Tough task awaits Justin Brownlee when he powers Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup starting 21 September.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone admitted that the battle will not be easy as the two-time Best Import awardee battles bigger, stronger imports in this prestigious midseason conference.
Standing at 6-foot-6, Brownlee will bang bodies with reinforcements who are at least 6-foot-10 like National Basketball Association veterans Thomas Robinson of San Miguel Beer, Cameron Oliver of TNT Tropang Giga and Earl Clark of NLEX.
Robinson is a power-playing former lottery pick who had significant stints with five NBA teams while Oliver played a key role for the Houston Rockets and Earl Clark starred for the Los Angeles Lakers squad that was bannered by the late Kobe Bryant.
But the biggest hurdle in Brownlee’s path will be Chinese giant Liu Chuanxing and Andrew Nicholson of guest team Bay Area Dragons.
Liu, who is part of the roster as a local player, will be the tallest player ever to see action in the 46 years of the PBA at 7-foot-5 while the Canadian Nicholson is a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who played for the Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets before becoming a journeyman in the Chinese league.
Brownlee will be one of the three returning imports together with Prince Ibeh of NorthPort and Lester Prosper of Terrafirma.
After their successful title defense in the Governors’ Cup early this year, the crowd darlings are expected to sustain their momentum in the season-opening tourney.
The Kings finished 8-3 in the eliminations, but their Governors’ Cup rival Meralco kicked them out in an intense quarterfinal series.
Still, Cone remains positive that Brownlee could easily survive the grueling battle.
After all, he has a solid cast of supporters who could patrol the paint like 6-foot-9 forward Japeth Aguilar and 6-foot-10 slotman Christian Standhardinger.
Aguilar, in fact, had already reported for duty together with Gilas Pilipinas teammate Scottie Thompson following the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers last week while injured rookie Jeremiah Gray is tipped to show up around mid-October.
“Anytime you put Justin Brownlee with us, we’re a team to reckon with. Justin obviously changes the way we play,” Cone said, referring to the do-it-all reinforcement who led them to the Commissioner’s Cup title in 2018.
“Scottie and Japeth will join the training on Monday. The only guy that we’re waiting for is Jeremiah Grey. He will not be around until mid-October.”
Cone added that Brownlee’s familiarity will be his major advantage as he has been with the Kings since 2016.
With chemistry already a given, they are now focused on improving their offense and raising the morale of the players after bombing out early in the recently-concluded Philippine Cup.
“We seem to be doing well, we’re on target. Justin is already here and we’re back on practice,” Cone said on his first media appearance since contracting Covid-19 last week.
“We’re finding ways to improve our defense and get more flow offensively. He does many things and it opens a lot of our offense that does not naturally get opened up during the all-Filipino.”