PBA expansion teams KIA, Blackwater look ahead to busy offseason
MANILA, Philippines – One season down, an eternity of adjustments in the offseason to go.
PBA expansion teams KIA and Blackwater are expecting a busy offseason as they bid to come out stronger in their second season by October.
There’s no doubt KIA – a franchise that built a team from scratch with Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao for a playing coach – was the revelation between the two newcomers.
The Carnival quickly tore down expectations when it staged a comeback victory against the Elite on opening day of the season last October. That was their lone win of the Philippine Cup but they performed much better in the succeeding import-laden conferences, where they were able to fill in the gaping hole at the center position to complement spry guards such as LA Revilla.
And that’s exactly the missing piece assistant coach Chito Victolero is hoping to find in the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft this August, where KIA owns the second overall pick.
“I think we can add more on our center and forward positions,” Victolero said after KIA failed to make its first playoff appearance in the Governors’ Cup due to inferior quotient. “Kasi meron kaming big import kaya medyo maganda yung rebounding namin so titingin kami siguro sa draft ng pwedeng makatulong sa amin sa center position.”
(We had a big import so we had better rebounding so we will look for someone in the draft to help us with our center position.)
Among the centers and forwards available to KIA in this year’s draft are consensus first overall pick Moala Tautuaa, National University’s versatile and agile big Troy Rosario, De La Salle University’s Norbert Torres, and San Beda College’s Art Dela Cruz.
Victolero, who took over as assistant coach in the Commissioner’s Cup and was in charge for more than half the time with Pacquiao busy with his Floyd Mayweather Jr fight, said he plans on utilizing Kyle Pascual more in the next Philippine Cup.
“I think Kyle will be more active in the all-Filipino kasi si Kyle maganda naman talaga ineensayo niya (because Kyle has been practicing really well),” he explained. “Ang problema lang talaga malaki yung import namin kaya naapektuhan din yung playing minutes (The only problem is we had a big import so it affected his playing minutes). But I think Kyle will step up next season.”
Aside from mulling the smart choice for the draft, KIA will also work on improving its chemistry and absorbing all they learned during a competitive first season.
Pacquiao shared his thoughts and noted that execution needs work. And for a running team like KIA, stamina, something Pacquiao had specifically wanted for his team as soon as he was named head coach, will also be a priority in the coming months.
“At least marami kami natutunan and dagdag experience yun sa players namin para sa next season,” Pacquiao said. (At least we learned a lot and the players added more experience for the next season.)
Meanwhile, Blackwater is planning a full revamp of its roster.
“There's going to be a revamp,” team manager Johnson Martines said following the team’s last game of the season. “This coming Rookie Draft, maraming players dyan (there are lots of players). We can pick more players but we still have to assess.”
Despite solid PBA D-League experience and a championship on their resume, the Elite failed to meet their potential this season. They registered just 4 wins all year, and had a winless first conference, with their first PBA victory coming mid-February in an upset of San Miguel Beer.
It obviously was not a satisfactory season for Blackwater.
“This season, medyo di maganda (it wasn’t that good),” Martines said. “Right now, my instructions to the coaches is to review the tape, compile the stats, and from there, I’ll know [if] the contracts of the players will be extended or not, if any.”
The revamp has already begun for Blackwater as it traded away its top local scorer and heady playmaker Brian Heruela to Barako Bull in exchange for Carlo Lastimosa.
But the Elite plan on milking this year’s draft for all it is worth in an effort to build once again from the ground up.
Though their choices will be limited as they gave up their first overall draft pick to Talk ’N Text in a previous deal and settled for a pick late in the first round. They may have missed the chance to draft Tautuaa, but that won’t dampen Blackwater’s spirits.
“So far, our own assessment shows we need to invest on the younger talent,” said Martines, who also bared the Elite plan on trading some players in exchange for draft picks.
“We look forward to develop the team and form a better squad,” Martines added. – Rappler.com