IS there a changing of the guard in the PBA?
San Miguel coach Leo Austria said not yet, but acknowledged that Ginebra is close behind.
Losing his first championship series after the Gin Kings’ 93-77 Game Six conquest of the Beermen in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Wednesday, the affable mentor said that if there’s one team that could match his side man-for-man, it’s the crowd favorites.
“Sinasabi nga na we’re a strong team then all of a sudden, there’s another team that’s emerging and playing better than us. Pound-for-pound, they could match up with our personnel and they have a very good import,” he said.
And this doesn’t surprise him, saying any team coached by the league’s winningest mentor, Tim Cone, will sooner or later rise to the top.
“Ever since coach Tim Cone coached Ginebra, I knew that this time will come. I know that we will face each other again in the championship and it’s because they developed some cohesiveness and experience they need especially in a game like this,” he said.
Austria shone the spotlight on Cone’s manpower, saying that from top to bottom, the Gin Kings’ roster is one of the best in the league.
Add to that a versatile import in Justin Brownlee, who the reigning three-time Coach of the Year considered as the difference-maker.
“I think the big factor is Brownlee because he can do it all. He can play one to five and any team will have a problem matching up with him because if you put bigger guys on him, he will play in the perimeter and if you put smaller guys, he will play in the shaded area,” he said.
In Austria’s eyes, Brownlee was the motor that made the Gin Kings’ engine work and that couldn’t be any more evident than his monstrous performance in the clincher, where he poured 31 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks, and two steals.
“We fell short because they played like a well-oiled machine. They kept on running, kept on passing, and kept on making layups,” he said, fully aware that the league still has to find an answer to Brownlee for the season-ending 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup.
“That’s why I think that Ginebra is the team to watch next conference. I’m thinking na they are really a threat. They are emerging as the powerhouse team.”