MANILA, Philippines - Going into the homestretch of the PBA Commissioner's Cup, it is noteworthy to see that the steady backcourt of the teams vying for the first two semi-final slots have been keys to their success.
Sans Smart Gilas which has gained success through a dominating big man in Marcus Douthit as well as discipline and teamwork, Alaska, Talk 'N Text and even the Barangay Ginebra Kings have been successful thanks to their backcourt duos.
For Alaska, there is no question that LA Tenorio has been the surprise package and his consistent play dating back to the previous PBA conference has done wonders for the Aces. Paired with the electrifying Cyrus Baguio, the tandem is simply giving the opposing PBA squads a headache.
The Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters are living up to their billing as one of the favorites this conference, thanks mainly to the masterful hands of coach Chot Reyes and their loaded lineup. Spearheading their cause are guards Jimmy Alapag, Jason Castro and Ryan Reyes who are chiefly responsible for their no nonsense offense and vaunting fastbreak attacks.
Barangay Ginebra has so far had alternate support, led by main man Mark Caguioa who gets ample support from Ronald Tubid, and Willie Miller. Emphasizing on defense to ignite the dangerous Ginebra fastbreak has been key, something that has done wonders for coach Jong Uichico and a perfect fit for their import Nate Brumfield.
As for the other teams, Rain or Shine has suddenly gone cold, losing three games in a row prior to a hot 3-0 start. Their last loss came at the hands of the re-tooled Air21 Express squad.
For the three teams toting a similar 2-4 card, it is a period of adjustment for them due to the loss of players and new blood coming from trades which have so far failed to create a positive impact especially with a short conference that will see the bottom four teams taking an early vacation.
And at the end, we see two teams who are in unfamiliar territory. The Meralco Bolts have been having a tough time despite the entry of Solomon Mercado to their fold while the Beermen are experiencing the raw end of the celebrated PBA trade which made them the third youngest squad in the league today.
Then there is of course the import factor. Only Alaska, Barangay Ginebra, Rain or Shine and Talk 'N Text have so far stuck to their original imports. While none of the reinforcements have really been dominating thus far, the key has been the steady and outstanding play of the PBA local players.
Among the PBA imports, LD Williams of Alaska, Nate Brumfield of Barangay Ginebra, Hassan Adams of Rain or Shine and Paul Harris of TnT have managed to stay afloat. Of the four however, it seems that Brumfield has been the steady reinforcement of the pack. Though his impact may not be among the likes of Billy Ray Bates, Tony "The Hurricane" Harris and Gabe Freeman, he does get the job done for the kings.
For the Smart Gilas team, they can be summed up as a team with discipline, system and teamwork. Marcus Douthit has been making a difference but the unexpected explosion of homegrown talent like Chris Tiu, Andy Barroca, JV Casio, Aldrech Ramos and Mac Barachael have made the national team pretty much unpredictable.
With the remaining PBA schedule, it seems likely that Smart Gilas will nab the first outright semifinal slot. The second one is a toss-up between the Tropang Texters, the Alaska Aces and the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
As for the four teams that may find themselves taking an early vacation, the bottom of the standings says it all with San Miguel being the unlikely first one to be booted out unless something crazy happens like the other teams losing most, if not all their games, and they in turn start winning.
With tomorrow's matchup between the Meralco Bolts and the Powerade Tigers, the second casualty may most likely be known.
It looks like this is going to be one wild and wooly finish for the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
NOTES: Barako Bull has relayed to the PBA office they are not coming back for the third conference due to financial issues. Further, this could pave the way for the entry of Phoenix Fuel if the PBA board approves the franchise sale of Barako Bull.....A keynote to this potential transaction is the fact that San Miguel has gotten the nod of the PBA to change its name to Petron. This stands as a stumbling block to allow the entry of Phoenix Fuel since the PBA does not allow a business competitor to enter in a co-branding deal with the PBA.....San Miguel Beer David Young may be replaced by a new import in former Sacramento State and the New Orleans Hornets player Jason Davis...Unless RoS import Hassan Adams steps up his game, he may be the next PBA import casualty as per coach Yeng Guiao..... Strangely after publishing that special article for Paul Artadi, Kid Lightning gets that much needed exposure when he helped the Air21 team slip past the RoS team last Sunday.....Rumors are once again flying that another trade is in the works but it may push through after the current PBA conference.