At 1-3, the Star Hotshots are back in the familiar position – below the standings of the 2015 PBA Governors Cup.
While Star fans wonder what’s ailing the team, which was just several months removed from a grand slam finish last season, personally, I think the Hotshots are just trying to gather steam as they try to make one, big push for a third straight Governors Cup title.
If we look back at Star’s history in the last two seasons, we’ll see that the Hotshots, then known as San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, had back-to-back slow starts during the 2013 Governors Cup and the 2014 Philippine Cup, respectively.
The 2013 Governors Cup saw the Mixers get off to a sluggish 1-3 start, before winning their last five games in the elims.
Once the playoffs began, San Mig kicked off its championship drive by sweeping Alaska, 2-0 in the quarterfinals, conquered Meralco, 3-1 in the semifinals, before outlasting Petron, 4-3 in the Finals to capture the championship in the season-ending conference.
The following season, San Mig started from the bottom after losing five of its first six games in the 2014 Philippine Cup.
Everyone started to doubt on the Mixers’ capability. Some even counted them out. But coach Tim Cone and his troops started to straighten things out from there, winning six of their last eight in the elims to enter the playoffs as the fifth seed.
San Mig went on to upstage bitter rival Talk ‘N Text, 2-1 in the quarterfinals, score a 4-3 series win over Barangay Ginebra in the semis, before capturing the All-Filipino title following its 4-2 Finals series win over Rain or Shine.
Some Star fans wonder why James Yap was benched in the critical juncture of the fourth period during the team’s losses to GlobalPort and Meralco, while still others are left puzzled because Peter June Simon, the team’s long-time veteran super-sub has been limited to just 15 minutes average per game this conference.
Simon, one of Cone’s reliable gunners in the team’s five championships over the last three seasons, played a season-low six minutes in the Hotshots’ 100-89 defeat to San Miguel on Sunday (May 24).
The Hotshots are certainly not in the best of shape at this point with seven games left in the single-round elims.
Defensively, they will have to regain their tenacity, while offensively, precise execution of the ‘triangle’ will be critical.
Comebacking import Marqus Blakely has been living up to his “Mr. Everything” moniker as he tries to lift his team to victory.
Meantime, Alex Mallari is playing his best basketball after emerging as the team’s top local scorer with 12.0 points, 3.2 assist and 3.0 rebounds – all PBA career-best numbers this conference.
But at the end of the day, the Hotshots will need old reliables like Yap, Joe Devance, Mark Barroca, Marc Pingris, Simon and Justin Melton to play collectively on both ends of the floor.
Yap’s consistent three-point sniping, Devance’s excellent playmaking and perimeter shooting, Barroca’s lung-busting effort on defense, Pingris’ board control and hustle plays, Melton’s highlight reel plays and Simon’s gorgeous pull-up jumpers are what will make the Purefoods franchise ‘king of the PBA’ once more – that is, if they will be able to make that collaborative effort every game day.
And it will have to start this Wednesday when the Hotshots play the Alaska Aces, Cone’s former team.