by Tito S. Talao
Manila, Philippines – In the eyes of the PBA Board of Governors, the addition of 7-footer Greg Slaughter in the draft has installed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel as Kings of the pre-season forecast.
In yesterday’s 39th season press conference at Makati Shangri-La, majority of the nine governors present, including chairman Mon Segismundo of the Meralco Bolts, picked Barangay Ginebra as the team to beat starting with the PLDT-My DSL PBA Philippine Cup which kicks off on in three different regional venues on Nov. 17.
“Kung isip ko ang masusunod, Ginebra; kung sa puso, Meralco,” said Segismundo, who took over the chairmanship from Ginebra executive Robert Non. “For third, I choose Barako Bull. Kaibigan ko kasi si Manny [Alvarez, the Energy Cola representative].
Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text, Lito Alvarez of Air21, Erick Arejola of Globalport, and Dickie Bachmann of Alaska Milk chose Ginebra No. 1, while Barako Bull’s Manny Alvarez and Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine had the Kings among their top 3.
The Express’ Alvarez pointed out, however, that while he concedes the guessing game to Gineba, his team has already beaten both Ginebra and Talk ‘N Text in pre-season games – a development picked up by Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, who represented TV5, the PBA coveror.
“That’s on paper; the games are played on wood,” said Reyes, who gave more premium to teams that have been together for some time, “like Talk ‘N Text, Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee. “
Non, the Ginebra governor, delighted at his team’s early favorite tag. “Dehado kami, dehado sa paborito ng mga fans,” said Non, under whose watch the PBA achieved record-breaking feats in gate receipts, attendance and TV ratings.
Non expressed his “wish to finally win a championship in six years” after coming narrowly close in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup but admitted the Kings “are a work in progress” even with the acquisition of Slaughter and No. 4 pick James Forrester.
“Actually, only three remain from the original Ginebra team. The rest are either rookies or sophomores,” said Non.
Interestingly, Ginebra’s lineup and renewed reputation failed to impress San Mig Coffee governor Rene Pardo, whose Mixers have been in the finals thrice in two years, winning two.
“Kakahiya namang magpadehado dahil kaka-champion lang namin,” said Pardo, who tabbed Alaska and Rain or Shine among his top 3.
PBA commissioner Chito Salud went along with the pre-season predictions but steered clear of the general consensus, baring his hope of seeing Globalport, Air21, Barako Bull and Meralco in the finals of one the three season conferences.
Petron Blaze governor Ely Capacio was absent due to a previous commitment although his Boosters got the next most number of nods from among his colleagues largely because of the blossoming of 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo.
“Si June Mar ang basehan ngayon sa mga sentro,” said Gregorio, who put Petron behind Ginebra and before Meralco.