February 21, 2024

GUTS AND GLORY | With uncertainties and underdogs, PBA Season 48 primes up to be another banger

GUTS AND GLORY | With uncertainties and underdogs, PBA Season 48 primes up to be another banger
Art by Royce Nicdao

The official lineups of the 12 teams were officially released during the press conference for the PBA’s 48th Season. 

As the initial plan was to welcome again the Bay Area Dragons as a guest team, the PBA, which has a new free TV home, decided to open the season with the Commissioner’s Cup. With the Dragons abruptly disbanding, squads have already signed up their reinforcements, which made it difficult for the league to revert to opening with the Philippine Cup.

There were many interesting additions to the lineups and glaring omissions as well. 

Here are some of the notable developments.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel - Justin Brownlee

Brownlee’s availability for Barangay Ginebra’s title retention bid in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup still hangs in the balance and team governor Alfrancis Chua signified they are on the lookout for another import for the time being. 

Since Brownlee came in as a replacement import in 2016, Team NSD has only played four games with a different import. This happened in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, where Charles Garcia saw action as JB needed some rest after winning the ASEAN Basketball League title with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas.

It could be a tough start for Barangay Ginebra since coach Tim Cone prioritizes familiarity and his systems are not that easy to learn on the fly. One thing that might help them out is the fact that they will be the last team to debut in the conference on November 17.

They will be waiting for the official decision on Brownlee’s case but if that doesn’t go their way, they still have a month to sign up a new import and get him acquainted with the rest of the squad.

TNT Tropang Giga - Mikey Williams

Even if RR Pogoy was already announced to be out of the entire first conference, he was still part of TNT’s lineup. Absent from the list, however, was Williams. 

This is not the first time that the Tropang Giga had to wait for Williams. But at this point, they may have no other choice but to be patient as he was the Finals MVP in the last two championships they’ve won.

TNT coach and team manager Jojo Lastimosa confirmed that the talented yet controversial Fil-Am guard is under contract, but the team gave no timeline for his arrival.

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San Miguel Beermen - Kyt Jimenez and Jeron Teng

There is some drama behind the non-inclusion of Jimenez in the lineup of San Miguel. He was signed to a contract with the Beermen but has yet to secure a release from his MPBL team as his contract with them is set to expire at the end of the year.

SMB then scooped up a big-name free agent the day after the lineups were announced after agent Danny Espiritu announced the signing of Teng. The former Converge FiberXers star chose not to sign a new deal with the team and decided to explore free agency.

He got a solid wedding gift with a two-year contract with a perennial championship contender.

NorthPort Batang Pier - Unknown import

I just got confirmation from NorthPort team governor Erick Arejola that Australian Venkatesha “Venki" Jois will be their import for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

He is 30 years old, listed at 6-foot-8, and has played all over the world with stops in Estonia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, and Serbia. 

Jois came in at the right time for the Batang Pier, who struggled to hire an import for the second straight conference since many reinforcements willing to play in the region already signed in different leagues in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. 

The Batang Pier were also running low on options in the last PBA Governors’ Cup when they settled for Marcus Weathers, who was considered by SMB but was ultimately not selected. 

NorthPort had a four-game losing skid to start the conference and it was already too late when it got the high-scoring Kevin Murphy as a replacement. 

It’s currently a lot more difficult to get talented 6-foot-9 players and the Batang Pier can no longer rehire Prince Ibeh since he's over the new height limit. 

Meralco Bolts - No import yet

The Bolts were among the first to announce their import for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. It was early September when they named Feron Hunt as their reinforcement. But his absence from the list signifies that the Bolts are moving in another direction.

Meralco knows how crucial it is to get the right fit to start the conference. The team hired former NBA player Johnny O’Bryant III in the last PBA Commissioner’s Cup and limped to a 1-5 win-loss tally, taking the Bolts out of the playoff race early. 

They are set to compete in the Masskara Festival in Iloilo and it’ll be interesting to see if they will have an import with them.

PBA 3x3 products

The recent PBA Draft made it crystal clear once again that the PBA 3x3 is a tremendous proving ground for young talent to make it to the five-on-five game. Yes, there will always be spots for bigs like Keith Datu, Luis Villegas, and Brandon Bates, but there were other players who boosted their stock in the halfcourt game. 

Ralph Cu and Kim Aurin were drafted by Barangay Ginebra but only the former was signed. Aurin, however, did not have to wait long as the talented scorer was scooped up quickly by TNT. 

Sherwin Concepcion landed a roster spot with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and Dominic Fajardo made his improbable dream come true as he made it to the lineup of the NLEX Road Warriors.

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2016 second-rounder Joseph Eriobu and 2021 undrafted guard Donald Gumaru can also thank their PBA 3x3 stint for opening up a new chapter in their careers. 

Few of them might get heavy minutes this conference but at least they’ll be able to prove themselves in practice and if there’s one thing guaranteed about the PBA 3x3 products is that they are hard workers.