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Cone yet unfamiliar with Yap’s new team.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone said he felt a strange feeling when he bumped in to a former player wearing a different battle regalia.
“I said ‘Oh, that’s James, I forgot’,” Cone said, referring to James Yap, whom he faced for the first time since the two-time Most Valuable Player was traded from the Star Hotshots to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the offseason.
The Sunday night meeting ended with Cone and Ginebra winning, 81-74, as the Governors’ Cup champions bounced back from losing to TNT KaTropa, 108-103, in its PBA Philippine Cup debut.
Cone and Yap shared plenty of success in the past. They won five titles together when the Hotshots were called the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, including the memorable Grand Slam in 2014 that enriched Cone’s status as the pro league’s winningest coach.
But the two went separate ways last season, with Cone eventually ending Ginebra’s eight-year title drought in the Governors’ Cup last October. Weeks after that success, Yap saw his 12-year association with the Purefoods franchise end when he was dealt to Rain or Shine in exchange for Paul Lee.
Sunday’s duel was not the Manila Clasico that described every Ginebra-Star contest, it felt like one for a few moments when Yap, who finished with 10 points, showed flashes of brilliance in the third quarter, particularly against old foe Mark Caguioa.
“We had a tough time matching up to him,” Cone admitted. “They would give him a lot of (isolation plays) and he’s very good at that. And like they said ‘A Man of a Million Moves.’”
Yap was nowhere to be found on the floor during the fourth quarter, watching helplessly as Ginebra led by Japeth Aguilar went on to win despite missing all 14 shots from three-point range even as Rain or Shine failed to score after taking a 74-70 lead midway in the fourth.
Yap accepted Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia’s decision not to use him during the final moments, lamenting rather on the mistakes that led the Painters’ first loss after two victories to open a new life with his new team.
“Good thing nangyare to, kasi may mga kulang pa kami. Kailangan maisip namin na ma-imove ang bola dahil yun ang system e. Gigil lang siguro at sana macorrect namin,” said Yap.