By TITO S. TALAO
Manila, Philippines – The writing is all over the wall on what ails Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Mark Caguioa has talked about it. LA Tenorio and Jayjay Helterbrand have addressed it. And four of the Kings’ six elimination round opponents so far in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup have recognized it and used it to their advantage.
Question is, what do the Kings intend to do about it?
From has been gathered, this seems to be the consensus: Their defense disappears in the fourth quarter instead of stonewalling against a siege. The offense is erratic and inconsistent from the opening jump, allowing other teams to set an early pace and dictate the tempo. And their inside game, including their offensive rebounding, ranges from soft to non-existent.
Finally, there’s that delicate matter of what to do with Leon Rodgers.
“We need to take better care of the ball, especially in the fourth quarter; talk more on defense,” said Caguioa after a recent loss. “Yung maliliit na bagay ba, doon kasi kami natatalo e.
“Minsan, we’re too aggressive sa offense, tapos nawawala naman kami sa defense. At times, me biglang nao-open sa ilalim na kailangang meron switch pero di naman nangyayari. We just need to communicate more on defense.”
The 2011 PBA most valuable player also felt their new teammates, especially No. 1 pick Gregg Slaughter, needs a few more conferences of seasoning.
“Yung iba din kasi sa ‘min di pa gaanong banat sa laro, tulad ni Gregg [Slaughter] na isang conference pa lang naman with us,” he said. “We just need to play more games and hopefully magje-jell din kami. Maganda naman ang nilalaro namin sa ensayo e. We just need to bring it to the game.”
Tenorio shares Caguioa’s sentiment on their need to come together.
“Yung umiskor kalaban namin ng more than 100 points (per game), hindi talaga puwede iyun kaya that’s something we need to improve on,” Tenorio told Spin.ph.
“For me, it’s not how long you play in the game, but it’s about playing with pride. “Para sa amin, it’s all about the players communicating saka magsama-sama.”
Jayjay Helterbrand was even more circumspect.
On the same sports website, Helterbrand said: “Defense is part of it, rebounding, us turning the ball over, not knowing our plays, effort. What else? All the little things that we need to win the ball game, we don’t do If you don’t put the effort, we’re not gonna win games, especially when we play good teams.”
Ginebra shares 8th spot with Barako Bull on 2-4 slates, having lost its last two games, including an excruciating one against the Air21 Express who struck gold with new import Wesley Witherspoon.
With 4 seconds left Wednesday and Air21 ahead, 97-95, Witherspoon denied Rodgers, who sat out the entire fourth quarter, a game-tying basket, fueling even more the demand of Ginebra fans to replace Rodgers.
But that may be easier said than done.
For one, Caguioa, Tenorio and Helterbrand believe Rodgers has been doing everything in his power to help Ginebra get back into the winning track, and all three have expressed faith in him.
For another, finding someone to fit the Kings’ requirement at this point, somebody in the mold of the tenaciously-inspiring Vernon Macklin but within the height limit allowed them, is like locating a needle in a haystack.
Several names have cropped but all have been dropped for one reason or another.
As one Ginebra staff dejectedly said on beholding Witherspoon as he swished one sweet jumper after another: “Bakit kaya kami hindi makakuha ng ganyang import?”
Maybe because the Kings aren’t looking hard enough. Or maybe because imports like Billy Ray Bates, Tony Harris, Sean Chambers, the late Bobby Parks or even Norman Black rarely come bythese shores anymore.
At any rate, if the Kings are stuck with Leon Rodgers, then it will be to their undying credit if they can make the relationship work to help them get out of the rut.
A firm hand, a rodeo rider’s grip, on the reins of a “broncin’ buck” that is Barangay Ginebra, could also come a long way in keeping this stud wild but under control.
That or watch the writings on the wall get big and nasty as days go by.