GINEBRA San Miguel gambled and lost.
San Miguel Beer (SMB) did not and won.
That was the story of the sister teams in the run-up to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
Coach Tim Cone placed all his bets on Chris Brownlee and paid dearly for it.
I couldn’t blame Tim.
Brownlee gave Tim his last Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) title last year—but, alas, that was only because Brownlee was damned lucky to sink a desperation triple that made the Kings shock champs.
But Brownlee’s lack of ceiling in the Commissioner’s Cup told heavily—finally—on Ginebra.
This was graphically exposed when he battled—futilely—Joshua Smith, TNT’S giant import who reduced Brownlee into a midget. Smith was even playing injured but his height advantage more than made up for his limping as he powered TNT to a 3-1 victory over Ginebra in the semifinals.
TNT will face SMB in a best-of-seven clash between teams brandishing behemoth imports, with Charles Rhodes’s supposed firepower finally put on the line.
Rhodes, 6-foot-9, is tasked to shoulder the Beermen home to another Conference crown in the company of SMB’s resident man-mountain, June Mar Fajardo. Fajardo is in hot pursuit of his record-equaling fourth straight MVP trophy.
With SMB hopefully completing a follow-up title triumph to its first Conference victory, the Beermen would suddenly find themselves at the cusp of a second Grand Slam.
The third and final jewel of the Triple Crown would be the Governors’ Cup happening almost right after the Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
Things appear rosy for another SMB victory. Three of its starters—Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and, yes, Fajardo—now occupy the top 3 spots in the chase for the Best Player of the Conference trophy.
Coaches from both sides each scored 3-1 victories in the semifinals—SMB’s Leo Austria over Star’s Chito Victolero, and TNT’s Nash Racela over Ginebra’s Tim Cone.
Thus, it’s now the veteran (Austria four crowns) versus the rookie (Racela zero crown).
But Racela isn’t only a promising coach. His feat of snaring Cone’s scalp is something to crow about. Cone’s the winningest PBA coach of all time, remember?
But if Racela makes good his threat of replacing Smith, that might backfire. Without a doubt, Smith did a good job. Why fix it when it ain’t broke?
Don’t look now but if Racela makes a false move, Austria might yet enjoy a virtual walk in the park.
THAT’S IT Happy birthday (June 21) to Mayor Louie Visorde of Calauag, Quezon. The following day (June 22), it’s Pareng Joven Florido’s turn to turn a new leaf. Cheers for beers, mga compadres!
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