MAKING noise with its offseason buildup, Barangay Ginebra as expected emerged as the consensus pick to win the PBA's season-opening Philippine Cup.
From chairman Ramon Segismundo of Meralco to Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes to the rest of the league board of governors, league bigwigs pick the souped-up Kings as the team likely to emerge champions of the all-Filipino tournament.
The Kings were quick to plug their perennial problem down low by tabbing big man Greg Slaughter with the No. 1 overall pick in the last PBA Draft, and then further bolstered their roster by adding rookie James Forrester, center Jay-R Reyes, and guard Emman Monfort.
Obviously, Ginebra’s ambitious offseason acquisition didn’t escape the attention of the rest of the field.
“Hindi ko alam kung sino ang pipiliin ko, `yung puso o isip ko,” said Segismundo as each governors were asked of their top three teams in the coming conference. “Ang isip ko Ginebra, pero sa puso ko Meralco.”
“I feel it’s Ginebra, Globalport, and of course, Petron will be there,” said Alaska alternate governor Dickie Bachmann. “Hopefully, Alaska will be there in the top 4.”
“I think it’s Ginebra, San Mig, and Petron,” said Globalport’s Eric Arejola, who added defending champion Talk `N Text to his list, and of course, the Batang Pier as possible dark horse.
Although Reyes, also Sports5 TV head, acknowledged how Ginebra has become a completely different team this season, he said those which kept a solid core of lineup are still the ones to watch out for.
“On paper, Ginebra is the strongest, but games are played on woods,” said the Gilas Pilipinas mentor. "With that said, ang malakas talaga `yung matagal nang magkakasama and you have Talk `N Text and Rain or Shine. Of course, you can’t underestimate my good friend, Tim Cone and San Mig Coffee."
Ginebra governor and former chairman Robert Non said in jest it would really be good for the league especially in terms of gate receipts and television ratings, if the Kings will be able to end a five-year title drought.
But seriously, he said team chemistry will be the Kings’ major concern going to the season as only veterans Mark Caguioa, JayJay Helterbrand, and Billy Mamaril are the only holdovers from the last Ginebra team that won a championship in 2008.
“You can’t really tell until the team jells. You can’t say until the second phase of the tournament kung sino talaga `yung papunta dun. Sana nga kami `yun,” said Non, who nonetheless mentioned Globalport, Petron, and even Barako Bull as among the contending teams in the Philippine Cup.
Only vice-chairman Ely Capacio of Petron wasn’t around during the affair.
Here are the rest of the PBA governors’ picks.
Patrick Gregorio (Talk `N Text): Ginebra, Petron, Meralco (darkhorse)
Lito Alvarez (Air21 ): Ginebra, Meralco, San Mig Coffee
Rene Pardo (San Mig Coffee): San Mig, Alaska, Rain or Shine
Mamerto Mondragon (Rain or Shine): Petron, San Mig, Ginebra, Rain or Shine (darkhorse)
Manny Mendoza (Barako Bull): Petron, Ginebra, San Mig, Talk `N Text (darkhorse)