This appears on pba.inquirer.net
40 Part 1
by rick olivares
Here are 40 storylines I am looking forward to follow this 40th season of the PBA:
1. Seeing San Mig Super Coffee defend their Grand Slam. They played it cagey throughout the past campaign and deceptively snuck in as a lower seed. They peaked at the right time and what was allegedly an old team that was beefed up with young talent took it to some really good teams to make league history.
2. Barangay Ginebra supposedly reloaded and they looked to be the hot team by the end of the Philippine Cup. But they collapsed like a deck of cards and there were questions about some players’ heart. Personally, I think they have a very good line-up. The bigger question is the stability in its coaching ranks.
3. How will Manny Pacquiao fare with KIA? People say that he is nothing more than window dressing when it comes to his team – that he isn’t the true brains in the coaching staff and that he can’t even beat a high school varsity player. A pre-season performance has brought out the boo birds. Will the boxing champ suffer a knockout in his first major basketball endeavor? Or will he prove the naysayers wrong?
4. There are three new ballclubs in KIA and Blackwater and NLEX although the latter is taking over the now defunct Air21 franchise that eventually died an ugly death. Will they be the league’s new whipping boys? Or will one of them despite its lineup of discards become the Bad News Bears of Philippine pro basketball?
5. Unlike their NBA cousins where after a few years you know if their championship window has closed, in the PBA, a season is divided into three conferences, there is time for teams to reload. An import like Arizona Reid can lift a team. However, you have to wonder for Rain or Shine after losing their last three finals appearances if that lineup has something to offer. But Yeng Guiao has always squeezed the last bit of talent out of his squads. If they can hurdle San Mig Coffee and Talk ‘N Text that seem to have their number in crucial matches then they might have a chance to lift a third trophy in the Guiao era.
6. The opening at the Philippine Arena. Will set records for the most viewed Philippine sports spectacle if filled up. The PBA will show the way for other sports like volleyball or football that have become huge spectator sports in the country.
7. The Alaska Aces responded well when Alex Compton took over the coaching reigns late last season. How far will they go with the Calvin Abueva experiment? He looked to be the Golden Boy two years ago when he led the Aces to their 14th title. But last year, management was clearly irked with his on-court displays that possibly cost them some matches. The shift to JVee Casio as its poster boy has been a subtle shift in direction that the Bad Boy hoops they played last year is probably not to the liking of Fred Uytengsu and company. If they crash and burn this year look to Abueva getting traded.
8. GlobalPort Batang Pier showed signs of breaking out of its doldrums last season with some fresh talent. Will the acquisition of the number one overall pick in Stanley Pringle galvanize this team? Can Pido Jarencio take this team to the next level? I guess he is finding out that the rah rah style in college doesn’t work in the pros. But Jarencio has proven to be a coach who can adapt and has surely grown in his chops over the last several years. Their Philippine Cup campaign will set the tone for the year.
9. Can Norman Black weave his magic with the perennially underachieving Meralco Bolts? No team has seen more players move in and out of a PBA jersey in the last four years than Meralco. They have been a midcard team since forever. They’d like to make not only a vault up the ladder but make it a more regular occurrence and really go deep.
10. What can Leo Austria do with the San Miguel Beermen? I am sure that he knows that he just landed in the hotseat. The rigodon on coaches has to play with coaches who know they do not have the benefit of time because every conference is a must-win for them. This used to be the plum coaching job in the country. Now? Am not so sure.