WHERE James Yap goes, Star follows.
That is the opinion raised by Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao following the Elasto Painters’ 103-88 whipping of the defending PBA Governors Cup champions on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With only a 3-5 (win-loss slate) to show, the Hotshots, Guiao said, are indeed going through the same experience being faced by other powerhouse teams like Talk `N Text and crowd darling Barangay Ginebra.
“I know they’re struggling just like we are, no? The other strong teams are struggling. Talk 'N text, Ginebra. Nangyayari sa lahat ng teams yan,” said Guiao.
“After some incredible success, winning a grand slam. Hindi mo naman sila masisi. Hindi naman pwedeng nasa taas all the time,” he added.
Initially, Guiao was hesitant to comment on what he thinks is ailing the reigning champions.
“I don’t think it’s ethical to comment on something I really don’t have any first-hand knowledge about,” said Guiao.
But when pressed about the matter, the former national coach believes Yap’s inconsistent performances have a huge effect on Star’s campaign.
“Alam mo yung Purefoods kasi, I think yung peak nung ano nila (success) is when James was really almost unstoppable, he was making his threes, he was leading his team,” he said.
“Pero ganun talaga. Hindi mo naman masisi yung tao na everytime ganun ka.”
Guiao further stressed Yap, the league’s two-time MVP, remains as the main man of the Hotshots.
“Tingin ko crucial pa rin sa kampanya ng Purefoods yung James Yap kasi he provides the points, he provides the spacing. Kasi pag maganda ang laro ni James, ang hirap pigilan ni Ping (Marc Pingris), kasi lumalaki ang kino-cover mong space (sa depensa),” he said.
“Pero if James is not shooting well and PJ Simon also, they create the spaces for their big man. Medyo madali talaga sa depensa.”
Of late, Yap has been spending a little more time on the bench even in crucial junctures of the game.
Usually averaging close to 30-plus minutes per game over the last two seasons, Yap’s playing time has declined to 27.12 minutes this conference, including a 20-minute stint in the Hotshots’ 81-83 loss to Meralco.
“Kumonti talaga ang playing minutes ni idol James, dati 35 mga ganyan ang playing minutes niya. Ngayon 27 minutes per game na lang,” observed Kimberly Naguid, president of the Yapster’s fans club.
“Kung nababawasan kasi na ganun, like maka-shoot siya tapos ilalabas siya, nababawasan ang kumpiyansa niya,” she added.
But for Guiao, it only takes a little more rest and recovery period before Yap returns to his old deadly form.
“Kaunting pahinga lang 'yan, maibalik lang siya sa dati niyang role at minutes, he’ll be able to recover,” stressed Guiao, recalling how Yap played a major role in San Mig’s conquest of Rain or Shine in last year’s Governors’ Cup finals series.
It was Yap who made the crucial baskets in the title series that went the distance, enabling the team to complete a rare grand slam.
The gunner out of University of the East averaged 16.2 points and 4.4 rebounds during the title series.
Watch video of interview with Yeng Guiao: