WITH Ginebra set for a blowout victory for once, the crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum chanted Jayjay Helterbrand’s name, hoping to see the longtime Gin Kings star in action even just for a few minutes on Sunday.
Coach Tim Cone eventually gave in to the fans’ clamor and sent in Helterbrand with less than two minutes left in the game against San Miguel Beer.
Cone admitted he initially had second thoughts about sending the former league MVP in at garbage time.
“As a coach, you can’t respond to the crowd like that,” Cone said after the game. “When I was in college, I wasn’t a great player like Jayjay. I was like end-of-the-bench (type) and when we got up or down by twenty points, the crowd would chant my name.”
“And it was really dyahe,” he added. “It wasn’t fun.”
“(So) I asked Jayjay if wanted to go in, because he’s a veteran and you have to respect his wishes,” Cone continued. “I’m not going to throw him out there in garbage time after being an MVP.”
But Helterbrand didn’t mind as he just wanted to repay the fans’ love.
“It doesn’t matter how old we get,” the 39-year-old cager said. “We’re always going to want to go out there and compete.”
“We just want to be a part of the team and contribute even if it’s just for a little bit and just go out there and just have fun,” he added. “That’s what basketball is all about. We just try to enjoy it while we’re still out here.”
The 16-year veteran missed his only shot and dished out one assist in his short time on the court as he saw the end of the Gin Kings’ 110-84 win.
To make his stint more memorable — and maybe less embarrassing, Cone sent long-time backcourt partner Mark Caguioa in with Helterbrand, who has been contemplating retirement.
“That’s how we (Caguioa) started our careers and hopefully we can also end on that note,” Helterbrand said. “I miss playing with (Mark), but we’re leaving Ginebra in good hands.”