Tim Cone is looking to have a strong start when Ginebra San Miguel marches to the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup starting this Sunday at the Philsports Arena.
Cone, the league’s winningest mentor, said he hopes the Kings will not suffer from a championship hangover when they open their campaign in the season-ending conference on 5 February against Rain or Shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With Cone calling the shots, the Kings essayed a masterful performance to clinch the Commissioner’s Cup title against visiting squad Bay Area last Sunday at the Philippine Arena.
The series was drummed up as a battle between the crowd darlings and the powerful, aggressive invaders from Hong Kong and was witnessed by more than 54,000 roaring fans, making the Kings the toast of the entire basketball-crazy nation.
But Cone stressed that the Governors’ Cup will be a different battle.
He said he wants his team to have a strong start, unlike his previous teams — Alaska and San Mig Coffee — who used to start slow right after their long, grueling championship runs.
“I am no stranger to these things,” Cone said in a telephone conversation with Daily Tribune.
“We saw our teams in Alaska losing three or four games coming off a championship and then would find the resolve to win another one. We’ve seen our team from San Mig Coffee struggling to find our place right in the middle of the pack and end up fifth or sixth in the tournament but would go on to win a championship.”
Cone said they are focused on having a strong start to gain momentum.
And from there, anything is possible.
“But it’s not our intention, even with Barangay Ginebra, so we’re hoping we can get off to a fast start and hopefully, win another one for the entire team, the organization, and the fans.”
Kings assistant coach Richard del Rosario, who was able to pinch hit for Cone several times when he served as part of the Miami Heat coaching staff in the National Basketball Association Summer League, admitted that they learned a lot from their Commissioner’s Cup stint.
Facing Bay Area, for one, was truly a memorable experience as they got to contend against a young, aggressive and very disciplined team that was powered by two legitimate National Basketball Association players.
Actually, Andrew Nicholson, a first-round pick by the Orlando Magic in the 2012 NBA Draft, started the championship series and did damage from practically anywhere with his rebounding prowess and feathery shooting, pushing the Kings to the limit in the first three games.
He sat out in Game 4 with a severe left ankle injury, paving the way for the reactivation of Myles Powell, who served as the reliever of James Harden at the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Powell at the helm, the Kings were given a serious scare as he ran wild in Game 6 for an 87-84 victory to forge a winner-take-all Game 7.
The Kings, however, could not be denied as Justin Brownlee, Jamie Malonzo, Scottie Thompson and Finals Most Valuable Player Christian Standhardinger stepped up to seal what could be one of their biggest victories in franchise history.
“Having Bay Area as guest team really elevated our game. They made us better and we made them better,” wrote Del Rosario in a text message.
“This championship embodied not just the never-say-die spirit, but the Filipino spirit, because we really felt like we were representing the country.”
“This championship was not only a victory for Ginebra. It was a victory for the PBA as it established itself as still the premier league of the region with its record-breaking crowd attendance and viewership here and abroad.”