Opposites collide as the intact Ginebra squad tests the mettle of the new-look Talk ‘N Text in the lone game of the 44th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season opener today at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The match is set at 6:30 p.m. with the Kings banking on their solid chemistry to prevail over the rebuilding KaTropa side for their first win in the 2019 Philippine Cup.
Prior to that, the best players in the past year will be feted in the annual Leo Prieto Awards starting at 4 p.m.
Following a quiet offseason, the crowd favorite Ginebra will troop to the All Filipino wars with almost the same line-up which head coach Tim Cone considers as his most lethal weapon against other teams, including TNT.
“We have an intact core. We have a couple of veterans and a relatively young support group. So, we feel that we have a good mix right now,” he said.
“Sometimes, when you make changes, you have to start to zero again and for us, we have a chance to continue what we’re doing to go smoothly this year compared with other teams. We like the idea of continuity.”
True enough, the Kings made little or no changes on their roster other than signing rookie free agent Teytey Teodoro.
Leading the Kings charge are veterans Joe Devance, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Mark Caguioa, Sol Mercado and last year’s breakout star Scottie Thompson.
Now, the most celebrated mentor in PBA history could only hope for his wards’ health as injuries hampered their chances of winning more titles last year other than the Commissioner’s Cup.
“We had a pretty good year. We had our chance to win all three conferences but we came up short,” added Cone as Ginebra looms to be the biggest threat to heavy favorite San Miguel Beer.
“We just want to stay healthy this year to compete well and live up to expectations.”
Cone, however, is bracing for a well-motivated KaTropa who will be out to prove doubters wrong amid a controversial offseason that saw their former star guard Terrence Romeo being shipped to rival team SMB.
“Romeo’s departure is addition by subtraction. They will have stronger core now, there will be more ball sharing and they will be a better defensive team. I think they will be a very motivated team,” Cone said.
On the contrary, TNT is just hoping to start its rebuilding stage on the right foot following a busy offseason.
“We’re still in the process of rebuilding,” said mentor Bong Ravena of the KaTropa who shipped Romeo to rival team SMB in exchange for Brian Heruela, David Semerad and future draft picks.
“This will be a baptism for fire for us. Playing against Ginebra will not be an easy job. They’re a champion team but it will be a golden chance for us to prove ourselves. We’re just going to play hard and lets’ see what happens.”