THE coaching switch at Barangay Ginebra will finally be put to a test on Sunday when the Kings lock horns with the Air21 Express in the two teams' debut in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Alfrancis Chua gets his baptism of fire as the Kings’ new head coach since replacing Siot Tanquingcen at the helm at the start of the year. This marks Chua’s first game back as head coach since handling the reigns for Sta. Lucia from 2003-07.
The outspoken mentor said there won’t be major changes in the team system except that he expects the Kings to run the floor in their 6:30 p.m. match with the Express.
Ginebra import Herbert Hill, one of the earliest to arrive in the country, will be pitted against Air21’s Michael Dunigan, who has so far been providing a strong physical presence for the Express in the team’s five tune-up matches prior to the tournament.
The Express have posted a 4-1 record in those exhibition games, with Dunigan leading them in both scoring and rebounding.
“We are using these (tune-up games) as a jump-off point for the coming conference. Also a good way to build our confidence,” Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said.
Pumaren said his 6-foot-10 import out of the University of Oregon has been adjusting well to his system, one reason why the Express have been doing well in their pre-Commissioner’s Cup preparations.
“Somehow, our import has been able to adjust already with our locals. It’s nice if we work as a team, where there is no star complex and where every player accepts his role in the team,” added the Air21 mentor, whose team failed to get past the quarterfinals of the last Philippine Cup.
The Kings, on the other hand, are coming off a third-place finish in the four-team Sinulog Cup in Cebu City.
“Kailangan na lang namin ayusin `yung offense namin pero lahat kami, pume-pressure na sa defense. Saka expect mo na tatakbo kami lahat,” said Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio.
The 6-foot-10 Hill will have his hands full taking on Dunigan, who has proven himself to be strong inside force once he gets in the paint.