MARK Caguioa may have finally suited up for Barangay Ginebra after a two-month absence, but the superstar remains in a dilemma on whether he’ll finally go full throttle or not in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals opposite Alaska.
Coach Alfrancis Chua revealed how concerned Caguioa is about affecting the chemistry of the team once he regains his starting role by returning at this crucial time of the playoffs.
“Mark is very professional. You know what Mark told me when I asked him, `kaya mo na?’" Chua said. “Sabi nya, 'Coach, I wanna play so bad, but I don’t want to ruin the rhythm of the team.'
“Para kay Mark Caguioa na magsalita ng ganoon, nakakataba ng puso,” added the outspoken Ginebra coach.
Caguioa’s concern is understandable.
Going to the deciding Game Five of the Kings’ semifinals series against Talk `N Text on Sunday, the reigning league MVP has missed 11 of Ginebra’s games after incurring an MCL sprain on his left knee.
During that stretch, the Kings made it to the playoffs, survived two do-or-die games against No. 2 seed Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals, and then rallied from a 1-2 series deficit to beat the Tropang Texters for the second and last Finals berth.
But with the outcome of the match against Talk `N Text almost settled in the final 34 seconds Sunday night, Chua opted to field in Caguioa just to give him the feel of the game again, sending Ginebra fans that make up the majority in gthe crowd of 21.480 inside the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in a frenzy.
The Glendale Community College stalwart sank two free throws in the endgame.
“We owe it to the fans, that’s why we’re here in the championship. Kung saan man kami, it’s because of the fans. And by putting Mark on the court, I guess half of the Filipinos… Wala, sobrang saya nila dahil nakita nila si Mark. Tapos naka-shoot pa,” said Chua.
The Ginebra coach admitted his star player has yet to join the team in its 5-of-5 drills.
“Mark is not practicing with us (5-on-5). He’s just there, nagpapalakas,” said Chua.
But deep inside, Caguioa knows he’s ready to play. Not his usual minutes, but just being there and helping his team win its first championship in the last five years.
“Yeah, I’m ready. It’s all up to coach if he’ll play me,” said Caguioa.