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Gilas battles Visayas stars

Game Today
(Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu)
7 p.m. – Visayas All-Star vs Gilas

MACTAN – PBA Visayas-All Stars coach Tim Cone is preparing a no-zone special for Gilas Pilipinas in the All-Star Week climax tonight.

Cone plans to make the recently-named 12-man Gilas team bleed for points against the man-to-man, not risk getting torched from the outside playing the internationally-favored zone defense.

Unless national coach Chot Reyes speaks up and asks his buddy to come out with some time-worn 1-2-2s and 1-3-1s.
“No zone defense for us; never been one for zones,” said Cone. “But I I will have to talk to Coach Chot first before the game, find out if he wants us to come up with some things.”

Cone spent nearly an hour, on his feet, talking with former PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios, executive director of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, and half a dozen sportswriters before noon yesterday awaiting the delayed flight for Cebu at Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The showdown at 7 p.m. at the Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City marks the third tune-up game, after Cagayan de Oro and Lucena, for Reyes’ Gilas Pilipinas training pool, highlighting the PBA All-Star Week, and Cone’s pro selection, led by LA Tenorio and Asi Taulava, will serve as the baptism of fire for the 12, announced in Quezon Province two days ago less than two weeks before the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (SEABA) tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Ginebra mentor, declined a seat offered him, unloading his heavy backpack on the plastic mono-block instead to relieve his shoulder. He then warmed up to a couple of subjects from updates on the status of injured 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, the evolution of Japeth Aguilar and Chris Ellis from one-dimensional, offense-minded stars, recent breaking news of a potential stint with the New York Knicks, and his intention to use “only man-to-man defense” against the Gilas squad at the 6,000-capacity Hoops Dome.

“With just one day of practice, we’ll do whatever we can to help the national team prepare for the SEABA,” Cone said.

“We’ll try to give them different looks, play hard and see what else we can throw at them that will be of value.”

Going man-to-man all the way should present Gilas players with enough defensive problems that will force them to extricate themselves from tight situations and find ways to get good looks and open shots, especially from beyond the perimeter which the less exhausting zone is likely to leave available when countered with quick ball movement and multiple screens.

The zone, if it is requested by Reyes, should test the national team’s outside shooting, among others, and the players’ ability to adjust swiftly if their shots don’t fall.

This should be of immense importance against opposing big lineups which will most surely plant their bulk in the blocks to offset Gilas’ speed and neutralize its dribble-drive offense.

Cone joked that he and Ginebra assistant Richard del Rosario will be preparing a ‘big-time game plan’ for Gilas. The former national coach, who has lost his two previous All-Star assignments against a Philippine team, smiled when he said that, but with someone as fiercely competitive as he is, Gilas, bannered by June Mar Fajardo, could be in a for a shock.

Jimmy Alapag, who scorched Argentina and Puerto Rico from afar during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Seville, Spain three years ago, said it may be imperative for Gilas to face a zone at some point in the game.

“SEABA opponents most likely will use the zone against us, and so how we would react when PBA players, with their length and size, come at us with the zone tomorrow would be important,” said Alapag.