BARANGAY Ginebra has progressed a lot since its first game in the PBA Philippine Cup, an 86-78 loss to Star last October, but Greg Slaughter insists his team has yet to earn the tag as the favorite against the Hotshots ahead of their quarterfinal playoff on Christmas Day.
The Gin Kings lost to the Hotshots in a game – their first under coach Tim Cone – where they fell into a huge 31-point hole.
“They kicked our butts last time. It was crazy,” Slaughter said. “I’ve never been in that kind of a hole before, but we’ve grown a lot since then.”
“But we can’t take anyone lightly,” the Gin Kings star was quick to add despite his team having a twice-to-beat advantage against the Hotshots. “We still got to be seen as the underdogs coming into every game.”
Still, Slaughter lauded Cone for his patience in steering the squad to the fourth seeding with a 7-4 win-loss record after they started the all-Filipino conference with three losses in their first four games.
“Credit to coach Tim for just never giving up, being patient with us,” the 6-11 slotman said. “At 1-3, a lot of people could be panicking at that point especially with the expectations we’ve had this season.”
“We’ve just been patient,” he added. “Our vets have been leading us. We’ve just been working as hard as we can in trying to learn and get better every day.”
Slaughter has been a major part of the Gin Kings’ rise, putting up numbers good enough for him to be a Best Player of the Conference frontrunner.
Still, the Fil-foreign big man and the rest of the Gin Kings still face a tough task in the Hotshots, who haven’t had a win streak, finishing the elimination round with an opposite record as Ginebra.
“If there’s a time for it (winning streak) to happen, it’s now,” Hotshots coach Jason Webb said.
The rookie mentor believes the real Hotshots, like Ginebra, have yet to show up.
“I don’t know what the real Star Hotshots would be, but I hope that we put it together,” he said. “Hopefully by now, we’ve learned how to handle those little successes we’ve had.”
Webb, however, conceded they remain the real underdogs.
“Odds are stacked against us, but at the same time, if there would by any pressure, it will probably be not on us, because it’s been up and down for us.”
Star playmaker Mark Barroca agreed.
“Pag nakuha namin yung isang panalo, yung pressure na sa kanila,” the Hotshots starting point guard said. “Alam naman namin na kaya namin sila.”