EXCEPT for a change of name and a sprinkling of a few rookies, everything seemed to have stood still for San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg) in this offseason.
That may not exactly be a bad thing. Why fix something that ain’t broke, right?
By keeping intact a lineup that won one championship and reached the finals twice in his first season at the helm, Cone is banking on team chemistry to be San Mig’s biggest asset when the PBA Philippine Cup begins on September 30.
San Mig was in the middle of a transition in last season’s Philippine Cup with Cone joining the team just weeks into the campaign. The Coffee Mixers were consequently dumped out of the playoffs by longshot Powerade.
That won’t be the case this season.
While most of the other teams will have to spend a considerable amount of time trying to blend their new players with the old ones, Cone figures the Coffee Mixers’ intact team will be ready to hit the ground running.
“I believe what would really work for us is our chemistry. It’s something we can continue to work on to our advantage coming into the All-Filipino,” Cone told Spin.ph.
Cone said his team, built around former league MVP James Yap, banger Marc Pingris and high-scoring Peter June Simon, is strong and deep enough to match up against some of the best in the pro league.
All he did in the offseason was load up on big men through the draft, signing former Smart Gilas mainstay Aldrech Ramos, National University banger Jewel Ponferada and 6-8 Gian Chiu who, together with a healthy Joe Devance, should help the Mixers cope against teams that got bigger in the offseason.
“We’ve got at least two established point guards and we’re also loaded in the two-guard spot because of James and PJ. We’ve also got a pair of big players in Rafi Reavis and Yancy (De Ocampo), so we somehow have guys who could help us defend against June Mar (Fajardo’s, Petron’s top overall rookie pick),” said Cone.
Cone is impressed with what he is seeing from his rookies so far.
“Aldrech is such a special player. He adds a new dimension to the team. He’s a good perimeter shooter and can defend well also,” said Cone.
“With Jewel, he’s a guy who loves to do the dirty work. He’ll be a big help and a complement to Pingris. I feel with these two young guys, they could mix up well with our veterans,” he added.
Cone and his Coffee Mixers have a proud tradition to uphold in the tournament, which the former Purefoods franchise has won five times while finishing runner-up eight times since joining the league in 1988.
“This organization has always taken pride in playing the All-Filipino because of its rich winning tradition,” he said.
With the team he has got, Cone expects the Coffee Mixers to be right in the mix.