THIS is the calm before the storm in Tubod, Lanao del Norte.
A few hours before the important match against Alaska, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Alfrancis Chua called his troops for a one-hour walk through starting at 10 a.m. at the Mindanao Sports and Civic Center - the same venue for Saturday night’s road game.
Chua made sure that all the bases are covered as the Gin Kings try to turn around a winless campaign in the three-week old Commissioner’s Cup in a match against league-leaders and still unbeaten Alaska Aces.
Ginebra also had a two-hour practice on Friday.
“Nag-adjust lang ng kaunti sa depensa … yun lang naman. Tapos (practice ng) shooting para magamay namin yung court,” said Ginebra's high-flyer Elmer Espiritu on Saturday morning.
“Saka giniit lang ni coach Al na bago na import namin, wala nang dahilan,” added Espiritu. “Pero sabi nga niya, huwag kami ma-pressure laro lang talaga."
After savoring their lunch of fried chicken, fish fillet, mechadong baka and crab and corn soup, the Gin Kings rested in their hotel ahead of import Vernon Macklin's debut game.
“Relax lang muna ngayon para mamaya, syempre kailangan ma-execute namin ng mayos offense namin, yun naging problema namin the last three games,” added Espiritu’s roommate Kerby Raymundo.
The Aces also had their 60-minute shootaround right after Ginebra’s practice.
Aces mentor Luigi Trillo believes his team has a slight edge when it comes to the familiarity of the court and crowd in Tubod, having played there often.
“Suki na kami dito. This is my fourth time here in less than two years,” bared Trillo, optimistic that crowd support won’t be much problem as they go up against the PBA’s most popular ballclub.
“People here say that they are fond of watching Alaska play,” added Trillo, whose star player Cyrus Baguio is from the nearby city of Iligan.
Trillo isn't putting much weight on the Aces' 3-0 start, saying it is too early in the campaign in an elimination round expanded after the pro league rejigged its schedule for Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the Fiba-Asia championships in August.
“Remember before the conference started, isa sa mga title favorites ang Ginebra. Hindi kami pwedeng magkumpiyansa dahil matagal pa ito - 14 games, kung nine games lang sana,” stressed Trillo.
The youthful mentor also is not pressured with Gienbra’s new import, saying that they are in a better position to give Vernon Macklin a baptismal of fire.
“Mas okay nga to play him in his first game, kaysa sa third or fourth. Nakapag-adjust na sila nun with him," said Trillo.