Ginebra’s not-so-grand exit

Five seconds left.

Jong Uichico designed the play.

Almost 21,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum and the hundred thousands watching at home are at their feet and are expecting something awesome from the crowd favorites.

It never happened.

After being down 0-2 in their best-of-five quarterfinal series against the Alaska Aces in the 2010 Fiesta Conference, the Barangay Ginebra Kings managed to even the series. They did this no thanks to Christopher Daniels. Amongst the four imports that Ginebra signed, I felt that he underachieved the most. Ginebra is a team overloaded with star players but can’t seem to find their focus. The team is so souped that Junthy Valenzuela, a former top dog during his days as a Red Bull Barako, logged just two minutes this season. At the start of the season they managed to acquire Enrico Villanueva and Celino Cruz from the then-Purefoods Giants and in the middle of the Fiesta Cup, they acquired Willie Miller, Mike Cortez, and the returning Rudy Hatfield. Daniels could have been a key gem crashing the boards and getting the putbacks but alas, he can’t seem to propel his game to a “playoff” level.

There are a couple of squads I hate because of their greed. If I was San Miguel I will ditch Joseph Yeo, Lordy Tugade, Mike Holper, and Denok Miranda for teams looking for bonafide threats. In B-MEG, I’ll probably release Romel Adducul, Jondan Salvador, and Don Allado to teams that will use their services properly. Talk ‘N Text needs to cut back on the benching of JR Quinahan and the misuse of Jared Dillinger.

Ginebra? This team was tasked as the ultimate underdogs. After their bad boys and hoodlums from the 1980’s left the squad, the team sagged. It returned to prominence following the entry of Marlou Aquino, Bal David, Vince Hizon, Noli Locsin, Pido Jarencio, Jayvee Gayoso, and others but afterwards, it reverted back to dire straits. Even in this scenario, the fans still cheered for them. All of a sudden, the team was winning games despite the lack of really big-named stars. I remember when guys like Sunday Salvacion, Ronald Magtulis, Elmer Lago, Rodney Santos, Alex Crisano, Aries Dimaunahan, and Mark Macapagal nailing freak jumpers to seal the win for the team.

Nowadays it’s impossible for us to even say Ginebra is the underdog squad. Their starting five can play the second five and after that, the winner can face the third five and it would be as competitive as their previous bout. This change pretty much happened when Rudy Hatfield, Rafi Reavis, and Billy Mamaril came to the Gins.

Sure, having so many stars robs the talent of other teams and it gives you various looks in offense but one major hit in this setup is the team’s chemistry. Willy Wilson is playing better than Enrico Villanueva. In a perfect world, that shouldn’t happen but in this case, Rico is struggling… getting less post up plays because Ginebra’s offense basically comes with their slashers and shooters. Also, Wilson fits well in this level because this is one thing Ginebra lacks at the moment – which is role players. Jong Uichico must be missing Rafi Reavis right now because you’ll always expect him to clutter the paint for his opponents’ dismay. Enrico Villanueva’s stint with the San Miguel Corporation has been one of the worst routes his career could ever take. How can the Raging Bull be a not-so-confident King in a matter of three years?

LA Tenorio is the luckiest Atenean in the PBA right now because at least he is at home with the Aces. Enrico should come to Alaska and join him since it seems the team lacks credible big men.

If you look at it, Chris Daniels is more competent than what he saw in the Fiesta Cup. However, the influx of heroes was enough to single him as the goat. If this was played during the 2004 to 2006 timeline, Mark Caguioa would have played from that injury to deliver a great performance. Even in his injury, The Spark was still the highest-scoring local for the Kings.

And to close this, I’ll just tap a nerve for Coach Jong’s part. The Kings lived and died with their slashers. Five seconds was enough to hit a jumper and if it misses, perhaps a rebound and a putback. I know it was the play Jong made during those dying minutes but Eric Menk was choked out by Alaska’s defense. Never mind if Cyrus Baguio, a former King who became disgruntled with the system after he found himself playing less and less minutes, tapped the ball… Menk held the ball too long and it was either that or a fouled attempt for Major Pain… which didn’t happen. Menk couldn’t even pass the ball out because Diamon Simpson was clogging up his options. Like I said, they could have tried an open shot and made his frontcourt guys do damage by grabbing the offensive rebound.

Ginebra closed out this season with no championships.

This is to think that perhaps this version of their squad is the most powerful lineup they have ever assembled.

Game over.


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