Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone has already been talking about the PBA Philippine Cup as their next target, barely less than 48 hours after the Gin Kings’ triumph in the Governors’ Cup.
And the Gin Kings seemed more determined more than ever this time, considering the prestigious All-Filipino conference is still a good two months away.
“We are certainly going to go for it,” said Cone following the Gin Kings’ title-clinching 105-93 win Friday before a capacity crowd at the Mall Asia Arena.
The Philippine Cup—the crown jewel in every PBA season—is presumably the toughest to win among the three crowns as the two other conferences—Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup—are both import-laced.
However, the Gin Kings have handsome chances of winning the next Philippine Cup since their lineup has become more formidable following the acquisition of Stanley Pringle.
Add to that the fact that the Gin Kings’ earlier acquisitions have been doing pretty fine and contributed to the team’s cause in the just-concluded series.
“We feel like we have the tools,” said Cone, his voice interrupted several times by the wild celebration that followed Ginebra’s win.
And Cone was quick to make mention of Pringle, as well as Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter, and even Scottie Thompson, who, the league’s most accomplished bench tactician believed was worthy of being named co-finals’ most valuable player.
For Cone, the sweet-shooting Pringle, whom Ginebra acquired from NorthPort in a previous trade, would be the team’s ‘anchor’ while both Aguilar and Slaughter will have to make their presence felt in the absence of imports.
“Stanley’s there as an anchor for the team. Japeth [Aguilar] and Greg [Slaughter], they kind of take a step back usually when the imports come but it’s their time to step forward,” stressed Cone.
“I think we will have exciting rookies that are coming to the team and I think we will be a more complete all-Filipino team,” added Cone.
What makes Cone all the more optimistic about the All-Filipino diadem is they have more time to prepare and do experiments during the break in anticipation of the great challenges his Gin Kings stand to get in the kick-off conference.
The Philippine Cup, for one, is an opportune time for the rest of the teams to launch revenge and make up for lost opportunities in the season that has just passed.
“We are going to have a substantial break so we will be able to recharge our batteries and get keyed up for the all-Filipino,” said Cone.
The Gin Kings had won the Philippine Cup three times already, but they have never won again since a team handled by Jong Uichico defeated San Miguel Beer in six games during the 20016-2007 season.
Cone, however, maintained that winning the Philippine Cup won’t be an easy task, more so since other teams, including San Miguel, Alaska, Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine, are armed with great motivations in the All-Filipino, which will start on March 1.
First of all, the Beermen are eyeing a sixth straight conference title, and Cone is well convinced other teams have also improved to become tough contenders.
“There is still June Mar [Fajardo] and San Miguel, Talk ‘N Text and their ability to beat you up and down the court from the perimeter, NLEX is coming in,” said Cone.
“So many teams getting better. NorthPort with Standhardinger and Anthony over there. I’m not sure when Bolick is going to come back but he will make an impact in that team. CJ Perez is around the league, rookies coming in, everybody is going to be better,” said Cone.
“We know it’s going to be tough. There’s going to be a lot of other teams that have something to say about it but we are going for it,” said Cone.
Cone is hoping the recent conquest of the Governors’ Cup will boost the team come the Philippine Cup.
“We hope that we can use this conference to gain momentum into the all-Filipino,” said Cone, who added another gem in his collection with his victory in the Governors’ Cup.
He now has 22 championships, although he did it in three teams. It’s interesting to note however that of the 22, he had only four All Filipino crowns to speak of—three with the Alaska Aces he first handled in his storied career, and one with the SanMig Coffee during the team’s Grand Slam year in 2014.