Manila Clasico: 5 things to look out for

Just 23 days after the 2013 PBA Governors' Cup, another exciting PBA season is about to unfold

File Photos of Mark Caguioa and James Yap by Nuki Sabio/PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines – Just 23 days after San Mig Coffee’s successful run at the 2013 PBA Governors’ Cup, another exciting PBA season is about to unfold. The PBA makes an unprecedented opening day move, Sunday, November 17, as it ushers its 39th season with a triple-header happening simultaneously in all three of the country’s major islands.

Bannering the theme of “One PBA, One Philippines,” today’s gameday features thrilling match-ups between the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters and the Meralco Bolts in Cebu, as well as the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the Alaska Aces in Davao. The opening ceremony is set to happen in Manila at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 2pm. 

But after those opening rites, the PBA sets up another classic clash between two of the league’s popular franchises.

By 3pm, the San Mig Coffee Mixers and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will be adding one new, exciting chapter to the storied rivalry that is Manila Clasico.

This edition of the rivalry happening on opening day is particularly special, because it should answer many of the offseason questions that had been lingering in fans’ minds–especially with all of the movement among the teams’ rosters. 

So here are 5 things to look out for when Manila Clasico unfolds before us once again.

1. Will Greg Slaughter get a warm welcome or a rude awakening?

YAY OR NAY? Greg Slaughter will make his PBA debut today and will either impress or disappoint PBA fans. File photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

The number one overall pick will officially make his PBA debut today against a tough frontline composed of his fellow draftee, second pick Ian Sangalang, Marc Pingris, and the much-improved Sampayan Brigade, which features Rafi Reavis, Yancy De Ocampo, and Isaac Holstein. Expect Coach Tim Cone to shuffle his big men often and give Slaughter different looks. Also expect slaughter to have a target on him all game long. The Mixers will surely make his PBA debut a memorable one as they test his limits and introduce him to the physical brand of play that’s unique to the PBA.

We already saw a glimpse of Slaughter through tune-up games. Now, it’s time for the real test. All eyes will be on him. He will either impress and earn the nod of the legions of Ginebra faithful, or he will leave them scratching their heads.

2. Can Ginebra surpass offseason expectations?

Ginebra wants a revitalized season after adding key pieces to strengthen their team. Ginebra made bank in the 2013 PBA Rookie draft as they added top rookies Greg Slaughter with the number one pick and James Forrester with their fourth overall pick. Mix them with athletic forward Japeth Aguilar, and high-rising PBA dunk champion Chris Ellis. It looks like no rim is safe as fans may witness a slew of highlight reel jams on opening day. With an excellent passer like LA Tenorio, having a local version of Lob City today would definitely get the crowd going–something the Mixers won’t want to happen.

That has been cause for plenty of excited, expecting whispers and speculations among the Ginebra fans who have long waited for something to cheer for. But today, everybody, not just the Ginebra faithful, will keep both eyes on the much-improved squad, and pass judgment on whether or not they are the team to beat. (READ: PBA preview: Barangay Ginebra San Miguel)

3. Will Ian Sangalang play with a ‘I-should-have-been-picked-number-one’ attitude?

IS HE WORTHY? Ian Sangalang was picked second overall by the San Mig Coffee Mixers in the PBA draft. Will he prove that he is worthy to have been first? File photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

Prior to the draft, Sangalang had been open about his dream team. He was hoping Ginebra would pick him. Despite that, however, he was also very happy to simply play for any team that would want him. Now, he’s learning the ropes of multi-titled coach Tim Cone with the San Mig Coffee Mixers. He landed in a team that has the power to shape him to become one of the most dominant big men in the PBA, what with Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis mentoring him.

But how will Sangalang play agains the team he had initially wanted to be a part of? And how will he adjust to Cone’s system? Will Sangalang show everybody that he deserves to be picked first overall? Will he already be strutting some of the moves he picked up with his first weeks of practice with his new team? The second overall pick is out to show everybody exactly what he’s made of.

4. Meet the ‘other’ Gilas boys

PBA DEBUT. Justin Melton (left) and Isaac Holstein (right) are among the unheralded rookies looking to make a splash in their PBA debut. File photo by Rappler

When Isaac Holstein and Justin Melton were drafted 7th and 13th overall respectively, there were confused murmurs in the crowd as the two are practically unknown compared to the rest of the draft pool. (READ: Melton eyes building courts, houses after PBA stint)

But unbeknownst to many, both Holstein and Melton actually spent time under Gilas Pilipinas. Holstein went on to play in the PBA D-League where he led the league in blocked shots, while Melton was an all-around player for the Malaysia Dragons in the ABL. And after biding their time to prepare for the draft, finally, the PBA universe will see them in action. (READ: PBA preview: San Mig Coffee Mixers)

5. It will be battle royale!

It’s just the opening day of the PBA and we have two contenders battling it out in front of what is expected to be a mammoth crowd. It’s also just a 14-game season, which means every game counts, especially with all teams boosting their lineups to try and steal the Philippine Cup title from defending champions Talk ‘N Text. Ginebra and San Mig are both pegged as strong squads and this showdown will give them a chance to gauge what they’ll need to work on as the season progresses. 

We’d love to see James Yap bury triples from way out, and surprise everyone again with his creative moves to the basket. We’d like to see Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand team up together for another fast-and-furious run to ignite the crowd. It would be great to witness Pingris exerting 110% effort and not giving an inch to his opponents. (READ: A hero’s welcome for Marc Pingris)

We would also love to see the fans exchanging chants and rocking the Big Dome. Indeed, the PBA is back.

With all the new faces, new additions, and new things to look forward to, this Manila Clasico opener promises much excitement. Yet still, there’s the classic pieces of Manila Clasico that will never be diminished—-the same old reasons why we keep coming back for more is still there and still thriving.

Today, Manila Clasico will add one more for the books, and leave all of us yearning for the next one.

Follow all the action through Rappler’s PBA opening day LIVE BLOG–


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