AFTER a long wait, LA Tenorio and the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings get to show how far they have improved after a massive buildup when they take on newcomer Global Port on Sunday in the lone game kicking off hostilities in the PBA's 38th season.
Tenorio was the centerpiece of the biggest deal of the offseason - a three-team, four-player trade that saw the former Alaska star join the league's most popular ballclub just days after playing the hero's role in Smart Gilas 2.0's conquest of the Jones Cup in Taipei.
Now millions of Ginebra fans will get a glimpse of how the heady 5-8 guard will mesh with Fil-Am first-round picks Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen and the rest of the team's holdover stars as the Kings open their bid to end a four-year title drought in the season-opening Phillippine Cup.
The lone 6 p.m. game serves as the highlight of an opening day that will be kicked off by a traditional show and ceremonies honoring Tenorio and the rest of the Jones Cup-winning team - a celebration that is expected to attract a sellout crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Exactly the atmosphere that brings out the best in Tenorio, who is understandably excited.
“Excited na ako to play for a big crowd. Matagal tagal na din kasi akong di nakakapaglaro sa harap ng malaking crowd,” said Tenorio, who'll be bringing in his veteran flair to an already loaded guard line-up led by Jayjay Helterbrand, Mark Caguioa and Mike Cortez.
Ellis and Jensen should attract their share of attention as they are expected add a new scoring and rebounding dimension to an already- talented Ginebra lineup.
The Batang Pier, mentored by former PBA defense specialist Glen Capacio, are determined not to be mere punching bags in their first game in the league after sportsman-businessman Mikee Romero bought the Coca-Cola franchise more than a month ago, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming part of the PBA.
Bannered by their own one-two scoring punch of national team member Gary David and two-time PBA MVP Willie Miller, the Batang Pier hope to make some serious noise right in its first season.
“Masarap makasama si Willie. Alam naman natin ano ang kaya niyang gawin sa court,” David told Spin.ph. “Hopefully, mag-jell lang kami agad, though you can expect na yung team namin magiging physical.”
David is coming off his best PBA performance thus far, after leading the pro league in scoring with 25 points per game last year and igniting Powerade to a huge quarterfinal upset against favored B-Meg Llamados (now San Mig Coffee) en route to a Finals stint in last year’s Philippine Cup. Powerade went on to finish second behind champion Talk ’N Text.