Barangay Ginebra San Miguel during the opening ceremonies of the 43rd PBA season at the Big Dome, last week. | PBA Images

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Denison Rey A. Dalupang ( - December 25, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra is fresh from a championship. But the Grand Slam mentor prefers to head into the new season with a blank slate.

“We don’t talk about it anymore. It’s all about moving forward and getting forward thinking about the next championship,” Cone said when asked if he was still looking to the 2017 Governors’ Cup title the won as a boost into the new PBA season.

The focus, the celebrated tactician added, is winning—and winning immediately. And that also translate also forgetting about a wasted top-seed in the second conference.

With a healthy Greg Slaughter back in the import-less skirmish and with a runner-up finish waiting to be avenged, it’s not hard to see why. But all those storylines lead into one foe: San Miguel Beer.

“We are the only team that can match-up with San Miguel,” Cone offered. “June Mar (Fajardo) is such a beast. It’s really hard for (other teams) but because we have big bodies who can stand in front of them and can help, and we have Japeth (Aguilar) from the backside helping, it gives June Mar problems.”

Oh and in case you were forgetting, there’s also that long tossed rivalry featuring Slaughter and Fajardo. And with the Ginebra big man fully recovered from his knee injury and a Best Player Conference citation under his belt, the setup for the clash couldn’t be more compelling.

“But really, San Miguel doesn’t worry about the other teams while we worry about the other teams. We still have to really about TNT, NLEX which is Yeng Guiao’s team, Alaska who likes to pressure – those teams can give us problems,” Cone said.  “I hope we can get by those teams and then go up against San Miguel then we have a good chance.”

“The big difference is Greg—having Greg here is different,” Cone said of his slotman. “We missed him for four conferences. Finally, we got him back in the fifth—last conference.

“We’re just gonna try exploit match-ups on Greg as much as we can. He’s excited, he came to the camp in great shape. He knows, he’s gonna be out there and play 35-40 minutes a game to be able to dominate and he’s excited,” the league’s winningest coach furthered.

Not only will the Kings be reinforced in the middle, but also in the backcourt. With the addition of rookie Jett Manuel and the activation of Art dela Cruz, Cone maintains that he and his team are optimistic.

“Everybody says we lack shooters. I’m not a coach who goes out and recruit shooters. I believe in playmakers more than I believe in shooters so shooters aren’t that crucial for me,” he said. “That’s why I like Art dela Cruz so much because he’s a playmaker.

“I was making a joke earlier that he’s so versatile, we don’t know where to play him. We don’t know whether to play him as our point guard, or our off guard or our small forward or the power forward, he can do it all,” he added with a smirk.

“Well Jett, he’s a shooter, and we need shooters,” Cone said of his freshman. “We’re looking to bring in a couple shooters so they can help Greg and Japeth spread the floor. There’ll be times when teams try to zone us up and want to take away our size inside and then we’ll bring [him] inside.”

Asked to comment about the Kings’ chances had overall pick Christian Standhardinger was serviceable for the Beermen in the season-opening tournament, Cone had a simple reply: “Thank you, Hong Kong.”

“Thank you, Hong Kong (Eastern Sports Club, the rookie’s ABL team) for signing him to a contract,” he added with a chuckle. “He’s such a huge guy, very talented and we will try to do as much against him.”

But before the Beermen, the Kings take on another sister team—the rebranded Hotshots—for the season's first and the year's last  "Manila Clasico" clash at the Philippine Arena on Christmas Day.

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