As the Philippine Basketball Association prepares to open its 38th season with the Philippine Cup on September 30, let’s take a look at how the 10 PBA teams have retooled and reshaped their rosters for 2012-2013.
With three different champions taking each of the tournaments from last season, competitive balance seems to have returned to the league, thus earning greater public interest once again.
GlobalPort: The new kids
Taking over from the disbanded Powerade Tigers, team owner Mikee Romero finally fulfills his dream of owning a PBA franchise with GlobalPort. Romero hired veteran shooting guard and former FEU coach Glenn Capacio to lead his team, dubbed the “Batang Pier,” and shaped his roster around the fiery hands of Gary David.
Teaming David with two-time MVP Willie Miller and incoming rookie Vic “The Muscle” Manuel, GlobalPort hopes to repeat a feat done by only one team in PBA history: win a championship in its first year like Coca-Cola did.
Ironically, GlobalPort is taking over from the Coca-Cola/Powerade franchise. Not much is expected from the Batang Pier, but Romero is a competitive owner who is used to winning championships from the days of the defunct Philippine Basketball League.
Air21: Molding the Ube Squad
Another disappointing season left Air 21 Coach Franz Pumaren looking for big men to complement his shooters. Ren-ren Ritualo isn’t the gunner he once was, but his coach hopes that by acquiring the services of Noy Baclao, KG Cañaleta, and Rob Reyes, the Express can have the inside presence that was sorely missing last season.
Pumaren also got John Wilson from Ginebra and drafted former Mapua swingman Yousef Taha and La Salle guard Simon Atkins in hopes of adding to the team’s bench depth.
Now entering his third season as a PBA coach, the pressure is mounting on Pumaren to deliver like he did when he led La Salle to numerous titles in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
Barako Bull: Guards a-plenty
Coach Junel Baculi recognized many weaknesses in his Barako Bull Energy team, particularly at the point guard spot. To remedy this, the Energy ended up drafting former Adamson Falcon Lester Alvarez along with former Ateneo Blue Eagle Emman Monfort in the first round of the 2012 Rookie Draft.
By trading away Willie Miller in exchange for Rico Villanueva (who started his career with the old Red Bull team), Barako Bull lost some offensive explosiveness. In addition to the point guards, Barako drafted former San Beda Red Lion Dave Marcelo and traded for Sean Anthony.
These moves, it would seem, have Baculi’s team transforming from a run-and-gun squad to a more defensive-oriented team. As former B-Meg Llamado Roger Yap returns to the PBA via Barako Bull, he will probably be tasked by Baculi to provide stability at the point while helping mold the rookies for the team’s future.
Alaska: Recalibrated triangle
Now that he enters his first full season as Alaska head coach, Luigi Trillo is faced with different challenges. Since taking over from Joel Banal, Trillo re-instituted the Triangle Offense but the Aces faltered badly during the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
Still, most remained optimistic for the 2012-2013 season, predicated on the play of Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio. That all changed when Tenorio was traded to Barangay Ginebra in August. With “the face of the franchise” gone, questions now linger on how the Aces can achieve any success even as PBA fans still question how Alaska could give Tenorio away.
Yet when one looks at Alaska, one can’t help but feel that if Trillo plays his cards right, good things may happen. As part of the Tenorio deal, young JVee Casio and veteran Dondon Hontiveros have come over. With the No. 2 pick in the draft, Alaska drafted triple-double machine Calvin “The Beast” Abueva to ease the load off Sonny Thoss, Mac Baracael and Cyrus Baguio.
On paper, Alaska’s roster is as competitive as any of the PBA’s giants. All that remains now is for the young Trillo to translate that into wins.
Meralco: Will lightning strike?
The days of Asi Taulava in the PBA have seemingly come to an end. After more than a decade in the middle, Taulava is bringing his talents to San Miguel’s team in the Asian Basketball League, creating a giant hole in the Meralco Bolts’ lineup.
The explosive duo of Mac Cardona and Sol Mercado will once again have to prove that they can indeed co-exist under Coach Ryan Gregorio. Jay-R Reyes is now the lone true center in the roster while the No. 4 pick in the draft was used on 6-foot-5 forward Cliff Hodge.
Hodge shone for Smart-Gilas in international competition so expectations are high that he can be as effective in the PBA.
Reynel Hugnatan, Mark Borboran, Sunday Salvacion and recently acquired Ronjay Buenafe backstop a talented bench for the B-Boys.
Gregorio has won championships with a stocked roster in the past, but he hasn’t won anything since being apart from James Yap and moving on to one of the two Manny Pangilinan-owned teams.
(To be continued)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.