The Talk N Text Phonepals have given erstwhile defending champion Purefoods Chunkee Giants the pink slip in the 2006-07 PBA Talk N Text Philippine Cup. Without forward Marc Pingris in Game 3 and Game 4 (also without Noy Castillo) of the best-of-five quarterfinals showdown, the Chunkee Giants were no match to the powerful frontline of the Talk N Text Phonepals.
The Phonepals were more athletic, bigger, had a deeper bench, more talented and arguably a better team than the Chunkee Giants. In their best -of-five quarterfinal matchup, the Phonepals ruled the battle of the boards 202-193, had more assists 81-72, more fastbreak points 56-40, and forced the Giants to an anemic 41.13% FG shooting clip. The Giants took game 1 but the Phonepals swept the next 3 in runaway fashion, using their might, bulk and talent to pull away. The Giants didnâ€™t even know what hit them. So what went wrong with the proud and mighty Giants from Purefoods?
Prior to the start of the season, Purefoods was brimming with confidence after getting a taste of the championship plum. They had everything in place â€“ their championship roster was intact and have a first round pick, which they plan to use to fill the two holes on its roster â€“ a center and a small forward. Natural targets were Letranâ€™s Mark Andaya and Aaron Aban. But the two werenâ€™t available at their turn at number 9 and the roof caved in for the Giants. The Giants owes the Air21 Express a future draft pick as part of the deal that got them Pingris and Egay Billones. Would it have been better if the Giants just gave up that pick to secure next yearâ€™s pick where there would be unquestionably more talented players around?
Did the Giants, their weak frontcourt pailing comparatively with the other teamâ€™s frontcourt (except perhaps Welcoat) err in the selection of Boyet Bautista? Purefoods had no more use for another point guard as they already have 2005-06 PBA Mythical Five member Roger Yap and the vastly improved Paul Artadi manning the point guard spot. They also have combo guards Castillo and Peter June Simon who can play spare minutes at that spot. In other words, Purefoods had no more room for another point guard.
Bautista only got to play 7 of the Giantsâ€™ 23 games averaging 3.29 ppg in 8.43 mpg before being placed on the injured list as the Giants reactivated 6-6 Don Camaso from the reserved list. They missed out on the surprising 6-7 Carlo Sharma who was like heaven-sent for the frontcourt-starved Red Bull Barakos. Should the Chunkee Giants be looking around and search for other free agents who may have Sharma-like potential? How about Marlon Legaspi? Al Magpayo? Jerwin Gaco? Ronald Capati? Alfie Grijaldo? They could be goldmines just waiting to be tapped. Last year, a three-team trade could have brought in Air21â€™s Homer Se but he failed a physical and Purefoods voided the deal not wanting to be part of another Eddie Laure case (Laure was injured when he came in from Shell). Se could have at least been utilized as a frontcourt stopper something that Purefoods do not have in its roster.
There were rumors before the quarters that Purefoods was interested in the services of 6-8 slotman Yancy de Ocampo of the Air21 Express. No less than SMC manager Robert Non made the overtures to the Express camp to convey their interest. Yancyâ€™s addition could have given the Chunkee Giants frail frontline a big boost. Even though Yancy was tag as â€softâ€ by most basketball experts, he could have fitted into the Chunkee Giantsâ€™ frontcourt corps seamlessly. Despite his tall stature, he has a soft touch from the outside and can also score down low. He is a great passer in the low blocks and is a very intelligent player. There was a reason why he was handpicked by National Team coach Chot Reyes to head the RP team, and you could now see why. So why is he in Talk N Text uniform and not in a Purefoods uniform? Purefoods may have offered the better player (Richard Yee versus the twosome of Andaya and Abby Santos) but Talk N Text offered the Express what it really want and what the Chunkee Giants wouldnâ€™t want to give up â€“ a future first round pick.
The problem with Purefoods is that they donâ€™t have the commodity or the bargaining chip that they could use to facilitate a trade that would bring a marquee name to the Giantsâ€™ camp. Only three players are worthy of first round picks and theyâ€™re all untouchables as far as I am concerned (James Yap, Kerby Raymundo and Pingris). Simon, Artadi and Jondan Salvador could fetch some attention but I doubt that management would be willing to let go of their young turks since they consider them part of their building blocks for the future. So that leaves us with Castillo, Yee, Roger Yap, Jun Limpot and Rey Evangelista. Theyâ€™re serviceable alright but not enough to get another team to give up a young talented lad in return.
The All-Filipino has long been the Giantsâ€™ domain. Theyâ€™ve figured in 12 All-Filipino Finals stints since 1988, winning 5 of them, the most by any team in the history in the league. Back then they had the size, talent, playmaking ability and great coaching to overwhelm the opposition. Comparing that team to todayâ€™s team is like comparing night and day. The Giants are still in the rebuilding mode, despite figuring in two finals stint last year. This year might be a realization â€“ it does not only take pure heart and desire to win a championship, you need luck and talent too.
The best the Purefoods quintet could do is get back to their bearings, bring a big body to help their frontcourt rotation, bring a good import for the next conference (Iâ€™ve heard 2005-06 Fiesta Cup Best Import Marquin Chandler will be coming back) and start practice. Oh well, it is easier said than done.