37th PBA Season Preview Part 1

2 10 2011

The new season of the Philippine Basketball Association will start today. The league will once again have ten teams and will play in a 3 conference format. It is going to an interesting season as the 37th season marked the entry of several Smart-Gilas members to the Philippine‘s top basketball league. Here are some of the things to look forward to with the competing teams:

Alaska Aces

Key newcomer: Joel Banal (Head Coach) – After 22 years, the Aces will have a new coach. Banal who was Tim Cone’s long-time assistant is tasked to keep the winning tradition of the Uytengsu-owned franchise.

Key player: LA Tenorio – The PG’s role will now be bigger as he will try to stabilize a team that has a new coach and has big changes in the system. The former Blue Eagle averaged 13.5 ppg and 4.5 apg last season. He is expected to raise those lofty number this year.

Key Game: October 12 at the Araneta Coliseum– The Aces will face their former coach Tim Cone who is now the head tactician of B-Meg.

Wildcard: Julius Pasculado. The Cebuano rookie from Illinois was a big surprise during the rookie camp. His play merited him to be drafted in the second round by the Aces. He could be a big surprise or a wasted pick.

Key Question: How long will the Aces adjust to their new coach?

Barako Bull Energy

Key newcomer: Willie Miller – The former MVP will once again banner a Barako Bull team. He has somehow aged but he is still capable of outplaying many of the younger guards in the league.

Key Player: Danny Seigle – He had a career renaissance last season and is expected to bear the bulk of the scoring brunt for the Energy Boosters. He has to keep himself healthy or else the team will again struggle in close games.

Key Game: October 7 at the Ynares Center. Barako Bull opens the new season against Dondon Hontiveros and the Petron Blaze. It will be a winnable game for them as they battle a Petron 5 that will also play in the prior game date (Oct. 5).

Wildcard: The PGs. Paul Artadi, Winnie Arboleda, and Miller will try to spark the offense of the team. They have the potential to turn this team to be a high scoring club or they could end up making other team’s offense look like an NBA team.

Key question: How long can they keep their players healthy?

B-Meg Llamados

Key newcomer: Tim Cone. Adding a 13-time champion coach can really increase optimism of any contending team. Cone will be bringing his triangle offense to James Yap and company. A lot is expected in the new Llamados offense.

Key Player: James Yap. Will he be the Jordan or the Kobe of Tim’s triangle? The versatile swingman is expected to have a banner year after a season filled with on and off court issues. A new system and a better outlook might bring another MVP award  for the former UE Red Warrior.

Key Game: October 12 at the Araneta Coliseum. The Llamados battles the Aces, two teams with similar systems. They know each other so well that a very dramatic game is expected. Will this be a new PBA rivalry?

Wildcard: The bigmen. Last year, the bigs of B-Meg were saddled with injuries. This year, they have many players back and they play a key role in defense. If the frontline thins out again then the team will not reach its full potential this season.

Key question: Will Cone win his 14th title this season?

Barangay Ginebra Kings

Key newcomer: Reil Cervantes. The rookie forward will try to fit in the Ginebra scheme. He came at a good time when Rudy Hatfield retired and Erik Menk suffering injuries. Cervantes will have a role in this team and the coaches will definitely give him playing time early and try to boost his confidence.

Key player: Mark Caguioa. He had outstanding numbers last season. He is very expected to contend for MVP honors this year as the scoring load is heavier now. He is Ginebra’s main man and only injury can probably prevent him from winning the MVP honors.

Key game: October 2 vs. Rain or Shine. The season opener will test Ginebra as they will face a retooled RoS team. The game could be a semifinal preview.

Wildcard: JJ Helterbrand. He has hinted the media about his plans of retiring after one conference. His play will be critical in the Philippine Cup. Will he still be a part of the dreaded Fast and the Furios or will he give way to players like Rob Labagala?

Key question: How long will Helterbrand last?

Meralco Bolts

Key newcomer: Jason Ballesteros. The 6-7 Smart Gilas reserve center will be manning the post for the young Meralco Bolts. He will try to share time with ageless Asi Taulava, Gabby Espinas, and Mark Isip. The frontline rotation has become one of the biggest league. Ballesteros will be tasked to get the rebounds and be a defensive presence.

Key Player: Mac Mac Cardona. Injuries ended his season last year. He will partner with the bold Sol Mercado to be the Bolt’s 1-2 punch this season. They can be the new Fast and Furios tandem in the league.

Key game: Oct. 7 vs. sister team Talk ‘N Text. It will be a big test for  the team as they would want to know if the current set of players can compete with PBA’s best.

Wildcard: Gilbert Bulawan. The rugged 6-5 rookie will try to be team’s enforcer. He could be given minutes to battle the best forwards and centers in the league. If does well, he will definitely give coach Ryan Gregorio another potent weapon. If not, he will just become a roster filler and a salary cap liability.

Key question: Can Cardona and Mercado co-exist?


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