Cavs or Warriors? Gilas coaches, players make #NBAFinals predictions
MANILA, Philippines – When it comes to playing for flag and country, Gilas Pilipinas players and coaches are definitely united. But ask them about their NBA Finals predictions, and opinions will be polarizing – with a bit of friendly trash talk and betting and support out of allegiance.
Head coach Tab Baldwin, for one, will be exhibiting unwavering loyalty to Gilas utility man known fondly by everyone as “Kuya Bong” by cheering for the Stephen Curry-led defending champions Golden State Warriors of the West.
“Because we open with France in the OQT, and according to Bong — our head utility guy – France’s best player is Le-Bron, I can’t cheer for anything to do with Le-Bron,” Baldwin explained, emphasizing in tone and facial expression the first syllable of the 4-time MVP’s name.
“So I’m Golden State all the way.”
Asked how long he thinks the best-of-7 series will go, Baldwin revealed his concerns about the Warriors, especially coming off a grueling, down the wire Western Conference finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if they’re good enough to beat Cleveland, they haven’t had any rest. I’m telling you who I’m for and my bad prediction is going to be Golden State in 5. It’s a bad prediction.”
Meanwhile, Alex Compton, Gilas assistant coach and Alaska head coach, is in on the NBA Finals trend largely because of a little wager he made with Alaska assistant Jeff Cariaso.
“Jeff Cariaso is from San Francisco and I like to talk a lot of trash with the coaches I coach with so I told him Cavs are winning in 6,” the jovial coach explained with a huge grin.
“I’m not a betting man but we bet a Subway meal with chips and a Coke, footlong,” Compton happily specified. “I’m going Cavs in 6 because I have a bet with Jeff on it. Truth is, Golden State’s awesome. But hey, I want a free Sub so I’m going with Cavs in 6.”
“That is my prediction para mainis lang si (just to piss off) Jeff,” he added.
Bet is on!!!! You know my order Coach Alex. Dubs all the way!! https://t.co/mrQ0uDafZf— Jeff Cariaso (@thejet_22) June 1, 2016
Pressed for a real analysis of the series as a coach, Compton was quick to admit where his true loyalty lies.
“Milwaukee Bucks all the way. I love them. They are awesome. I have a shirt and everything. I’m from Wisconsin. My best friend used to work for the Bucks.”
Cavs favored among Gilas players
Most Gilas players Rappler spoke with are rooting for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the title in a second straight finals appearance. James is playing in his 6th consecutive finals and is yearning to give the city its first major professional sports title in decades.
“It’s hard to choose. Cavs in 6,” said San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo in Filipino. “I want LeBron to win another championship. Golden State won already. They can win again next year.”
Gilas cadet Ray Parks is also on Team LeBron.
“I really want LeBron to bring it back home. It’s been 6 years. He went through a lot of criticism and ridicule and I feel he deserves to win this title,” he explained. “But at the same time OKC gave the Warriors, you know, they lit a fire from under them. And that’s scary from a defending champion, just to see them make that run that they did and the momentum can carry over to the finals.”
Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio did not choose a side, but he is predicting the series will go all the way, down the last two minutes of Game 7.
“If that was San Antonio, it would’ve been San Antonio in 4,” he premised in Filipino, with a hearty laugh.
“Last year Cleveland fell short because of the injury of Kyrie (Irving) but now I think they’re all healthy. Plus I think they already understand the system of coach Tyronn Lue. So I think it will be a better match-up compared last year, so I think it will go all the way to Game 7,” he explained.
He noted Golden State may have the advantage in a Game 7 given the events of the West finals, but also pointed out how Cleveland had a bit more time to rest after breezing through the Eastern Conference and winning the finals against Toronto in only 6 games.
Jayson Castro of Tropang TNT, however, thinks the Cavs can pull out a victory if it reaches Game 7.
“I think it’ll be Cleveland in 7. Promise. Because Golden State’s play now isn’t as refined as before. But Cleveland is playing well so if it goes to Game 7, it’ll be Cleveland.”
Affable TNT rookie Mo Tautuaa offered a different opinion and readily etched his words in stone.
“For my NBA Finals prediction I’m guessing it’s going to be the Warriors in Game 6. Mark my words because that’s correct.”
"Why?," he was asked.
“Because I’m really smart and I really trust in my Warriors.”
Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips off Thursday, June 2 (Friday, June 3 in Manila). – Rappler.com