The more things change the more they stay the same.
Barangay Ginebra and the Meralco Bolts battle in their third championship duel in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup tomorrow, January 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial says while the champion remains to be decided the clear winners are already the basketball fans.
“Dalawang grand slam coaches (Ginebra’s Time Cone and Meralco’s Norman Black) ang magkikita. Ang kagandahan sa series na ito pag umabot ito ng Game 6 or Game 7, alam ko na sinong panalo dito: ang fans. Makikita nila yung pagka-gilas ng players, yung paggawa ng game plans ng mga coaches, pagpalit ng strategies ng coaches. Ito yung isa sa dream matchup ng PBA finals, Ginebra at Meralco,” Marcial said.
While Ginebra and Meralco are battling it out for the third time in four years both teams have made significant additions to their rosters.
The Bolts acquired Raymond Almazan from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and Allein Maliksi from the Blackwater Elite while Ginebra added Stanley Pringle from NorthPort Batang Pier, Art Dela Cruz from Blackwater and Jared Dillinger.
Maliksi adds firepower, maturity and a closer who can be relied upon to score when needed at crunch time. Almazan finally gives the Bolts what they’ve lacked all these years: a legitimate center.
Additionally, the Bolts have made significant strides with the improved play of their guards including Baser Amer, Chris Newsome and John Pinto. And then there’s nearly superhuman import Allen Durham.
The Bolts didn’t sit idly either. They added PBA scoring champion Pringle and hard-nosed defenders Dela Cruz and Dillinger. They team up beautifully with high-scoring import Justine Brownlee.
“It’s been written a lot that they’ve increased their size with Almazan and Allein adds to their depth in the shooting guard position. But we’ve picked up some guys. We got Stanley and Jared. And Art wasn’t with us in the first two series. We’re a little different as well,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“Norman’s system hasn’t changed that much, and my system hasn’t changed that much too. We’re comfortable with each other and I know what he likes to do and he knows what I like to do.”
The Bolts claim to be the underdogs, which is hard to dispute. They are 0-2 in championship playoffs against Ginebra and are playing in their 27th conference in the PBA without having won a single title.
“I think Meralco is really the underdog. We met Ginebra twice and we lost twice so we haven’t really been a rival to them because the only way you become rivals is if you win a championship against them. That’s still something that we have not done and we’ll try our best this time to do it,” said Meralco representative to the PBA Board Al Panlilio.