MORE and more, PBA fans have grown used to the sight of James Yap playing limited minutes during Star Hotshots games and reduced into a spectator in the endgame.
Yap, of course, remains the preeminent player in the pro league - a two-time MVP who has won more than his share of championships while distinguishing himself as one of the best clutch shooters in the league.
But at 33 and closing out his 11th season as a pro, there are questions on whether Yap still has what it takes to take over games like he used to, more so given his pedestrian numbers and diminishing minutes at Star.
We therefore decided to toss the question to his fans.
They Said It!
“It has caught up with him like 3 years ago. Actually dominant season ni Yap, statistically saying, ay noong 2011 pa when he averaged 18 ppg. Since then it is gradual decline na. 'di nanonotice ng fans nia kasi nananalo Purefoods especially nung Grand Slam. Pero ngaung npagtatalo, ayan na, marealize mo wala na talaga. This is exactly the same with MC47 in Ginebra. the difference is Yap lets the young players play more minutes, and it doesnt matter to him." tuffgong
Longtime Purefoods supporter and fan page administrator Yuri Munsayac said he believes Yap is slowly losing the edge in his game and that he is no longer as motivated to perform at a high level.
“Tingin ko kulang na siya ng motivation eh. Nakuha na niya yung grand slam, may dalawang MVP pa. Hindi na ganoon (katindi) ang motivation,” said Munsayac, a Purefoods fan since 1988 - the rookie year of Alvin Patrimonio.
“Parang naging routine na lang sa kanya ang basketball. Wala ng urge pa to prove himself, to show more. Wala na siyang pwede pa kasing i-achieve eh. Kaya tingin ko nagla-lay low na siya,” he added.
Still, Munsayac hopes Yap can remain a huge factor for Star even without contributing MVP numbers.
“Siguro kailangan lang siya maging consistent. Kahit hindi na kasing MVP numbers, maging consistent lang to contribute, gawin ang sasabihin ni coach (Tim Cone) sa defense. Basta maging effective lang at magpakita ng effort at maging leader lang ng team,” said Munsayac.
“Tingin ko nga more than ageing, motivation ang nawala kay James. Lumalabas na lang kasi laro niya pag semis o finals. Kasi sa situation ng team ngayon, mas kailangan siya eh,” he said.
Asked if Yap deserves more minutes that what he is getting now, Munsayac said he supports the decision of Cone.
“Ako, I support coach Tim Cone, agree ako dun (limited minutes of Yap). I want to believe na kung sino nagpapakita ng more effort, more energy, siya ang dapat makatulong sa time, regardless of superstar ka o hindi,” he said.
The leader of Yap's fan club, Kimberly Nuguid, was quick to defend her idol.
“Hindi pa siya laos, hindi siya malalaos. Makikita mo naman na nagsisikpa pa rin siya,” said Nuguid, the Yapsters club president.
“Syempre nag-struggle lang si kuya James tapos limited pa playing time so paano niya magagawa role niya sa team?” she asked. “Pero naiintindihan ko si coach Tim dun, siguro hindi nya nakikita yung gigil pa sa laro ni James.”
Before anyone decides to write off Yap, Nuguid reminded people of several instances in Yap's career when he struggled early in conferences only to shine in the games that mattered most.
“Lagi naman ganun nangyayari kay James eh. Bababa laro, aatakihin ng haters tapos makukuha niya ulit kumpiyansa niya at playing time tapos makakakuha ulit siya ng championship,” said Nuguid, stressing Yap’s roles in the Hotshots’ grand slam conquest last season.
“Di ba lagi rin siya injured nun tapos nag-struggle siya, pero what happened? Mga critical baskets at stops si idol James ang gumawa for the team,” she said.
Yap’s business partner at his MotoTechnik Philippines business along Gilmore Avenue in Quezon City bared that his friend is not hobbled by any injury, but hinted that fatigue may be catching up with the high-scoring Star guard.
“Wear and tear rin siguro 'yan minsan. Kung makina nga pinagpapahinga, di ba? Sila James kasi bugbog rin sa haba ng mga finals wars na nilabanan nila,” said Jeff, pointing to the team’s run of six finals appearances over the last two seasons.
“Actually hindi lang naman si James ang struggling pati ibang bugbog sa oras na teammates nila, medyo nakakitaan rin ng fatigue factor,” he added.
Jeff, however, believes that in time, James will regain his old, deadly form.
“Once he gets hold of it (confidence), I am sure James will again lead this team back to where it rightfully belongs,” he said without a tinge of doubt in his voice.