by Dennis Principe
Expect no feeling-each-other-out type of game as Brgy. Ginebra and TNT KaTropa face off to raise the curtains of the season-opening Philippine Cup today at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
No less than Ginebra coach Tim Cone believes they are in for a tough outing against TNT, a team that intends to prove critics wrong after the KaTropa let go of offensive machine Terrence Romeo in a trade with San Miguel Beer for practically crumbs.
“They will be very, very motivated with the departure of Terrence Romeo. They’re gonna want to prove something and what better place and time to prove it than against Ginebra on opening day,” said Cone.
TNT head coach Bong Ravena welcomes the challenge of facing Ginebra on opening day as the first year coach considers it as an early opportunity to gauge their team’s preparedness for the season.
“Facing Ginebra in the opening is going to be tough pero in the same way, gusto namin kalaban yung mga tough teams earlier para malaman kung saan na yung level ng team. In fact, excited na kami para malaman na rin agad namin kung saan na yung team namin,” said Ravena.
All eyes will be on Ginebra’s LA Tenorio who, since turning pro in 2006, has yet to miss a PBA game and is just eight games short of tying the longest consecutive games played currently held by Alvin Patrimonio who played 596 straight games in one stretch of his illustrious 16-year PBA career.
“Honestly hindi ko iniisip yun although you can consider it as my own MVP trophy kung ma-break ko yun,” said Tenorio “It all start sa practice talaga kasi never din ako nag-miss ng practice except nung mga times na may commitment yung management na mag-appear ako sa mga events.”
TNT meanwhile will be hard-pressed to win as it will be missing two key players after Troy Rosario (broken nose) and Yousif Taha (forehead injury) suffered injuries and will be inactive for a few more weeks.
But Ravena may see it also as an opportunity to gauge newly-acquired big man Mike Miranda and see if the young Pampanga center would continue his progress since joining the team in a three-team trade that involved Miranda’s now former team NLEX and Blackwater Elite.
After averaging a mere 1.5 points and 5.7 minutes in 22 games two seasons ago with Phoenix, the 28-year-old Miranda started to thrive with NLEX under Yeng Guiao where he upped his numbers to 6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 19.2 minutes in 37 games last season.
Meantime, the league assures a few more teams are set to step up to the plate and are expected to apply gung ho performances the entire season even as the previous season’s title-contending teams remain as competitive as ever.
Among the teams to watch are a rejigged NLEX Road Warriors and the Northport Batang Pier, two squads that bolstered their roster through the draft and meaningful trades.
The Batang Pier are creating quite a stir after acquiring San Beda stalwart Robert Bolick who is set to form an intriguing backcourt pair with Most Valuable Player (MVP) frontrunner Stanley Pringle.
The Road Warriors meanwhile finally got its longtime wish of having a legitimate slotman after obtaining JP Erram through that three-team trade with Blackwater and TNT and are also set to welcome star guard Kevin Alas who was sidelined 11 months due to an ACL injury.
As always defending champion San Miguel remains as the team to beat as the Beermen, who are eyeing a record-setting fifth straight Philippine Cup crown, have welcomed Romeo into their fold to beef up their already potent offensive arsenal.
Kicking off the league’s 44th Season is the staging of the Leo Awards where the MVP of the concluded season will be feted, along with the Mythical Selections and other achievers. Cebuano center and four-time winner June Mar Fajardo of the San Miguel Beermen is poised to win a record fifth MVP hardware and surpass fellow four-time winners Ramon Fernandez and Patrimonio.