Kings, Texters open fire

January 12, 2019

THE PBA is back.

Now on its 44th year, the PBA opens the new year with another Sunday extravaganza pitting two of the league’s most popular teams --  Barangay Ginebra and Talk N Text --  at the 55,000-seater   Philippine Arena in Bocaue,  Bulacan.

Tip off is 6:30 p.m. after the colorful  opening ceremony highlighted by the Leo Awards announcing  the  league’s Most Valuable  Player, Rookie of the Year and Top Coach and  the  traditional parade of teams and  their celebrity-muses.

“This is the  first time that the Leo  Awards will be given on opening day,” said PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial.

The  three coaches who won a  championship  each last  season -- Leo  Austria  of  San Miguel Beer (Philippine Cup), Tim Cone  of Barangay Ginebra (Commissioner’s Cup) and Chito Victolero of Magnolia Pambansang Manok (Governors’ Cup) --  are fighting it out for the prestigious “Coach of  the Year” award.

All three San Miguel Corp. teams swept the PBA 43rd season with  the Beermen winning the Philippine Cup, the Gin Kings  topping  the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup and Hotshots  ruling the season-ending Governors’ Cup.  

Joining the players  and ccoahes  of the 12 participating teams  during the parade are their beautiful  muses:

--2016 Miss International Kylie Verzosa  (San  Miguel Beermen).

-- Former  Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach (Barangay Ginebra Kings).

--  Actress Sharon Cuneta (Magnolia  Hotshots).

-- Actress  Sam  Pinto (Talk N Text Tropang Texters).

-- Actress Yam Concepcion  (Phoenix  Fuel Masters).

-- Volleyball player-model  Alyssa Valdez (NLEX   Road  Warriors).

-- Swimmer  Jasmine   Alkhaldi and volleyball standout Myla Pablo (Blackwater Elite).

--Model Aya Fernandez (NorthPort Batang Pier)

-- Actress Klea   Pineda  (Alaska Aces).

-- Kelley  Day  (Columbian Dyip).

-- Anie Uson (Rain  or Shine Elasto Painters).

-- Eva  Patalinjug (Meralco Bolts).

To match the glitter of the ceremonies is the early battle between the GinKings and the Tropang Texters, two teams that are seeking their prestigious title considered by many as “crown jewel of the season.”

Interestingly, both the Gin Kings and the KaTropa were beaten by the Beermen in the playoff round in the last edition of the  kickoff conference.

The Kings are building on their Commissioner’s Cup title run last season while the Texters look  to  relive glory years that saw them won four Philippine Cup titles over five seasons starting in 2009.

There’s no doubt, though, that the Kings are to unleash more firepower from their arsenal that can match up with reigning Philippine Cup four-time champion San Miguel Beer.

But the Kings have their anxiety against the Texters, at least at this very moment.

“We feel TNT is real motivated because they have something to prove. They let go of Terrence Romeo. I’m sure it was a tough management decision, and the  players have got to prove moving Terrence is the right thing,” said Cone.

“They’re gonna be motivated to prove that they can win and be better without him. That’s our anxiety  about them. They’re gonna be great,” Cone added. At the same time, the Kings ooze with confidence with all their major players ready to plunge into action.

“That’s the key, to be healthy. Generally, we’re healthy. Greg (Slaughter) is  healthy, Japeth (Aguilar) is healthy and LA (Tenorio) who’s always healthy, is healthy. As long as those guys are healthy, we have enough to be good,” said Cone.

Out with health issues are Jeff Chan and Arthur dela Cruz.

With bigger health concern, though, is TNT, with starting big forward Troy Rosario nursing a badly shattered nose bridge. Also with an injury is second-string center Yousef  Taha.

But Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Ryan Reyes, Jericho Cruz and Kelly Williams will be there to lead the Texters’ bid.