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MANILA, Philippines – In import-spliced conferences most teams blame losses and struggles on imports, but the Purefoods Star Hotshots should be more concerned with its locals than its reinforcement – at least according to Marc Pingris.
The starting forward argued that his team’s 3-game losing skid has nothing to do with their import anymore, saying that they need to regroup and find their way back to the true Purefoods brand of basketball.
“Medyo struggle kami ngayon pero hindi na ‘to dahil sa import eh. Dahil na ‘to sa mga Pilipino, kami-kaming mga players na mismo,” the 33-year old Pingris said following a 96-87 defeat at the hands of rivals Barangay Ginebra on Sunday, February 22.
“Nawala yung energy namin sa depensa, yung pasahan namin sa bola. Naglalaro kami as yung mga pangalan namin sa likod, hindi na kami naglalaro as a team,” he explained.
“Kailangan namin talaga ibalik yun, kung ano talaga yung laro ng Purefoods. Hindi yung laro ni Marc Pingris or laro ng ibang mga player. Kailangan talaga namin ibalik talaga kung sino kami.”
(We’re struggling a bit now but this is not because of the import anymore. It’s because of the Filipino players. We lost our energy on defense, our passing. We play as the individual names on the back of our jerseys, not as a team. We need to bring back Purefoods basketball. Not Marc Pingris’ game or any other player’s game. We need to bring back who we really are.)
The Hotshots, who were clearly still reeling from a surprise upset loss to expansion team KIA just last Wednesday, February 18, allowed themselves to be buried in a 16-point hole late in the third quarter.
They opened up the fourth with a strong 22-8 barrage that tied the count at 78-all with 4:43 left to play. But last season’s Grand Slam champions could not overcome a composed Ginebra, who responded with their own rally behind the calming playmaking of diminutive guard Emman Monfort.
But it wasn’t all struggle for Purefoods this 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. In fact, this losing streak is at the heels of a winning 4-0 run, a rare great start for the perennial champions that often had so little time to prepare in between conferences last season.
So, what happened?
“Siguro parang nanggigigil yung bawat isang player, gusto akuin yung bawat trabaho,” Pingris explained.
“Hindi kayang ganoon eh. Kailangan talaga mag-trabaho yung lima kasi, sa akin lang, pansin ko lang mula sa first game namin ang ganda ng takbuhan namin, ang ganda ng pasahan namin pero nung natalo kami ng isang beses parang gusto ng lahat mag-step up na.”
“Parang ‘ako gagawa lahat nito, ako gagawa para manalo kami.’ Hindi talaga pwedeng ganoon,” added Pingris, who finished with 6 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and two steals.
“Kailangan kami lima magtratrabaho. Si Denzel naman alam naman natin kung paano siya mag-trabaho.”
(It’s probably because players are playing stiff and are trying too hard, they all want to take responsibility for every job. It shouldn’t be like that. All 5 of us must work because, for me, I noticed that since our first game we ran great and did great passing but when we lost one time it’s like everyone wanted to step up.
It’s like ‘I want to do all of this, I will make us win.’ It can’t be like that. All 5 of us must work. We all know how Denzel works.)
Against Ginebra it was comebacking import Denzel Bowles who carried Purefoods, especially during the crucial endgame stretch after the Gin Kings countered the Hotshots’ rally.
The former Best Import, who led the franchise to a championship 3 years ago, scored 14 of his game-high total of 31 points in the payoff period, including 8 in the last 2:24.
But even the energetic Bowles lost steam towards the end as he missed two free throws with under a minute to go.
“Okay lang naman na nage-error siya or nagkakamali. Given na yun eh,” Pingris said of Bowles.
“Pero sa amin apat sa court, yung mga Pilipino kanina, hindi namin ma-tantsa yung laro. Si Denzel pa yung nagbibigay ng energy sa amin instead na kami yung nagbibigay ng energy sa kanya or sa bench. Nawala yun.”
(It’s okay for him to commit errors or mistakes. It’s a given. But the other 4 of us on the court, the Filipinos, we couldn’t get a handle on the game. It was Denzel who gave us energy instead of us giving energy to him and the bench. We lost that.)
Bowles is the third Purefoods import this conference. Head coach Tim Cone initially wanted to tap him but Bowles’ team in the Chinese Basketball Association went to the playoffs, leaving Cone with no choice but to bring back Marqus Blakely, the team’s regular Governors’ Cup import.
Blakely played for 3 games but Daniel Orton came in supposedly as the team’s import for the rest of the conference. But his comments against officiating and KIA playing coach Manny Pacquiao earned him a hefty fine of Php 250,000, prompting Cone to bring in Bowles.
“I just have to get more familiar again. I know the basics but I just gotta jell with the team a little more. We just gotta jell as a team more and get more people back,” said Bowles.
James Yap missed his second straight game with a left knee injury he sustained versus Rain or Shine in Dipolog City.
“We just gotta make it to the playoffs. That’s it,” Bowles said. “We’re not worried about seeding, we’re not worried who we play. We just gotta get to the playoffs.”
Purefoods’ 3-game slide is reminiscent of its 0-3 start to the 2014 Philippine Cup, coming off the 2013 Governors’ Cup title run. But the franchise still rebounded from that and went on to win the championship once more.
Pingris believes they can do so again, if only they resolve to fix themselves first.
“Alam ko hindi kami pababayaan ni coach,” Pingris said, “pero kami mismo yung titingin sa sarili namin and kailangan talaga namin mag-trabaho.” (I know coach will do everything, but I think we must look at ourselves and we really need to work.)
Purefoods will have a full week to prepare for their next outing versus a dangerous San Miguel Beermen on Sunday, March 1. – Rappler.com