THE Philippine Basketball Association teams parade some of the best imports to play in the league this coming 2017 Governors’ Cup
With apologies to the Grand Slam-seeking San Miguel Beermen, defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel should be considered title favorites, in this conference with a height limit of 6’5” for imports, especially with returning import Justin Brownlee leading the charge.
Brownlee propelled the Gin Kings to their first championship in eight years when he scored the game-winning three-pointer to push his team to a 91-88 victory during Game 6 of the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals October 19 last year.
With the scored tied at 88-all and with 5.5 seconds to go Brownlee dribbled the ball at the top of the keyhole to gain rhythm then unloaded the winning triple which brought Ginebra its ninth championship in franchise history.
Brownlee is fully acclimatized having played for Ginebra in the Commissioner’s Cup, which featured imports with a height limit of 6’9”. The Gin Kings played well enough to advance to the Semifinals where they lost to TNT KaTropa.
The Alaska Aces on the other hand brought back silky smooth shooter Buck Henton as import.
Henton has unfinished business and wants to help the Aces get back to the playoffs this conference. The sharp-shooting Alaska reinforcement led the Aces to the quarterfinals in the 2016 PBA Governors Cup.
He led the team to a 6-win, 5-loss record after the elimination round which propelled the team to a tie with the Meralco Bolts and the Mahindra Enforcer at fourth to sixth place.
Mired at tenth place and holding a 2-win, 5-loss record, the Aces faced outright elimination at the halfway mark of the conference. Henton led them to four consecutive wins to advance to the Quarterfinals of the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Aces faced Ginebra in the quarterfinals burdened with a twice-to-win handicap.
The Aces displayed their usual never-quit attitude by overhauling what seemed like an insurmountable lead but could not convert at crunch time to lose to Ginebra, 104-109, and bowed out of the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup.
Henton averaged 31.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.3 blocks for the Aces. After his stint in the PBA Henton played in the NBA D-League for the Santa Cruz Warriors where he averaged 13.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
The Aces returned Henton hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup where they missed the playoffs.
The Phoenix Petroleum Fuel return scoring machine Eugene Phelps. The prolific Phelps joined the Fuel Masters as early as the past conference.
Despite facing a Blackwater’s 6’9” import Phelps exploded for 53 points and grabbed 21 rebounds to lead Phoenix to a 118-116 double-overtime victory over Blackwater last March 18 during the Commissioner’s Cup.
Phelps should have stayed to complete the conference but he had to fulfill contractual obligations to play in Puerto Rico. He was so loyal to Phoenix that he hopped in a plane, flew to the Philippines and played one game with the Fuel Masters coming directly from the Taipei league.
The Meralco Bolts return super athlete Allen Durham who led the Bolts to a second place finish behind Ginebra last conference.
The 28-year-old Durham powered the Bolts to their first-ever PBA finals. But they lost to Barangay Ginebra after Brownlee’s game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
Durham is a supremely athletic basketball talent, but not very smart as he allowed Brownlee enough space to gather himself without any challenge to bury the dagger triple which propelled Ginebra to the crown.
The newly crowned Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beermen, who are gunning for a Grand Slam this season, brought back bull-strong Wendell McKines.
The other teams will bring in new reinforcements hoping to be more competitive in the coming conference. The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters have J.D. Weatherspoon; Star Hotshots, Cinmeon Bowers; TNT KaTropa, Michael Craig; NLEX Road Warriors, Aaron Fuller; Blackwater Elite, Trevis Simpson; GlobalPort Batang Pier, Jabril Trawick; and Kia Picanto, Chane Behanan.
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