MANILA, Philippines -- Reigning All-Filipino champions Barangay Ginebra will have to deal with even bigger expectations in the coming season of the PBA, after an offseason that saw them add former top overall pick Christian Standhardinger to their already talented lineup.
The Gin Kings, who defeated TNT Tropang GIGA in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, shipped Greg Slaughter to NorthPort in a one-for-one trade that saw the two big men swap teams.
With the blockbuster deal, Ginebra kept in step with other contenders. The past few months have seen great movement in the PBA, with CJ Perez going to San Miguel Beer, while Calvin Abueva was traded to Magnolia. Phoenix Super LPG, after a breakthrough campaign last conference, added Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero.
Yet the addition of the 31-year-old Standhardinger, a former Best Player of the Conference, ensures that Ginebra will still be among the favorites -- perhaps even the frontrunner -- when the new PBA season tips off.
"I think the expectations are gonna go even higher for us," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said wryly in a recent interview.
"We've won a couple of conferences in a row, and you know, I mean, fans get used to the winning," he added. "The more they win, the more they hunger for the win and the higher the expectations."
Dealing with the expectations -- from fans, from management, and from themselves -- will be crucial for Barangay Ginebra. Cone is the first to emphasize that the coming season is "not a walk in the park."
He points out that even as they beefed up their roster, other teams have also improved. "You gotta remember -- there's a lot of good teams out there," said Cone, naming San Miguel and Magnolia as two of the teams that added talent.
Moreover, Cone stressed that there is no certainty that what looks good on paper will work out on the court.
"People are gonna look at it and say, 'Well, we got Christian.' You know, on paper we're gonna look good, but you gotta do it on the floor," he said. "That's the danger that happens."
"Yeah, on paper, we should be competing for that championship. But again, on paper and getting out on the floor is two hugely different things, and so that's gonna be our challenge," he added.
Even with the opening of the season still at least a month away, Cone has already discussed with his team the importance of managing their expectations. He expects them to be a work in progress, especially as they integrate Standhardinger into their system and into their culture.
"It's just gonna be about doing the work day to day. Do the work, day to day, and let whatever happens, happen. If it's a championship, it's a championship," said Cone. "Whatever happens, we'll continue to move forward."
The PBA is hoping to open its 46th season in April, though the date is likely to be pushed back as COVID-19 cases spike in the country.
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