FROM fancied team, Purefoods is suddenly wearing the underdog tag.
After losing their first two games of the PBA Philippine Cup, Hotshots coach Tim Cone is trying to convince his team to finally embrace the ‘underdog’ mentality in the defense of the all-Filipino title.
“What we say to our players is, we need to come out every game as underdogs because every team will come out and play their best game against us,” said Cone shortly after the reigning champions went down at the hands of San Miguel Beer, 87-80, on Sunday night.
“If we come with a B-game, we’ll get beat. With Ian and Ping out, we need to overdo.”
The Hotshots came into the game against the Beermen parading a badly crippled roster left without forward Ian Sangalang (partial tear on ACL and MCL), Marc Pingris (leave of absence) and two-time James Yap, who was a late scratch in the game due to an injured calf muscle.
“James felt a twinge in his calf, right at the end of practice and he came to the game (against San Miguel) and felt the same twinge,” noted Cone.
The 32-year-old Yap actually wanted to play, knowing the single-round format in the eliminations means every game is important, but Cone was quick to decide against it.
“He (Yap) wanted to play and try, so we had him warming up. He felt good at the beginning, but then, it felt worse, so my feeling was, it’s still early in the season. We can’t go out to make it worse and lose him suddenly for four to six weeks,” added Cone, looking at the bigger picture.
The league’s all-time winning coach admitted early in the season the Hotshots ‘forgot’ the need to play hard, something they did on a consistent basis the past four conferences that enabled them to win four straight championships including last year’s grand slam.
“We’re just having a hard time remembering how hard we need to play in this league. We kinda float here and there in the game,” said the 56-year-old American coach, whose team lost its opening game to Alaska, 93-73.
Purefoods now needs to rediscover its winning touch - and fast.
coming up for the Hotshots are three games against perceived playoff-bound opponents in GlobalPort (October 31), Barangay Ginebra, (November 9) and NLEX (November 14).
“There’s a big bulls eye on our chests. We have to understand that. We’re the underdogs in our minds now,” he said.
“When you are the underdog, you try to play better.”