IT was a brutal Friday for Joe Devance.
Arriving early in the morning from a family vacation in El Paso, Texas, the veteran forward had to rush out of the airport, where his arrival was delayed until past 7 a.m., drop his family and his belongings at home, and scamper just to make it in time for the 9 a.m.start of Ginebra's twice-a-day practice sessions.
"I came straight from the airport. I had to rush home, we got 12 luggages, so I had to get that out real quick. I took a shower and came here. I was a little late for practice," he said.
What Devance had to go through is just a snippet of the killer of a season the Gin Kings are anticipating. Ginebra is set to play in the season opener at the Philippine Arena on January 13 before flying to Guam to face Rain or Shine on January 19.
And for coach Tim Cone, it's just one of the pitfalls that come from being the most popular team in the PBA.
"The league tapped us to suddenly play in the opening game in the Philippine Arena, told the guys that’s the curse and blessing of being a member of Ginebra. You’re going to be asked to do things because of your popularity, your fan base that other teams aren’t gonna be asked for," he said.
As tough as the schedule is for Ginebra, Cone knows that he has no choice but to welcome these challenges and perform to everyone's expectations.
"The idea of being a member of this group and that fan base overrules any inconveniences that we may have. We’ll come out," he said, likening these difficulties to the struggles he's had when he was still a young coach at Alaska back in the nineties.
"As I’ve said, we’re going deep into our two-a-days and we haven’t gone this hard in our two-a-days during the ‘90s, in my mind. So these guys are experiencing what it's like to play for me when I was a young coach - when I wanted to kill people," he said with a chuckle.
The veteran that he is, Devance also accepted his team's fate knowing that this early, the Gin Kings will come out a better squad when they survive this stretch.
"It's gonna be tough. Hopefully, we won't be too burnt out when the games come, but we'll find a way. We'll see what happens," he said.