MANNY Pacquiao no doubt has decent basketball skills, but for a cage legend who had played alongside the boxing icon before, the PBA might be too much for the Pacman.
Former MVP Kenneth Duremdes fired a warning as the prospect of Pacquiao suiting up for expansion team Kia Motors as playing-coach next season looms closer to becoming a reality, stressing the PBA is an entirely different ballgame compared to exhibition matches.
“PBA, this is professional level. Manny is playing only in the amateur level, he hasn’t even played college ball. Sa mga exhibition games, Manny can play, pero sa professional level, malayo 'yung skills,” said Duremdes, who had played against the 35-year-old boxing champion several times in the past.
“Iba kasi ang exhibition games compared to professional and actual games. 'Yung talagang seryosong laro at tournament, ibang-iba yun,” added the league's 1998 MVP. “Yes Manny can play, he can shoot. He has the skills to play, pero yung PBA, malayo pa ang skills niya.”
“If I am to choose for him, siguro coaching na lang.”
Still, Duremdes, a friend of Pacquiao who is now the head coach of Adamson in the UAAP, warned that coaching in the pro league is no picnic, either.
“Kung ako nga ang masusunod, siguro advice ko kay Manny mag playing-assistant coach na lang siya. That way, wala siyang pressure as head coach, pero he can play sparingly. No stress,” said Duremdes, who once called the shots for the Coca-Cola franchise in the PBA.
“Sa totoo lang, mabigat ang lumaro sa PBA, pero mas mabigat ang mag coach. Stress, pressure. Lahat andun sa yo.”
At the same time, the 41-year-old Duremdes raised fears that the physicality in a league like the PBA could jeopardize Pacquiao’s boxing career.
“I am concerned about the injuries he might absorb. Baka 'yung boxing career niya ma-sacrifice, ma-compromise,” said the pride of Marbel, Koronadal, a member of the PBA’s 25 Greatest Players.
Former Coca-Cola board of governor JB Baylon, for his part, shared the story of a friend in the military as an analogy of Pacquiao's desire to play in the pro league.
“I had a friend who is a retired general. He told me na during his time when he was still active in the service, never daw siya natatalo,” recalled Baylon.
“Kaya nagtataka siya, when he retired, hindi pa raw siya nananalo. Hindi ko lang masabi sa general na, ‘Siyempre kaya hindi ka natatalo noong araw, pinag-bibigyan ka kasi ng mga kalaban mo,” said the former PBA official.
Rugged Air21 guard Ogie Menor, meanwhile, said he would hate himself if he ends up playing tough defense on his idol Pacquiao, but added that he may have no choice if given his marching orders by coach Franz Pumaren.
“Idol ko si Manny, pero syempre, pag sinabihan na ako ni coach Franz (Pumaren) na asawahin siya at wag papa-tirahin, siyempre kailangan kong sumunod,” said Menor, who has earned a reputation as one of the most bruising defenders in the league.
If and when that time comes, the former San Beda star said he will pray for one thing.
“Diyos ko po, huwag ko po sanang mapikon (si Manny Pacquiao). Di ko kakayanin mga suntok niya pag nagkataon,” said Menor before breaking into a hearty laugh.