CHICAGO - Basketball is supposed to be a celebration of the sporting life, not a dreary, funereal ritual where midnight's pall casts a shadow that darkens a team's shine.
But that lonely depiction of a Shakespearean play was exactly what TNT fans witnessed last Saturday night at the PhilSports Arena where the 24 straight playoff appearances of coach Chot Reyes was shattered into a million little pieces.
Before bowing out early in this Commissioner's Cup conference, Reyes and TNT together in the post-season were as sure as death and taxes.
This time, ravaged by broken body parts and internal demons, they were just surely dead.
What a weird detour on the way to another championship parade.
And when I asked him what he felt was the heaviest burden that sank his ship, coach Reyes was refreshingly blunt.
"Incompleteness," he told me in a telephone interview.
"We started off without Jayson (Castro), Mikey (Williams), Glen (Khobuntin), Ryan [Reyes], [Brian] Heruela, [Kib] Montalbo due to injuries. Then when Mikey, Jayson and Kib came back we lost Mikey to suspension," he explained.
The nine-time champion also harped on the Gilas Pilipinas duty in the November window that fatigued a few of his players and the injury that import Cam Oliver sustained and forced them to play all-Filipino against Ginebra.
Ultimately, Chot confessed, "it's too difficult to beat Bay Area and SMB with a newly arrived import, plus the injuries suffered by Jayson and Poy [Erram]."
A MYRIAD OF FEELINGS
Between the grief, sadness and shock, I wondered what other emotions were coursing through Reyes' body. when his amazing run skidded to a halt.
"Mental, psychological, and physical drain. I'm battling a bad cough and cold right now, thankfully though, I'm negative for COVID," he offered,
When blame comes knocking on the door, Reyes is always the first to grab a mirror. It's a sense of accountability that has endeared him to his players, all of whom are eager to burst through a brick wall for him.
Still, some blame for the travails at TNT deserves to land at someone else's feet.
Suspended for a week for allegedly missing multiple practices, Mikey brought a belligerence to what was typically a calm, family-friendly operation that Reyes and his staff were running at TNT.
While stars usually atone for their misgivings, playing with a passion and tenacity that justify their sometimes special treatment, Williams did not.
In that fateful encounter with the Beermen, the 6-foot-2 sniper played nowhere close to the high-priced gunner, let alone a facsimile of an asset that makes a reported US$26,000 a month.
He went 1-of-11 from the field and 0-for-8 from 3. And as his team was getting clobbered by 20, the 31-year old Fil-Am guard squirted only a harmless two points in 21 minutes and 31 seconds of action.
Gee whiz, a paper tiger has more bite.
But while TNT's fall from grace was stunning, the MVP group's flagship franchise doesn't need a rebuild. They only need to heal some wounds.
And as long as Chot is in charge, the Tropa will be just fine.