TIM Cone has admitted the departure of veteran point guards Josh Urbiztondo and Jonas Villanueva has had a huge effect on San Mig Coffee’s bid for a back-to-back PBA Commissioner’s Cup title.
The San Mig coach said he’s definitely disappointed with where the Mixers are right now 10 games into the mid-season conference. The Mixers carried an even 5-5 (win-loss) card, along with Barangay Ginebra, Meralco, Talk ‘N Text and Air21 to the Lenten break.
Cone explained that part of the Mixers’ struggles have something to do with the inexperience of his point guards.
Since trading away Urbiztondo and Villanueva to Barako Bull prior to the start of the conference, and landing Fil-Am rookie Alex Mallari, Cone has been banking on sophomore guard Mark Barroca to step up at the point guard position.
Yet, the multi-titled PBA mentor believes the Mixers’ ongoing struggles are part of their growing pains.
“Our point guard play has not been very stellar this conference and we’re trying to give the range to Mark and Alex, neither of whom are very experienced,” explained Cone.
Cone pointed out that giving Barroca and Mallari extended minutes will help them develop their point guard chores down the road.
“Philosophically, if we don’t use them and play them out there, they are never gonna get the experience they need. We have to live with their growing pains,” he added.
The Mixers lead the tournament with a league-high 19 turnovers per contest, and again Cone said much of that has something to do with his inexperienced backcourt.
“Our point guards, the last game (against Air21), Alex had five turnovers in 10 minutes. That’s what I mean by growing pains. If we bench him forever, he’s never gonna develop into the player we want him to be. We need to live through their growing pains,” said Cone, who took in legendary guard Johnny Abarrientos to join him in the San Mig coaching staff.
Abarrientos, who won nine PBA titles with Alaska and Cone as the team’s chief playmaker, specifically mentioned the Mixers’ guards as the biggest, crucial factor in the Mixers' bid for a back-to-back title.
Still, Cone sees a ray of hope particularly in the Mixers’ 84-83 win over the Alaska Aces Sunday.
Barroca played a key role in the Mixers’ huge win, firing eight of his 16 points in the final period, while issuing a couple of assists that put a smile on Cone’s face in the end.
“I thought Mark took a big step in a good direction (against Alaska). He hit a couple of three-point shots and hit a couple of drives to the basket,” said Cone.