If the Tigers were the biggest surprise last conference, the Brgy. Ginebra Kings were the biggest disappointment. Bad luck hounded the team as star players Mark Caguioa and Eric Menk suffered various injuries and missed several games. Worse, all-star forward Rudy Hatfield decided not to renew his contract with the team. The result was disastrous.
The team failed to make it past the quarters. Trade rumors abound during the offseason. There were talks that Caguioa would be traded for Welcoatâ€™s Joe Devance but nothing concrete has been made to substantiate this rumor. In my opinion, it would be catastrophic for the Gin Kings to trade its franchise player. Despite the injuries, there is no question who the heart and soul of Ginebra is. Nothing against Devance but Caguioa has already proven before that he can carry the team to the promised land.
Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand still remains the leagueâ€™s best backcourt combo but theyâ€™ve not been healthy lately. Caguioa needs to regain that missing spark after suffering an injury last year. Jayjay Helterbrand carried the torch for the Gin Kings by his lonesome and while he looked good in doing so (18.47 ppg, 5.42 rpg and 6.8 apg), he found little support from his teammates.
The good news is that Eric Menk seemed to have fully recovered from his injuries but he is nowhere near the double-double guy he once was three years ago. Menk can still play solid minutes down low but the rigors of the long pro years may have finally taken its toll on the Michigan native. Ronald Tubid and Sunday Salvacion took turns in providing some scoring in the backcourt in the absence of Caguioa but they hardly made everyone forget about the Spark. For the Ginebra offensive machine to operate, they need to have all cylinders working at its optimum levels. Billy Mamaril, Paul Artadi and Rafi Reavis have played in spurts but for the Gin Kings to seriously contend for the crown, they must play consistent ball and provide meaningful minutes off the bench.
When everybody expected the Gin Kings to tap a 6â€™10â€ banger, they opted for the Euro league veteran Rahshon Turner. Turner can play all three frontcourt positions but is at home at the 3 spot. I am not sure how Turner fits into Ginebraâ€™s scheme of things. At 6â€™7â€ he is one of the shortest imports in town (ok so Cory Santee and Calvin Cage are shorter but theyâ€™re in the 6â€™1â€ and under category) but if he makes an impression, he will likely stick.