Having Justin Brownlee playing in an import-laden conference that features bigger reinforcements isn't new for Barangay Ginebra.
So when two-time grand slam coach Tim Cone was asked who'll be his import for the coming Commissioner's Cup, his answer was up front.
"It's a no-brainer. We're bringing back Justin Brownlee," said Cone on plans of recalling his long-time reinforcement in a tournament that features imports not taller than 6-foot-10.
A five-time PBA champion, Brownlee played in both conferences of the Commissioner's and Governors' Cup four years ago.
He was able to lead the Gin Kings in beating the San Miguel Beermen in six games of their championship series in the Commissioner's Cup, but failed on his bid of completing a three-peat in the Governors' Cup when Ginebra lost to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in four games of their best-of-five semifinals series.
But his last two stints with Barangay Ginebra turned out to be successful. In the 2019 Governors' Cup, he was able to inspire the Gin Kings to a five-game series win over the Meralco Bolts and when the tournament returned two years later, he backstopped his team's continued dominance against their favorite victims.
Brownlee is the second winningest import ever to play in the PBA, next to Sean Chambers, who also won all those six championships playing under Cone.
It didn't come as a surprise that Cone is following the same path of betting all in on Brownlee, much like what he did with Chambers.
In 1996, Chambers had to play for two conferences with Cone, then head coach of Alaska, and led the Milkmen to winning those two championships in the import-laden conferences on their way to capturing a grand slam.
"It's the same with Sean Chambers. The decision to bring Justin is not just because of Brownlee's talent, but more because he's a great chemistry guy. His teammates love him, the fans love him and I've never seen an import who is extremely motivated to win every tournament than Justin," added Cone.
About a month ago, Cone had an opportunity of a lifetime being invited to become a member of the Miami Heat coaching staff for the NBA Summer League.
Right there and then, Cone had a bird's-eye view on potential PBA imports, who are bigger, stronger and probably more talented, but the winningest coach in PBA history was already decided on recalling Brownlee.
"Of course, it's natural that you can see players playing in the Summer League and say that 'these players are potential PBA imports', but you also have to understand that these good players are probably locked in to play for NBA teams or probably in Europe," said Cone.
"But the decision to bring back Justin, more than his skill-set and his capabilities to play against bigger imports, was because of his familiarity with the system and the attitude he brings to the team. He's a proven winner. No doubt, we're bringing him back."
Cone's decision to stick with Brownlee, who stands below 6-foot-5, was also a tribute to the trust he is giving to his big local players -- Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar.
At 6-foot-7, Cone believes Standhardinger is the best local big man defender.
"To my mind, Christian Standhardinger is the best local big man defender in the PBA," said Cone. "We've seen that on how he defends June Mar Fajardo."
"Japeth, on the other hand, is our best rim protector. With those two players playing side by side, you have a Standhardinger who is the best on-ball defender among our big men and Japeth as our best off-ball defender."