PBA Commissioner went on a fining binge

The PBA Commissioner went on a fining binge the other day.  He slapped Tim Cone a P10,000 fine for statements detrimental to the league, Jeff Hodge P10,000 for a flagrant foul penalty one on Scottie Thompson in Game 3, Kelly Nabong P5,000 for a flagrant one on Justin Brownlee in Game 2, and Reynel Hugnatan P5,000 for flopping in Game 2.

While the Commissioner did not say what the detrimental statements uttered by Tim were, it is believed that they were his comments that there is no way to stop Allen Durham if the referees slap Sol Mercado with six fouls in 12 minutes.

Strange there were no fines slapped on the three referees of Game 5 for missing two miscues that should have turned the ball over to Meralco.   The first was when Hugnatan and LA Tenorio scrambled for the rebound. LA tapped the ball out of the hands of Reynel. Game Annotator Alex Compton said so. The referees gave the ball to Ginebra, Reynel going ballistic. The other was when Sol double dribbled and slid in one sequence, in full view of the 22,000 spectators and the TV cameras.  The entire Meralco coaching staff and Durham signalled “travelling” with their hands, but no whistle was blown by any of the three referees.  Sol passed the ball to Scottie Thompson who made good his shot from beyond the arc, giving Ginebra a comfortable lead at a crucial point of the game.

Maybe the referees were making up for their calling too many fouls on Sol in previous games.  Or maybe they were afraid of bringing down on themselves the ire of the huge Barangay Ginebra if they called Sol as having travelled. The replay showed clearly that Sol had broken his dribble but was not able to get a good grip of the ball.  So, he dribbled it again (a violation worse than palming the ball), and while holding the ball, both his feet slid.

If any player from any of the other nine teams had committed the same miscue, all three referees would have blown their whistles with all the power of their lungs.  Previous commissioners not only fined erring referees stiffly, they suspended them for the rest of the conference or dropped them from the roster of referees.

T N’T Head Coach Jong Uichico once said in a post-game interview, “It’s given when you’re playing against the San Miguel group. I have been there.”  Jong knows there is a common factor that gives SMC teams the edge over non-SMC teams – the referees.  He had coached two of those teams, San Miguel Beer and Ginebra San Miguel.

But if two San Miguel teams are pitted against each other, and one of the teams is Ginebra San Miguel, the referees would still not be fair to both teams. Ginebra would have the edge because of the referees.   Tim Cone must have known that when he was coach of Alaska. So did Ryan Gregorio, Chot Reyes, Norman Black, and Yeng Guiao.  

Many years ago, Swift/Pop Cola was leading Ginebra by seven points with less than a minute to go. Swift had the ball and Pido Jarencio was milking the clock.  Then three Ginebra players swarmed all over him to pluck the ball from him. When he held on to the ball, he was wrestled to the floor. The referees blew their whistles, not to call a foul but a violation by Pido – hogging the ball. When Pido sulked about the call, Swift Coach Yeng Guiao walked  over to him and said loudly as to be caught by the microphones of the TV crew covering the game: “Hindi tatawag ng foul yan, Pido.” It was clear to those who heard Yeng’s statement what he meant.  

Referees don’t dare call a foul on a Ginebra player, especially then when Ginebra was coached by the Living Legend Sonny Jaworski. He would rain down expletives and the rabid fans paper cups, wrappers, and coins on the referees if they made calls unfavorable to Ginebra.

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Top candidates for MVP honors not in Finals

The top two candidates for Most Valuable Player honors, Junmar Fajardo of San Miguel and Jason Castro of TNT, for the 2015-2016 PBA season won’t be in the Finals of the Third Conference.  But the top two candidates for Rookie of the Year trophy, Scottie Thompson of Ginebra San Miguel and Chris Newsome of Meralco, will be.  Both play the 2 position, although they play point guard when LA Tenorio and Jimmy Alapag need rest.

Meralco will be in the Finals for the first time. Only Reynel Hugnatan, when he was with Alaska, Jimmy Alapag and Jared Dillinger, when both were with TNT, have championship experience.  On the part of Ginebra San Miguel, Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand are veterans of championship games.   So are LA Tenorio, when he was with Alaska, and Joe de Vance, when he was with Alaska and Purefoods.  Japeth Aguilar saw action the last time Ginebra was in the Finals.      

