SMB, Alaska, TNT are teams to beat in PBA 2nd conference
DID you like the historic San Miguel-Alaska championship battle in the past Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup?
If you did then you’ll simply love the coming PBA Commissioner’s Cup because along with defending champion Talk N Text Tropang Texters, the San Miguel Beermen and the Alaska Aces will be the teams to beat this conference.
The Philippine Cup champion Beermen start their quest for their second PBA Grand Slam as they battle for the Commissioner’s Cup title the only crown that eluded them last season.
They will of course be led by Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo who has been the most dominant player in the league the past two seasons.
They will be reinforced by import Tyler Wilkerson a former teammate of San Miguel Beer Fil-Am players Chris Ross and Chris Lutz at Marshall U. Wilkerson should complement Fajardo because he plays the forward spot, can shoot from the outside or drive to the hoop to finish strong at the rim.
Best of all the Beermen brought in Wilkerson early to avoid the mistake of last year’s Commissioners Cup campaign where they played catch up the entire first half of the conference on their way to early elimination.
The Alaska Aces on the other hand brought in the one import who makes them even stronger at the defensive end. The long-limbed Rob Dozier provides the last line of shot-blocking at the rim for the fearsome Alaska pressure defense.
This means the pesky defenders of Alaska—Ping Exciminiano, RJ Jazul, Chris Banchero and Calvin Abueva— can press as much as they want confident that there will be a long-limbed shot blocker to protect the basket.
The Aces, who were on the brink of winning the PBA Philippine Cup after posting a 3-0 advantage only to lose the last four games and the championship to the Beermen, will be the most motivated squad this conference.
The Aces, with their fearsome pressure defense, were dominant the entire conference and were poised to capture the Philippine Cup title only to fall short of a win. That bitter experience should be enough motivation for the players to play even harder this conference.
TNT do-everything forward Ranidel De Ocampo, who missed last conference due to injury, returns to action this conference. Additionally, the defending champion Tropang Texters brought back man-monster Ivan Johnson—who bullied the entire field last season as he led TNT to the championship—as their import.
Johnson led the Tropang Texters past the Elasto Painters in a bruising championship series. In that series Johnson knocked loose the front tooth of Paul Lee and levelled coach Yeng Guiao.
Johnson drove into the paint, elbowed Lee in the face knocking loose Lee’s front tooth which clattered to the hardcourt. In another instance Johnson ran along the sidelines, went out of bounds and slammed into an unsuspecting Guiao, sending the Rain Or Shine mentor falling face first into the sideline seats.
The other teams may be wise to Johnson’s rough-housing tactics though. The league already suspended the TNT enforcer for a game and fined him P50,000 for punching Blackwater Elite’s JP Erram and Frank Golla in a scuffle that marred their bruising, physical tune-up match at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center.
Ironically, Johnson serves the suspension in the opening game of the Commissioner’s Cup between the Texters and the selfsame Elite on Feb. 10 at the Big Dome.
Last year’s Commissioner’s Cup finalist, Rain Or Shine—led by the irrepressible Guiao—as well as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel —with its huge frontcourt of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar a conference wiser under the tutelage of coach Tim Cone—should provide plenty of challenge and could become one of four teams to advance to the semifinals.