PUREFOODS Star assistant coach Johnny Abarrientos is alarmed over the Hotshots’ developing “bad habits” during the conference break.
Abarrientos, one of the 40 greatest players recently feted by the PBA in its 40-year founding anniversary recently, noted that the bad habits were evident during the Hotshots’ embarrassing 107-80 loss to the San Miguel Beermen in a tuneup match on Wednesday.
The Hotshots, grand slam champions last season, are nowhere near championship form and got run over by the Beermen.
“Iyung technique, saka pag-scheme namin, we’re not connecting to each other. Maybe because it’s just a practice game pero dapat di minamadali (yung sistema). Hindi dapat sino-shortcut,” rued the 44-year-old PBA legend.
The soft-spoken Abarrientos said that shortly after the team bagged the franchise’s very first grand slam last season, he has been working with coach Tim Cone to prevent the team from falling into a slippery slope.
But the 1996 PBA MVP felt it was human nature for players coming off a successful season to somehow relax after experiencing a championship ‘high.’
Abarrientos recalled that after Alaska completed the 1996 grand slam, the Milkmen let their guard down in the All-Filipino Cup the following season and never came close to a fifth successive championship.
“Na-out kami sa first conference, yung All-Filipino nung sumunod na season, pero nakabalik kami sa second conference though talo kami (in the Finals versus Gordon’s Gin) nakabalik kami agad, tapos champion uli kami with Sean Chambers (as Alaska’s import) sa third conference,” recalled the six-time PBA Mythical First team member.
This season, the Hotshots have failed to defend both their Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup crowns. Worse, Abarrientos doesn't like what he's seeing from the team in practice and tuneup games.
“We take things for granted. But it won’t work that way. Kasi sa 17 years ako na naglaro, now I’m in the side of one of the best coaches, every single day in practice, para na nga kaming sirang plaka dito or broken record, reminding the players, but they keep going back to the same bad habits,” a disappointed Abarrientos added.
With a week to go before the opening the Governors Cup, Abarrientos could only hope that the players would work harder or face the possibility of ending the 40th season without a title.
“We have a lot of things to improve on, especially as individually, not just as a team. From a coaching standpoint, makikita mo (importance of) character,” he said.
“Iyun dapat panghawakan mo kasi yun (character) ang magdadala sa iyo eh. Saka iyun ang gigising sa mga teammates mo.”
Purefoods Star kicks off its Governors Cup when it plays NLEX on May 9 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.