TALK 'N Text players admit the feeling is a little different as they wind up their elimination-round campaign in this very same conference the team has dominated the last three seasons.
Star forward Ranidel De Ocampo said the Tropang Texters, winner of the PBA Philippine Cup for three successive times, are not used to being in the middle of the standings heading into the playoffs.
“Ewan ko ba. Hindi talaga kami sanay ng natatapos ang eliminations ng hindi kami nasa ibabaw. Ngayon kailangan pa talaga naming magsikhay,” said the soft spoken 6-foot-5 forward.
De Ocampo groped for words when asked about the team’s struggle, but the pride of Tanza, Cavite said it definitely has something to do with injuries and weary legs of some of the players.
“Prone din kasi kami sa injury. Kung kailan nga papunta sa critical stage saka pa kami binalot ng injury,” said De Ocampo mentioning teammates Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes, Noy Baclao and Harvey Carey missing the Tropang Texters’ game against San Mig Coffee Friday due to different injuries.
Aside from his sidelined teammates, marquee guard Jayson Castro was quick to admit that the departure of several veteran players had hurt the team.
“Madami din kasi nawala sa amin, like si Jared (Dillinger). Importante pwesto nun sa team eh. Tapos si Japeth (Aguilar),” Castro added.
The cat-quick guard also noted that other teams have rebuilt and improved tremendously, among them Barangay Ginebra which now flaunts a towering frontline that dwarfs Talk 'N Text's.
“Lumakas din kasi yung ibang team, marami silang mga nakuhang rookies na talagang malaking bagay sa rotation nila,” said Castro.
The Talk `N Text guard also observed how Talk N Text seemingly lost the ability to close out games.
“Parang hindi na kami marunong mag-close out ng game ngayon. Siguro 'yung ibang teams, alam na 'yung weakness namin, like ganito nga, may mga injuries kami,” he added.
Team captain Jimmy Alapag, meanwhile, rallied his teammates to continue keeping the faith, considering the Tropang Texters have gone through - and overcome - bigger adversities in the past.
“We’ve been through a lot of challenges and successfully overcame it. This is just one of the tests. As long as we remain strong and determined amidst all these, we will always be ready to pull off surprises,” said Alapag, considered the charismatic leader of Gilas Pilipinas.
The reigning three-time champions finished the eliminations in fourth spot and will be pitted against San Mig Coffee in a tough best-of-three quarterfinals match-up.
“Mabigat 'yun syempre, pero wala naman kaming magagawa kundi ibalik yung kumpiyansa namin. Saka siguro buhayin sa damdamin namin yung aming championship spirit,” said Castro, who has helped the franchise win five championships after being drafted third overall in 2008.
But De Ocampo said as long as the Tropang Texters are still in the thick of the fight, the team will be resilient enough to bounce back.
“Basta’t hangga’t humihinga kami, lalaban kami. Ganun naman dapat eh, kasi sa buhay, kahit pipilay-pilay kami, yung pride namin as three-time champions, hindi madaling mawawala yun,” said De Ocampo.
“Pride ang ipapairal namin.”