BARANGAY Ginebra hits the ground running as it makes its PBA Season 43 debut on Christmas day, renewing its rivalry with Magnolia in the Philippine Cup at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Less than a month after opening training camp following their much-deserved vacation from their Governors’ Cup championship repeat, the Gin Kings return to action on Monday, taking on the Hotshots in the main game of PBA’s doubleheader offering on Christmas for its fans.
“It’s always a tough challenge playing on Christmas day because of all the holiday distractions, but it is always an honor to play it as well,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said on Christmas eve, a day before they take the court at 5:15 p.m.
“We were actually the last one to return to practice after the break, so we’re a bit behind the other teams,” he added. “But despite that, I feel our guys really worked hard in the time we had and they are ready.”
The Gin Kings, however, are missing two point forwards in Joe Devance, who’s recovering from offseason foot surgery, and Art dela Cruz, whose comeback was set back by another Achilles injury, as well as Sol Mercado.
“Without them, we’re scrambling a bit in determining our roles,” Cone admitted as he leans on the rest of his playmakers in LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson.
And with twin towers Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar manning the middle, the Gin Kings seek to complete a hat-trick of Christmas day victories against the Hotshots after beating them twice in a row already.
“I like what we’ve seen in practice, but let’s see if that translates into Christmas day and the succeeding games,” Cone said as his team faces a Magnolia team that aced its first test in the all-Filipino conference, a 108-95 rout of Alaska last Wednesday.