recent Philippine Cup surprised many observers considering that the Aces are entering the 38th season with a set of new coaching staff along with numerous faces in their roster.
Yet, the Aces played as a unit in the course of the tournament. And buoyed by the presence of no. 2 overall rookie pick Calvin Abueva, Alaska managed to grab the fifth seed, swept no. 4 seed Meralco, 2-0 in the quarterfinals, before bowing to Talk ‘N Text in six games in the semifinals.
The strong performance is something Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said the team can now build on for the succeeding conferences as the franchise continues its quest for its first-ever PBA crown in the post-Tim Cone era.
Retooled San Mig
Of course, no one could count out the defending Commissioner’s Cup champion San Mig Coffee.
Even though the Mixers figured in a blockbuster trade last week that sent veteran guard Jonas Villanueva and swingman JC Intal to Barako Bull while receiving rookies Alex Mallari and Lester Alvarez as well as Leo Najorda, Cone still has the core of two-time MVP James Yap, PJ Simon, Marc Pingris and sophomore playmaker Mark Barroca to run the show along with import Matt Rogers.
With Mallari, the Mixers have a versatile guy who can play the point, shooting guard or three-position, while adding Najorda into the mix gives San Mig an additional enforcer who is willing to mix it up with other big men.
San Mig Coffee is currently 0-3 in the pre-Commissioner’s Cup build up, but Cone said he’s more concerned with getting everyone into the same page as the Mixers defend their second conference title.
Size does matter
Rain or Shine is parading the tallest ever import to play in the PBA in Bruno Sundov, who stands at 7’3″.
His elongated arms and good mobility for his size just fits him right with the Elasto Painters, who are not the tallest team, yet have a front court that works hard to grab those rebounds.
Getting the boost from Balkman
Petron is moving on following its disappointing Philippine Cup performance, which saw the Boosters get the boot after bowing to sister team San Mig Coffee in their sudden-death quarterfinals.
Coaching changes plus rumored trades jolted the team during the midway point of the conference that contributed to Petron’s shaky start for the season.
But now that Olsen Racela is given the full trust to run the show, hopes are high that the winningest ball club in the PBA will regain its championship form.
In the upcoming Commissioner’s Cup, the Boosters tapped former New York Knick and Denver Nugget forward Renaldo Balkman as its import.
The 6’8″ Balkman admitted he didn’t come to Petron to drop 50 points per game, but he came to provide the energy, the hustle and everything else the team needs to vault back to the top of the league.
With Ronald Tubid also coming in following Petron’s decision to trade rookie guard Alex Mallari and Jojo Duncil recently, Boosters fans hope to see a renaissance in the San Miguel Corp.-owned franchise.