MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone admittedly expects Barangay Ginebra to contend for another PBA title.
The Gin Kings, after all, have all the necessary pieces to win a championship, especially after acquiring athletic forward Jamie Malonzo and veteran shooter Von Pessumal.
But Cone and Ginebra were given a dose of reality as they opened their Commissioner’s Cup campaign with a surprising 93-71 defeat to Rain or Shine on Wednesday, September 28.
“It’s pretty stunning, the way we played. Didn’t expect this at all,” said Cone, praising Elasto Painters’ head coach Yeng Guiao for his defensive adjustments.
The Gin Kings trailed by just a single possession after the opening quarter before they came apart in the second period, where they got outscored by 25 points as they entered the break trailing 28-55.
Some of the Ginebra veterans were also nowhere to be found, with PBA MVP Scottie Thompson finishing with just 1 point and 10 rebounds. (READ: Ginebra star Scottie Thompson struggles in debut of new jersey number)
Even Justin Brownlee, the Gin Kings’ resident import, struggled despite putting up 20 points, 16 rebounds, and 5 assists as he shot 7-of-25 from the field and tallied only 4 points in the first half.
“It’s concerning, certainly. Certainly concerning,” Cone said. “We just got to be careful that we don’t live off our reputations. For me as a coach and my reputation, our veterans, our import, we can’t live off our reputations.”
Cone, however, knows there is ample time to fine-tune their performance as Ginebra shoots for its fourth championship in six conferences.
“It’s not panic time obviously, it’s only the first game. We truly believe we’ll be there in the end,” said the veteran mentor. “If you judge us by one game, we’re an absolutely bad team and you’re only good as your last game.”
“Right now, we’re a bad team. We have to own that, we have to understand that, and turn it around.”
A bright spot for Cone, though, is the promising play of Malonzo, who put up 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists, and 1 steal in his first game since he got traded from NorthPort.
“I love the way Jamie played. Jamie was awesome. He was all over the court, exactly how we envisioned him to play. Just that we didn’t get everybody else pulled in the same direction.”
“Our veterans got to step up, no doubt about it. Justin knows he got to play better,” Cone added. “Definitely got to step it up, me, most of all.” – Rappler.com