AFTER the Meralco Bolts’ quarterfinals loss to Barangay Ginebra, I couldn’t help but think that the former needs to add a lot of new weapons to its overall game. Previously, the presence of imports Arinze Onuaku and Allen Durham masked their problems inside the shaded lane. But in this quarterfinals, well, it’s also the supporting cast.
If you look at the stats of the first time they met in the Governors’ Cup of Season 41, they are all close with the Bolts doing better in certain areas. It was the breaks and the clutch game that allowed Ginebra to take the title. During the finals rematch of the Governors’ Cup in Season 42, the return of Greg Slaughter to the Ginebra lineup (along with the presence of Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance) were a huge difference. We can also point to injuries. Sure, but that’s part of the game.
Then in the recent quarterfinals series of the Commissioner’s Cup, it was Ginebra’s bigs that were tops in point production.
Arinze Onuaku and Baser Amer couldn’t do much by themselves. Ranidel de Ocampo and Chris Newsome had a poor shooting series. What Meralco needs is for others to really play big literally and figuratively. If you look at the Bolts’, how many players can you say are the best in their respective positions? Baser Amer, maybe. But that’s it. The proof is in the All-Filipino tournaments when they struggle greatly. Clearly, the imports cover up the deficiencies of the squad.
And if I may—maybe the shots should be distributed a little more.
As for tall, talented and—let me qualify this—game-changing bigs? They are a scarcity in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). San Miguel has two in June Mar Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger. Ginebra has Slaughter and Aguilar. There are two other good and up-and-coming ones in Rain or Shine’s Raymond Almazan and Blackwater’s JP Erram. The rest all undersized and stretch players.
Can the Bolts end the year on a good note (come the season-ending Governors’ Cup)? Maybe. The thing about the PBA, unlike, say, the National Basketball Association (NBA), is that it is broken down into three conferences. So you have three chances to win. After a while, you forget the losses and move on. But really? I think of the Alaska Aces of that lost in several consecutive finals. Their championship window looks like it has closed.
Further to the NBA comparison, is that the PBA schedule isn’t as grueling as the US version, where a team plays half of its 82-game regular season on the road and half at home. The cross-country travel can be a killer and a testy situation. That is less taxing on the body and the mental health.
Is the Bolts’ window of opportunity closing?
We’ll see after this season’s end. But they need to add some pieces. I do not believe that some players are on the downside of their career. They just need an infusion of top talent to push them over the hump as clearly, a do-it-all import isn’t the answer to the team’s woes.
Can they do so in time for the last conference?
Sure. Hope springs eternal.