Back to work for Ginebra
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2020 - 12:00am

MILAN – Barangay Ginebra is re-assembling for its first practice on Feb. 17 and coach Tim Cone has set his sights on winning his first Philippine Cup with the franchise after claiming a Commissioner’s Cup crown and three Governors Cup titles.

PBA Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua said the other day Cone’s declaration that he’s gunning for the first conference title isn’t an invitation for an ambush. “It’s a challenge to the players to step up and stay competitive,” said Chua. “Our goal is to win the Philippine Cup. We’ve got the players to do it.”

Chua said L. A. Tenorio’s leadership was evident in the recent Governors Cup finals where Ginebra beat Meralco, 4-1, in the title playoffs. “L. A. has at least three solid years left,” he said. “He’s Tim’s extension on the court. Japeth (Aguilar) has matured and deserved the Finals MVP award. He’s playing with a lot more confidence now and I think it’s because of his exposure with Gilas. Our other Aguilar, Raymond, will remain with us.”

Jared Dillinger’s arrival was timely and although he joined Ginebra on the injured list, his seven-point contribution in Game 4 of the Governors Cup finals was critical. “When we got J. D., he was injured similar to Art de la Cruz’ case,” said Chua. “But we told him to be patient, do his rehab and not to worry. We’ll wait for him to be ready. I think now that he’s OK, J. D. will play a big role in the Philippine Cup.”

Chua cited Aljon Mariano for his defense on Meralco’s Allen Durham during the finals. “He was a scorer with UST but now, Tim uses him primarily for defense and doing the dirty work,” he said. “Aljon doesn’t need to score to help us. He’s a fighter. Nobody thought a guy his size could defend Durham.”

Chua said Mark Caguioa has been extended for another year and the crowd favorite may embark on a farewell tour. During the recent finals, he chipped in five points in Game 4. Another veteran Joe DeVance will also remain in the lineup. “JDV’s a teacher,” said Chua. “We don’t think he’s too old to contribute just like Mark.”

Against Meralco, Chua said losing Raymond Almazan to injury was a big blow but his absence didn’t affect the outcome of the series. “With Raymond on the floor, Meralco had to slow down so that was our advantage,” said Chua. “Without Raymond, Durham had to do it all. We matched up well with Meralco. Stanley (Pringle) defended (Chris) Newsome, L. A. was on (Baser) Amer and Scottie (Thompson) picked up (Bong) Quinto. I don’t think it would’ve gone to a Game 6 even if Almazan played. We controlled the matchups and made adjustments along the way.”

Chua said three of Ginebra’s picks in last month’s draft were given tender offers. Arvin Tolentino, Jerrick Balanza and Kent Salado are the rookies. Left out was third round choice Fran Asuncion. Salado was recently sued by his MPBL team because of a live contract but never received a peso from the franchise. 

Regarding import Justin Brownlee, Chua said he’s a jewel. “Boss RSA (San Miguel Corp. president Ramon S. Ang) not only gave him $5,000 which was the bonus that he was supposed to receive if he won the Best Import award but another $5,000 even if he wasn’t named Best Import,” said Chua. “Justin also got his bonus for the championship and before leaving for the US to go on holiday break, received another bonus from Boss RSA. Justin wants to be naturalized even if he doesn’t play because he loves our country and our people. Boss RSA plans to give him a house to settle in here.”

Chua said Brownlee intends to rejoin San Miguel Alab in the ABL. “He had offers from Japan and Korea before our conference started,” he said. “Japan’s offer was $80,000 for six to eight games but Justin chose to stay with us. That’s the kind of commitment you want from an import.”

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