The playoff atmosphere inside the PBA Bubble is now beginning to shape up and the way things appear, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings are looking like every bit of a championship contender. They are sitting on top of the standings as they ended the elimination round campaign with an 8-3 win-loss record.
They will move to the next round carrying a twice-to-beat advantage against the No.8 seed team, which has yet to be determined as of press time.
Coming into the PBA Bubble, the Gin Kings were considered as among the favorites.
In a tournament that allows limited preparation time for all the teams competing, the squad which has an intact line up and the more talented ones, will definitely have the edge. The Gin Kings, who can go as deep as the 10th man in their roster, have that luxury.
Despite missing the services of seven-foot slotman Greg Slaughter, the Gin Kings remained formidable with Japeth Aguilar now manning the center spot, joined in by either Prince Caperal or the vastly improved Aljon Mariano up front.
Scottie Thompson’s athleticism and versatility makes him the right choice to either play the small forward position or the big guard.
LA Tenorio, the veteran guard who kept his string of consecutive games played, will have a chance of prolonging his streak when the Gin Kings play in the playoffs. Six hundred fifty two games (652) and counting and it seems the former Ateneo stalwart has no plans of slowing down, especially now that his presence is more needed. The veteran guard came in not in his best condition, but played better and better as the games progressed.
Of course, no other Gin King is playing better than Stanley Pringle. The prolific guard can wreck havoc on any defender with his slashing drives to the basket and hurt them with his pull up jumpers. His ability to rise to the occasion during big-time moments had certainly made him as probably the best one-on-one player in the league today.
Pringle is among the the top five best scorers in the tournament, averaging 18.73 points, 6.36 rebounds and 3.18 assists per game. If the Gin Kings will make it all the way, it won’t be surprising to see the Fil-foreign player coming away with the season MVP and become the first winner of the coveted individual plum after six seasons.
June Mar Fajardo, the reigning six-time MVP, was sidelined by a fractured tibia and would only see a new MVP to be crowned this season.
It’s too early to tell whether there will be new kings of the Philippine Cup. The San Miguel Beermen, the reigning five-peat All-Filipino champions are very much in contention and in fact one of only few teams to beat the Gin Kings in the elimination round.
But it seems the Gin Kings are in a much better position than the banged up and ageing Beermen, who lost not just Fajardo, but also explosive guard Terrence Romeo.
The playoffs are about to start and following Rain or Shine’s latest win over TNT on Tuesday night, the cast has already been completed with the final placings to be determined on Wednesday.
One thing is for sure, the Gin Kings will definitely make a serious run for the crown and there’s no better coach capable of doing it than the winningest coach in PBA history—Tim Cone, the only coach to win two grand slams and 22 titles.
Barangay Ginebra is surely missing the crowd in attendance, but the league’s most popular team sure knows they got the support of more than 100,000 virtual fans who logged in and supported them in those games. They’ve been cheered virtually, but the Gin Kings know they are loved and adored no matter what.
These fans expect nothing but for Ginebra to make them feel proud and see the return of the Gin Kings back on their throne.