Long lull levels the playing field -- Tim

August 14, 2020

FOR Ginebra head coach Tim Cone, the long lull in PBA action brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic has produced a mixture of good and bad things to all the 12 teams and their players.

To the winningest pro league coach with 21 championships to his belt said the almost 150 days of lay-off has made the teams on equal footing when the league returns to action, hopefully, in October.

"I think it equalizes things a little bit," Cone said when he guested on "The Chasedown" recently.

The league remains hopeful it could eventually go back to the hardcourt for official games , after receiving the green light to resume practices, which were later delayed by another two weeks as Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed again stricter quarantine measures.

In fact, PBA commissioner Willie said he's optimistic that the teams can kick off their practice sessions before the end of August.

"At same point in the last quarter of the year, we could all return to play the game we all love. Baka sa October, resume tayo," said Marcial, adding the board will meet early next month to decide on the fate of the 45th season.

The league opened  on March 8, then suspended all activities just three days later to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Only one game -- the All-Filipino Cup finals rematch between San Miguel and Magnolia -- was played.

Even without big man Greg Slaughter, the Gin Kings were among the favorites in the All-FIlipino Cup after their impressive run to the title in the 2019 Governors' Cup.

The long break has cooled off their momentum quite a bit, however.

"We lose a little bit of momentum. We were playing very well," Cone said.

"But it also gives us an opportunity," he added. "Guys that have had nagging injuries for quite a while, especially Stanley Pringle, it gives him an opportunity to get back to being 100%."

"And I think that's really important for us. He's our mover and shaker now at Ginebra, and we're only gonna go as far as he goes. So if he's 100%, I think that really increases our chances."

Still, Cone anticipates that the teams will be on a more even footing when they eventually face off. After all, it is not just Pringle who had the opportunity to regain his fitness.

Players such as Jeron Teng of Alaska and Raymond Almazan of Meralco, who were dealing with nagging injuries of their own, have also been healing up.

San Miguel big man June Mar Fajardo, who fractured his leg in February, has also been recovering without having to miss any games. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen if he will see action this year.

"It does equalize things. It equalizes, because we're all gonna come back after a long, long stretch, and back to zero," said Cone.

"The team that's gonna be able to get in shape and be able to rediscover their system is gonna be the team that's gonna have the edge," he predicted. "That could come out from anywhere. It can literally come out from anybody. I think it equalizes things quite a bit."

"But you know, we're looking forward," Cone also said. "Right now we're just thinking about, let's go back to work and let's chase whatever is out there. It may be a short tournament, it may be a longer tournament, it may be a true All-Filipino, we don't know. But we're hoping to get back as quickly as possible."