IT’s status quo as far as the teams to beat in the PBA are concerned.
The board of governors has installed defending champion San Miguel Beer, losing finalist Barangay Ginebra, and TNT as the fancied teams in the Philippine Cup that is set to unfold on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen are bannered by the same powerhouse core led by June Mar Fajardo, while the Gin Kings have Greg Slaughter to anchor them down low. The Texters, who lost to the eventual champion Beermen in the semifinals, again try to make up with their speed led by Jayson Castro.
SMB governor Robert Non rattled off the Gin Kings as their main roadblock again to a fourth straight all-Filipino title, while the Texters are also a major obstacle.
“TNT, intact yung lineup. They have bigs who can match up with June Mar. Same thing with Ginebra, Greg is back in the lineup,” Non said.
Gin Kings governor Alfrancis Chua agreed that the Texters are still among the strongest teams in the Philippine Cup, while playing down his team’s chances, and inisisting that the Beermen won’t be as formidable as in the Commissioner’s Cup when top pick Christian Standhardinger will be in tow.
“TNT (is a team to beat),” Chua said. “SMB hindi pa malakas yan wala pa si Standhardinger. Second conference pa.”
TNT assistant team manager Magnum Membrere, representing the Texters, also played down his team’s chances, instead mentioning sister squad NLEX in their place along with SMB and Ginebra as the teams to beat.
“For me, number one San Miguel, Ginebra, at sa tingin ko ‘yung NLEX,” Membrere said. “SMB and Ginebra, siyempre sila ang may dominating big men sa liga.”
NLEX governor and incoming league chairman Mon Fernandez shared most of his fellow governors’ sentiments, also hoping that his team, bolstered by second overall pick Kiefer Ravena, can indeed be the darkhorse outside the Top Three.
“It’s a toss-up between SMB, Ginebra, and TNT. They will fight in the top three,” Fernandez said. “It will be a good game.”
“But I’m hoping that NLEX will continue to improve,” he added. “You’ve seen NLEX in the first two conferences, we were in the bottom, but in the last conference, NLEX performed reasonably well and we will continue to improve.”
Magnolia governor Rene Pardo mentioned a new name outside favorites SMB, Ginebra, and TNT, and darkhorse NLEX as a team that could make a surprise.
“If you know your basketball, Ginebra ang pipiliin ko lalo na sa All-Filipino. SMB wala pa si Christian. After the three, I take GlobalPort as a darkhorse,” Pardo said.
But don’t count out the independent teams, with Phoenix governor Raymond Zorilla beaming that his squad and the rest of the teams outside the SMC and MVP group are also vying for the championship.
“We are determined to win,” Zorilla said of his team that has a new coach in Louie Alas and a versatile rookie in Jason Perkins. “I think we are all in agreement here that we’re not just sitting idle, we’re not sitting to lose, but we’re aiming to win.”
“It’s just conceding, based on the question, that they (SMB, Gin, TNT) are the strongest teams, but it does not necessarily follow that they’ll be champions always,” he added.