By TITO S. TALAO
Manila, Philippines – If Gabe Freeman isn’t returning to take the place of Leon Rodgers as the import of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, then who is?
As of now, a team insider say, nobody.
Kings officials reportedly had indeed considered bringing back the former Best Import to inject absent energy into what they felt was a floundering start for Ginebra in the Commissioner’s Cup, toying with the idea over dinner after losing to Philippine Cup tormentor San Mig Super Coffee last Sunday.
But the plan didn’t pan out and Rodgers will still be the one to suit up for Barangay Ginebra when it faces winless Globalport tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“They’re stuck with him for now,” says the source. “But if they lose to Globalport as well, then that could mean goodbye for Rodgers.”
It isn’t so much that the 6-foot-5 journeyman forward from Northern Illinois University is a bad deal for the Kings. He delivers the points and has shown a willingness to take a leadership role at crucial stages of the game.
But Rodgers unfortunately suffers in comparison to the Kings’ 2013 Commissioner’s Cup reinforcement Vernon Macklin, who took over from Herbert Hill and helped carry Ginebra to the finals before a leg injury rendered him nearly immobile in the series against the Alaska Aces.
For one, Rodgers gives away about three inches in height to Macklin, and though he provides tons of offense to the Kings, the former Detroit Piston’s ferocious rebounding and slam-dunking ability, which LA Tenorio exploited to the hilt, gave Ginebra a frightening look which it doesn’t have now.
Also, while Rodgers scored 33 points against San Miguel Beer and 35 in the Mixers game, he obviously isn’t in the mold of a Billy Ray Bates or a Tony Harris, the prototype imports of his size who dominated the PBA back then, guys who brought the house down with their electrifying moves and strong personalities.
In this aspect, Rodgers is just about as sizzling as dry ice on water.
For sure, their 1-2 win-loss card doesn’t fall squarely on their import’s shoulders alone. Despite the presence of 6-foot-11 Gregg Slaughter and 6-foot-10 Japeth Aguilar, the Kings were mauled under the boards by the Beermen, 53-44, and 62-48, by San Mig Coffee.
Of course, it didn’t hurt San Miguel that former import Josh Boone had 21 rebounds, while James Mays had 29 for the Mixers.
“Rodgers has to be able to fire up his team,” says the insider. “It would also help if he shares the ball more in their pick-and-roll plays.”
At this point, Leon Rodgers still has a vote of confidence from at least one important source
“If the need arises, then we will have to come up with names. But right now, there’s no need to change Leon. The coaching staff has discussed that already,” Ginebra’s Juno Sauler, who calls the shots at the Kings’ bench, told Spin.ph.
But that could change quickly with a third straight loss.
And though it may not be Gabe Freeman or NBA veteran Darnell Jackson, who the Meralco Bolts have already brought in, or the height ineligible Vernon Macklin, then it would be somebody else – someone capable of reviving Ginebra’s never-say-die spirit before the 8th-placed team sadly breathes its last this conference.