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Ginebra’s Continued Success Despite Uncertainty: Early Pacesetters in the Comm’s Cup

If not for a narrow loss to a fierce rival a couple of weekends ago, Barangay Ginebra—missing several standouts and foremost weapon Justin Brownlee—would’ve been sitting atop Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup with a perfect record.

Yet, coach Tim Cone is the last person to picture what could have been. He’d rather look at what his charges should be—especially with off-season pickup Maverick Ahanmisi and stand-in import Tony Bishop Jr. showing promise four games into the campaign.

“We basically got two guys in the starting lineup who are new to what we do, so we’re still trying to get everybody to fit,” he said on the heels of a 90-87 escape from hard-fighting Blackwater at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City on Sunday that had the crowd darlings rising to 3-1.Ahanmisi and Bishop Jr. joined the fold a month before the conference, but they have been making a big impact for the Gin Kings, coming through in the close encounters with Magnolia, Rain or Shine, and then the Bossing that night.

“Mav and Tony are playing brilliantly despite not knowing what they’re doing,” Cone said with a chuckle.

Ginebra’s triumphant stand against Blackwater showed gaps in its game, as the Kings trailed by as many as 17 points. On top of that, Cone saw his charges’ 16 turnovers converted by Blackwater into 24 points—alarmingly 10 more than what Ginebra was able to convert.

Ginebra’s only decisive win was against Converge, 100-86, last Nov. 17.

Cone firmly believes that such kinks will be smoothened once Ahanmisi and Bishop Jr. truly understand the way Ginebra plays the game.

LA slated for return

Cornerstone Scottie Thompson shares that optimism.

“We all work hard in practice, and we also know that we need to win as much as possible to have a buffer for later in the tournament,” he told the Inquirer.“I know we have plenty more to work on, but we’re really doing our best in practices,” he said as the Gin Kings continue to work doubly hard with Jamie Malonzo in and out of sick bay and Miah Gray’s return still up in the air.

The veteran LA Tenorio, though, is slated to play on Sunday at the earliest. He suits up most likely against Terrafirma after a monthslong bout with Stage 3 colon cancer.

He hasn’t seen action since February, and Cone will definitely break him in slowly but surely for when they make a push for the Finals, he could have all hands on deck once more.Thompson, meanwhile, is not at all surprised that his two new teammates have been fitting in quite nicely.

“We all know their capacity as players,” he said of Ahanmisi, a former champion at Rain or Shine; and Bishop who once suited up for Meralco.

“They’re pros. And they know how to win,” he added. “More importantly, they want to win.” INQ