Ginebra coach Tim Cone had coached Hugnatan when they were with Alaska, while Meralco coach Norman Black had coached LA Tenorio , Japeth Aguilar, and Nico Salva in Ateneo.

LA Tenorio had taken the role of Helterbrand a few years back and it looks like Thompson has eased out Mark Caguioa from the core of the team.   Caguioa was fielded in when Ginebra was leading by more than 20 points and with less than three minutes left. It looks like the end of the era of the Fast and Furious, or the Bandana Kids, as they were known when they were new in the league.  Actually, both wore headbands, not bandanas.

No archangels, no “milkracle”

The Alaska Aces failed to do to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters what the San Miiguel Beermen did to them. The Beermen lost the first three games of this year’s Philippine Cup Finals to the Aces but then won the next four games to win the conference championship. Sportswriters called San Miguel’s comeback a miracle.

The Aces lost the first three games of this year’s Commissioner’s Cup Finals but won the next two games. Sports scribes and PBA fans thought that the Alaska team could perform a “milkracle” similar to that of the Beermen. But they lost the sixth game, the Elasto Painters emerging the conference champions.

The difference is that the Beermen had an archangel that made the miracle happen. They lost the first three games because their star player, June Mar Fajardo, was not able to play because of an injury. He didn’t play in the fourth game but he cheered on his teammates from the bench. In the next three games Junmar played and carried the team to three straight victories prompting the sportswriters to call the feat a miracle.

Archangels never came to perform a “mlkracle” for the Milkmen. The Aces lost the first three games of commissioner’s Cup Finals because their regular starters, point guard JV Casio and power forward Vic Manuel, did not play because of injury. Unlike June Mar Fajardo, they never got to play in the Finals. So, no archangel JV and Vic, no “milkracle.”

Cojuangco and Pangilinan teams shut out of Commissioner’s Cup Finals

San Miguel and Meralco emerged the top teams at the end of the elimination round of the Commissioner’s Cup.  However, both teams were beaten by their respective opponents in their semifinal series – San Miguel by Rain or Shine, Meralco by Alaska.  The last time a conference finals did not have a Cojuangco- or Pangilinan-owned team was in 2003 when Alaska and Coca-Cola (no longer owned by San Miguel Corporation then) played for the Invitational championship.

Many PBA fans believe that a Cojuangco or Pangilinan team has an edge when playing against a team not owned by either business mogul.  This belief is based on the perception (rightly or wrongly) that referees favor a Cojuangco or Pangilinan team because of the tremendous influence they wield on the league operations. As they have three teams each, they each have three votes in the board of the PBA.   Either magnate is a big factor when it comes to crucial decisions of the board, like the appointment of the Commissioner and therefor the fate of all staff members falling under his supervision.  That includes the referees.  The fans believe (again rightly or wrongly) that Mr. Cojuangco and Mr. Pangilinan can cause the dismissal of a referee if his calls do not please the businessman.

That is why in this coming championship series between Alaska and Rain or Shine, the suspicion that referees are favoring a team will be absent. The owners of Alaska and Rain or Shine have only one vote each in the decision-making process of the Board. Not only that, Mr. Fred Uytengsu, owner of Alaska, has been over the years critical of PBA policies and decisions while Mr. Yeng Guiao, coach of RoS, is the nemesis of referees and the Commissioner himself.  They cannot be considered good friends of PBA officials, like Messrs. Cojuangco and Pangilinan. 

Therefore, neither Alaska or RoS has an advantage when it comes to game officials and since they are evenly matched in terms of coaching staff and players, the Commissioner’s Cup Finals will be a well-watched series.  Fans will accept the eventual winner as having won fairly and is deserving of the championship trophy.

No sister teams in the PBA Final Four

The defending champion in this second PBA conference, Talk ‘N Text, has been eliminated from the Final Four. So Manny Pangilinan and Danding Cojuangco have only one team each remaining in the conference. That’s good because that means every game will be played intensely unlike when sister teams play against each other. There will be no suspicion that a team gave (binigay ang laro) the game to a sister team so that it will win the championship (a championship helps boost its sales).

