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PBA: Kings on the ‘defensive’

Ginebra - Caguioa, Aguilar, Slaughter and Ellis

Games Tomorrow (PH Arena, Bocaue)
1:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremony
3 p.m. – Blackwater vs Kia Cars
5:15 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Ginebra

Barangay Ginebra will put a premium on defense when the Kings kick off its title drive in motion with the opening of the 40th season of the PBA tomorrow with the Philippine Cup as its initial offering.

The Kings are noted for its scoring spree what with Mark Caguioa now being joined by new recruit Joseph Yeo in the guard spots and with high-flyers Japeth Aguilar and Chris Ellis raring to strike in the wings, La Tenorio will have plenty of options for the squad to light up the scoreboard.

But Coach Joseph Cariaso insists that defense will play a pivotal role in the team’s survival.

Jeff Cariaso“That (defense) will be our focus,” said Cariaso, who assumed the coaching chores after serving as Tim Cone’s assistant for three years over at San Mig Super Coffee.

Barangay Ginebra will make its debut against Talk ’N Text before an expected huge crowd at the 55,000-capacity Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Cariaso said the Kings will not abandon playing D after the first game as he is confident that the team will rely on it the rest of the campaign.

“It’s not just on opening day, but it will be our focus the rest of the all-Filipino conference, and for the rest of the season. Everything will start from us playing D,” added Cariaso.

In Cariaso’s initial conference with Ginebra, the team was eliminated by Alaska in the knockout quarterfinal round.

Last season, Ginebra ranked fifth on defense as it held opponents to 90.5 points, averaged a second-best 50.26 rebounds. It was also tops in blocks with 4.79 per game.

Slaughter, the No. 1 overall pick back in 2013, was the anchor of that Ginebra defense as he averaged 10.47 rebounds, 1.4 blocked shots on his way to winning Rookie of the Year honors last season.

Cariaso is upbeat that Ginebra will do much better this time as the players have had enough time to know each other during practice.

“We’ve had two months of preparation together for this season,” said Slaughter. “Everyone’s been putting in their best effort. We’re as prepared as we can be now for this conference.”

As for Tenorio, he said that he and the 6-foot-9 Aguilar are ready for the season, after playing for Gilas Pilipinas since June in back-to-back-back tournaments, the FIBA Asia Cup in Wuhan, China, the FIBA World Cup in Spain, and the Incheon Asian Games in South Korea.

“We’re getting there, we’re recovering well and regaining our full strength,” said Tenorio. “Our stint with Gilas was very valuable, memorable. But now we’re focused to helping the team contend this conference.”

The other members of the team are holdovers Jayjay Helterbrand, Mac Baracael, Dylan Ababou, Joshua Urbiztondo, Billy Mamaril, James Forrester, Jayr Reyes and Emman Monfort.

Aside from Yeo, who was acquired in a preseason trade with new team North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), also trying to feel his way around is Rodney Brondial, who was tabbed with the sixth overall pick in the last rookie draft.