SMART CLARK GIGA CITY – If there’s one positive in Barangay Ginebra’s loss to San Miguel Beer in their PBA Philippine Cup bubble showdown, it’s seeing the physical conditioning of wingman Art Dela Cruz in his first game back with the team.
Coach Tim Cone gave Dela Cruz some playing minutes in the Kings’ 66-81 loss on Sunday night - the 28-year-old forward's first game coming off a hamstring injury.
He played for 22 minutes and finished with two points and four rebounds after missing the Kings’ first nine outings.
Amid mounting criticism about the Kings' loss, Cone explained the coaching staff also made use of the opportunity to see how Dela Cruz has recovered from the injury he suffered when teams began conducting players’ practices last August.
“The key was we got Art out there. We got to see Art play a little bit,” said the Ginebra coach.
As expected, Dela Cruz is not yet in game condition as he struggled with his shots to finish 1-of-7 shooting from the field.
“He missed a couple of shot he normally makes. His little floater or hook shots which he usually shoot the lights out on, those things,” noted the 62-year-old Cone. “He’s just trying to get his rhythm and everything back, but it was good to see him back there on the floor.”
Cone is expected to give Dela Cruz more playing time in the Kings’ final game in the eliminations against Terrafirma on Tuesday in the hope of giving him his confidence back once the going gets tough in the bubble.
“We’re trying to develop that trust (again). Now, we see him and how effective he can be, which gives us hopes entering the playoffs,” said the Ginebra coach.