Meralco’s revenue will not increase because it won a championship. Same with NLex. People will not switch to Meralco and NLex because they won the championship. But Globe subscribers might switch to Smart because the Tropang Texters are champions. People want to go with the winners.

As for the Cojuangco teams, San Miguel beer has the beer market practically all to itself. But competition in Ginebra’s market is intense. Every victory, more so every championship makes men think of Ginebra when he needs a drink. That is why the Ginebra Kings often beat the Beermen, and by large margins. Also note that Junmar Fajardo is invariably in the injured list when San Miguel is scheduled to play Ginebra. Guess why Tim Cone was transferred from the Purefoods franchise, where he won four straight championships, to Ginebra.

Ginebra San Miguel out of Final Four a second straight time

For the second straight conference the crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel has been eliminated from the Final Four playoffs. This in spite of the team having superstars Mark Caguioa, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, the league’s tallest center Greg Slaughter, Fil-Ams Joe Devance, Chris Ellis, Sol Mercado, and the highly-touted rookies Scottie Thompson and Dave Marcelo, and the winningest coach of the league Tim Cone.

Many find it hard to believe that a team with so many talented players and a brilliant tactician for a coach can’t get past the first round of the playoffs. Well, that is the very reason the team has failed to go to the semifinal round. Cone has to give ample playing time to all the superstars. He has to give LA and Sol equal time at the point, Japeth, JDV, Chris at power forward, and he has to field the promising point guard Thompson and future power forward Marcelo for seasoning as they are the probable replacements for the veterans LA and JDV. As the game against Rain or Shine could be the last game for the Kings in this conference, Cone fielded the team’s Elder Jayjay Helterbrand. The frequent change in combinations on the court cost the team’s fluidity.

I have said from the time he entered the league that Slaughter is all height, not much talent. He scores in the high 20s because he towers ovr all the other centers in the league. He always shoots facing the goal or tips in missed shots. He does not have the elusive footwork under the goal that Junmar Fajardo does so well.

In their best-of-three series, Rain or Shine broke fast to their front court every time they got the ball to leaving behind the slow-footed Slaughter. Most ofteh there was no Gregzilla around to block the shots of RoS slashers Jeff Chan and Chris Tiu or pluck the rebound if the Painters missed their shots. Gregzilla was was kept off the paint by the bulky Pierre Henderson-Niles.

The sullen countenance of Mark Caguioa and Sol Mercado as they sat on the bench in the waning minutes of the game hinted major change in the team in the next conference. When Cone took over at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season, he said “too many point guards” about the team. So, he disposed of Emman Monfort and Josh Urbiztondo but then he drafted Thompson. So, one of the older point guards, LA and Mark the Spark, will most probably go. LA has an edge because he is a veteran of the patented triangle offense of Cone, LA having played for Tim before when they were with Alaska. Sol is a run-and-gun player, the type of offense that does not seem to suit Cone. That is why Josh was let go. Ellis is another run-and-gunner.

Historic “Miracle Comeback” of San Miguel Beermen

Great things have been said about the San Miguel Beermen winning the Philippine Cup Finals after being down 0-3. “Historic!” Sportswriters wrote. “Miracle!” San Miguel Coach Leo Austria said.

The turnaround was not really historic and a miracle when one considers the facts of the championship series. The fact is there were in reality two different San Miguel teams that played in the Philippine Cup Finals. In the first three games, it was a minus-Jun Mar Fajardo San Miguel team that played against the Alaska Aces. “Depleted” was how one sportswriter referred to the San Miguel team even if it was just one player less. But the minus-one player happened to be the vital cog, the heart of the team, the reigning MVP of the league.

But a different San Miguel team showed up for what was supposed to be the closeout game, meaning the end of the series with the Alaska Aces emerging as the champions. With June Mar sitting on the San Miguel bench, although still unable to play, San Miguel won the fourth game. That is how a big difference June Mar makes in the game. His mere presence on the bench rattled the opposition. When he finally suited up, even if just for very limited playing time, the Philippine Cup Finals became a different series – a different San Miguel team played against Alaska.
Therefore, no miracle happened.