What is bugging Barangay Ginebra?

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Barangay Ginebra is undeniably the most popular ball club in the PBA, the owner of the “Never Say Die” mantra, and presumably the most star-studded team in the PBA today. However, seven years have already passed since their last title conquest. To borrow Bugs Bunny’s line, what up, Doc?

Millions of their fans were ecstatic at the start of the Commissioner’s Cup as Ginebra signed Michael Dunigan, the import who made a monster production in his first season in the PBA with the Air21 Express averaging 23.9 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 2.4 blocks.  Unfortunately, the people’s champ went to loss their first two match-ups and if they do not turn it around quickly, they might be looking forward to the next conference.

Ginebra have tried everything in the last seven years trying to win the championship. They have done a lot of trades, made a lot of coach changes and even change their team name. These alterations, however, failed to land them the PBA championship. Let us take a closer look at the probable reasons why they cannot succeed in winning a crown.

  1. Their fans

They are called the sixth man of the Kings, they are the ones that will rally the team when they are down and they are really worthy during a game. But they are not helping in any other aspect. The fire that they give during a game is equal to the pressure that they bring to their players outside the court. With social media being rampant now a days, they can easily send their message to the Ginebra ball club and unfortunately a lot of them are expecting too much. This weight of expectation is not being handled well by a lot of Ginebra players and the Ginebra Management today. They succumb to the expectation of the fans and instead of focusing on winning the game. They aim on producing numbers that the fans expect to see over their aspirations on building a championship team the right way.

  1. Lot of trades; no chemistry build-up

They are one of the most active traders in the last few years. According to the Gins management, they are trying to find the right mix to win a championship. Unfortunately, the current trend of championships in the PBA and NBA does not support this thinking. Last season’s grand slam champion San Mig Coffee Mixers is a team build through chemistry and not through trades. The core of the Mixers: James Yap, PJ Simon, Marc Barroca, Joe Devance and Mark Pingris, remained together for a few years until they reached success last year. The success of the defending NBA champions San Antonio Spurs is well-known because of their more than a decade old Big Three. Ginebra may have a 14-deep team but unless they begin to stop these flurry of trades and start building chemistry, one should not expect them to win a crown in the near future.

  1. Quick turnover of Coaches, devoid of a uniform team system

Here is a quick look at who head-coached the Gins for the past few years. Start of 2011 season: Jong Uichico and Siot Tanquingcen. January, 2012: Uichico resigns, Tanquingcen becomes solo head coach. January, 2013: Alfrancis Chua was elevated head coach, Tanquingcen slides to assistant coach. July, 2013: Chua resigns, Renato Agustin takes over the coaching job. August, 2014, Jeffrey Cariaso takes over the head coaching job, implements hard-to-learn triangle offense. January, 2015, after only two conferences, Agustin is hired back as head coach, Cariaso is totally gone. That is six different sets of head coaches in four years. It would be difficult for players, even with those who have excellent basketball IQ, to memorize and be acclimatized with the team system given the short duration of time.

  1. Failure to capitalize on unique talent and size

One noticeable figure in the line-up among Americans would be Japeth Aguilar. He was known for attending US NCAA, Division 1 school Western Kentucky University. He was also the first Filipino born and raised in the Philippines ever to be invited to work out with an NBA team in 2012, not so long ago. It was the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) who accommodated him for a two-day work-out although he was ultimately deemed not yet ready for the NBA. He was eventually drafted by the NBA D-League’s Santa Cruz Warriors, an affiliate of the Golden State Warriors. He was the last cut in Santa Cruz’ final line-up. He was also instrumental in Team Gilas Pilipinas’ ascend in last year’s World Cup. He has plenty of credentials to take the lead position for the Gins. Somehow, this was denied from him. He is 6’9” with a respectable medium to outside shot, can slash to the basket and finish with impunity, and more importantly, has enough speed and agility to play the small forward.

This talent had been wasted in the Ginebra line-up. He is the perfect guy for Ginebra’s small forward slot but the Gins could not or choose not to capitalize on his trait. The Gins never even tried experimenting on it. One can recall how oversized men for their position worked well for a team. Danny Siegle for the Beermen, Jared Dillenger for the Texters, Gabe Norwood for Team Gilas Pilipinas, Magic Johnson for the Lakers, Lebron James for his early day Cavs and Carmelo Anthony for his Nuggets. No matter how the game has evolved, Aguilar can and should play the small forward because he can present a mismatch in favor of the Gins and would not be too much of a liability on the defensive side.  If Robert jaworski was still coaching the Gins, Aguilar would be the Gins main man at the three, and could even be the “MAN” for Ginebra.

  1. No team go-to guy when the going gets tough.

Successful teams always assign guys to take shot whenever the team needs a basket. Michael Jordan for the Bulls, Larry Bird for the Celtics, Lebron for the Heat, Bryant for the Lakers. Jason Kidd had to state to the media his choice of Joe Johnson over Paul Pierce for role in behalf of  the Nets last year. In the PBA, there was Alvin Patrimonio and James Yap for different eras of Purefoods, Atoy Co during the Crispa days, Ricky Brown for Great Taste, Allan Caidic for Presto. The list could go on forever. Even Tim Cone who utilizes the teamwork and spacing filled triangle offense has one of this. It was very clear that Jojo Lastimosa at Alaska and James Yap at B-Meg/Purefoods has this role under Cone’s watch.

In Ginebra’s past years with Jaworski, the Big J always designates his hitman. Everybody knows who will get the ball at crunch time, be it Billy Ray Bates, Michael Hackett, Carlos Briggs, Dondon Amplalayo, Rudy Distrito, Vince Hizon, Bal David or even himself. It is up to the main guy how to create the point which translates to failure or success. Ginebra does not do this now. It used to be The Spark. Now, it is unknown. And it is affecting the confidence of worthy Gins to take the supposed responsibility of carrying the team on his back. Agustin should make this clear. He should select who takes the clutch shot and designate him to take upon the role. The Gins should learn one thing from their nemesis, Jolas. Having a Fourth Quarter Man does not hurt the team.

No one knows when will Ginebra will win their next crown but they can only do this if they brought or build their players to stand the expectations and pressure of the fans, implement a suitable team system preferably with go-to guy/s and start building chemistry.

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