Marc Pingris, PJ Simon bare thoughts entering first Star-Ginebra playoff without James Yap
James Yap will no longer be around when longtime Star teammates Marc Pingris and PJ Simon take on Ginebra in a PBA Philippine Cup semifinal playoff.

WITH how they’ve been dominating their opponents as of late, it’s no surprise the Star Hotshots hardly miss James Yap anymore.

The rejuvenated Hotshots continue their transition in this new era when they take on Barangay Ginebra in a much-anticipated semifinal matchup in the PBA Philippine Cup starting with Game One on Thursday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Marc Pingris believes Yap’s shoes has been ably filled by Paul Lee, who Star got in the megadeal with Rain or Shine in the offseason.

“Wala ng James Yap, pero may Paul Lee naman,” the Hotshots stalwart said in a chat with a couple of scribes after practice on the eve of the 7 p.m. encounter. “Ganun naman talaga buhay minsan eh. Kailangan maka-adjust ka. May umaalis, may dumarating, but laro lang.

“Ang importante naman dyan yung chemistry,” he added. “Kahit sino yung mga pumasok na bago, kailangan kung ano yung tinuring mo kay James Yap, dapat ganun pa rin ituturing mo sa kanila.”

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PJ Simon echoed his longtime teammate's sentiment, insisting the classic rivalry remains as exciting with Lee and the rest of the Hotshots’ backcourt players filling the void.

“Kakaibang experience naman ‘to (na wala si James), pero actually exciting din ‘to kasi yung matchup, napakaganda,” Simon said. “Marami kaming guards na makakapantay sa mga guards ng Ginebra, and for sure, sabi nga ni Coach Tim, it’s going to be fun.

“And feeling ko, aabot ‘to hanggang Game Seven,” he added.

Pingris, though, admitted they miss the fans that Yap drew to them.

“Medyo (outnumbered kami sa fans),” Pingris admitted. “Kaya nga nagkaroon ng ‘Manila Clasico’ dahil sa mga fans, ‘di ba? Nung coach pa namin si Coach Tim, nung lagi natatalo namin yung Ginebra – sa pagkakaalam ko lang ‘to – parang mas dumami yung fans namin. Nung pumunta si Coach Tim sa Ginebra, nagsibalikan na, especially nung nag-champion sila.

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“Kitang-kita niyo naman, kahit sa ibang bansa, talagang sumusuporta sa kanila. Iba talaga ang fans ng Ginebra,” he added. “Kaya nga gumaganda rin ang laro ng mga players ng Ginebra dahil sa mga fans nila.”

“So same din kami – kahit na nabawasan kami ng fans, alam namin na nandyan pa rin sila, solid at hindi kami iniiwan, win or lose,” Pingris was quick to add.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos