As the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) prepares to open its 38th season with the Philippine Cup on Sunday, 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.
Ginebra: Crowns for the Kings?
As if being the most popular team in the land was not enough, the Barangay Ginebra Kings added firepower to their roster by trading for 2012 Jones Cup MVP LA Tenorio. With “The Lieutenant” taking the starting point guard spot, former MVP Jay-jay Helterbrand welcomes the transition to the bench as he nears retirement.
Reigning league MVP Mark Caguioa will once again be expected to shoulder the load for Coach Siot Tanquincen’s quintet, but he won’t be alone anymore. Rookie Chris Ellis will provide additional inside punch to Kerby Raymundo and Rudy Hatfield as Ginebra hopes to win its first PBA title since the 2008 Fiesta Conference.
Petron: Kraken-powered Boosters
Release the Kraken! At 6-foot-10 and wide as a bus, June Mar Fajardo has been compared to the mythic beast from "Clash of the Titans." What remains to be seen, however, is if the former University of Cebu and San Miguel Beer (ABL) center can turn into a monster in the big leagues for Petron.
Newly installed coach Olsen Racela didn’t have a lot of time to get acclimated to the Blaze Boosters’ roster, but the cerebral former player is still expected to bring the jewel of the San Miguel Corporation back into championship contention.
With stalwarts Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Danny Ildefonso, Jay Washington and Joseph Yeo in tow, and with a healthy Marcio Lassiter finally ready to don the Petron colors with Chris Lutz, the 19-time champions will be a tough out for any opponent.
San Mig Coffee Mixers: New name, same old Triangle
Coach Tim Cone knows what works for him. In 22 seasons as coach of Alaska and one for B-Meg, he followed the tenets of Tex Winter’s Triangle Offense so precisely that it’s been said that Cone runs the Triangle even better than 11-time NBA Champion Phil Jackson.
Rebranded into the San Mig Coffee Mixers, Cone’s squad will still run the Triangle and the brunt of the scoring will come from James Yap.
The return of both JC Intal and Joe Devance adds options to the Triangle even as Marc Pingris, Rafi Reavis and rookie Aldrech Ramos take care of rebounding and defense.
In his first year with the franchise, Cone brought home the Commissioner’s Cup and came tantalizingly close to the Governors’ Cup title in Game Seven. Even with new colors and a name change, few expect San Mig Coffee to be out of the championship mix.
Rain or Shine: Finally, champions
They were supposed to just be glad to make it to the Governors’ Cup Finals. This team of castaways and low draft picks weren’t supposed to win a title. Yet when the smoke had cleared, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters emerged with their first PBA championship and Yeng Guiao was a champion coach once more.
Entering this 38th PBA season, Guiao’s team looks mostly similar to the title-winning team, but with one crucial addition: Chris Tiu. The former Ateneo and Smart Gilas captain will be counted on to both bring new fans to the team but also to help alleviate the absence of Paul Lee (still recuperating from his shoulder injury suffered in the Finals).
Finals MVP Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood are fresh off stints for Smart Gilas at the FIBA-Asia Championships, only adding to their confidence in the process.
Now playing without Governors’ Cup Best Import Jamelle Cornley, the fiery Guiao won’t be satisfied with just one title for the franchise now that he’s tasted championship gold.
Talk 'N Text: That Ol’ Black Magic returns
Chot Reyes is gone. Winning multiple titles with Tropang Texters, Reyes has moved on to lead the Smart Gilas team in international competitions. In his stead, the PBA’s first “Mister 100%,” a man who has won titles both in the PBA and in the local collegiate ranks with Ateneo, Norman Black.
For all of Black’s accolades, however, at the end of the day, it will still be the players that will determine if Talk ‘N Text can defend their Philippine Cup title.
A loaded roster of Jimmy Alapag, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams, Jared Dillinger, Ali Peek, and Ryan Reyes means one of Manny Pangilinan’s two PBA teams is still dangerous on paper.
The 2011-2012 season got them only one title in Reyes’ swansong so the Tropang Texters will probably want to welcome Black with a title as he returns to the professional league.
Read Part 1 of our PBA Season 38 primer here.