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PBA: Kia offers season-ending conference to coach Lipa

By Jerome Lagunzad

For the fifth time since it entered the pro league in 2014, the Columbian Autocar Corporation-owned franchise has made five name changes, with its youthful team set to be known as the Kia Picanto this time.

Interim head coach Chris Gavina is hoping that could also bring some changes – at least positively – in terms of their fortunes in the season-ending PBA Governors Cup.

“I’m always a true believer of fresh starts,” he said in a phone interview on the eve of the Picantos’ opening day duel against the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

“I love the Kia slogan of ‘The Power to Surprise.’ I’m kinda glad na nakabalik kami sa Kia and we’re hoping to take on that motto of being able to surprise people. Let our efforts and hardwork talk for ourselves.”

Fresh from a scouting trip in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League, Gavina, 38, is hoping the Picanto can rediscover the winning flair that enabled them to advance to the quarterfinal round – the franchise’s first ever – of the same conference last year during his initial stint at the helm.

To realize such immediate goal, Kia should have to get the best from former GlobalPort import Markeith Cummings, who averaged solid numbers of 28.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game while leading the Batang Pier to a quarterfinals finish back in the 2013 edition of the Governors Cup.

“He’s in great shape. He looks fine and he’s ready to go,” said Gavina of the 6-foot-4 Cummings who will have top guards LA Revilla and Reden Celda, wingman Glenn Khobuntin and and big man Prince Caperal as his primary local support cast.

Gavina is confident Cummings can hold his ground against his touted Fuel Masters counterpart Eugene Phelps, who is considered as one of the barometers alongside Barangay Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee and reigning Best Import awardee Allen Durham of Meralco.

“Everybody has chosen an import to balance out the Eugene Phelps effect. Kaya humanap rin kami ng vesatile na big na kayang i-match ‘yung firepower ni Phelps. We’re hoping ‘yung skills set ni Markeith na ma-offset power game ni Eugene,” he said.

Gavina also disclosed veteran tactician Joe Lipa will re-assume his role as the team consultant in what could be his farewell tour of duty.

“He (Lipa) wants this conference to make his final curtain call. That’s why everybody is working twice as hard to leave his legacy on a good note. We wanna make his final appearance on the bench a great one,” he added.

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