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Embattled champs


It’s time for the Tropang Giga to refocus — and they have to do it as soon as possible.


From being the toast of the Philippine Basketball Association in the previous Governors’ Cup, TNT Tropang Giga had become an embattled champion fighting for dear life in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup.

Controversies, injuries and off-court incidents didn’t help the Tropang Giga, who now find themselves on the brink of elimination.

Their latest loss to Rain or Shine, 112-119, put more pressure on Tropang Giga as they are now in a must-win situation.

They have lost their last three games and dropped to 4-6, just half a game behind ninth-placer NLEX.

Should there be a tie at the eight spot, a playoff will be staged to determine who will take the last quarterfinal spot.

It’s a strange situation to be in for TNT, which was crowned as the new king of the season-ending conference after beating Barangay Ginebra in the best-of-seven finals.

Last year’s campaign brought out the best in everyone — from the controversial Mikey Williams to new emerging star in Calvin Oftana, potential resident import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the latest champion coach Jojo Lastimosa, who embraced the role while serving as team manager in the absence of Chot Reyes.

But the Tropang Giga had been experiencing a turbulent journey.

Off the court, Williams was the subject of controversy.

The talented but hard-to-deal-with playmaker, who helped the Tropang Giga win two titles in the past two years, had a falling out with the TNT management.

Just a year ago, TNT had to strike a last-minute deal with Williams, paving the way for him to join the squad just a few days before the start of the season.

The grueling negotiation hardly mattered as the 6-foot-2 Williams helped TNT win its second title in the Governors’ Cup.

This time, things had become more complicated as Williams opted to hold out, prompting the TNT management to finally pull the plug and terminate his contract.

Aside from Williams, an injury bug had also bitten the Tropang Giga.

Justin Chua and Poy Erram remain out with knee injuries while Roger Pogoy is still sidelined by a heart ailment.

Worse, even Hollis-Jefferson and veteran Jayson Castro were not spared.

The former National Basketball Association stalwart was forced to sit out the remainder of the season after suffering a neck injury during their game in the East Asia Super League injury while Castro is still experiencing knee tendinitis.

With Hollis-Jefferson out, the Tropang Giga hired his older brother — Rahlir — who made an instant impact by dropping 50 points to help Oftana carry the bulk of the offensive load in their setback to the Elast Painters last Friday.

But the Tropang Giga failed to keep their emotions in check, especially the younger Hollis-Jefferson, who had a heated verbal exchange with Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao during the crucial stretch of the game.

So many things happened in less than a year for TNT and, unless it switches on its championship mindset, it may not get past the eliminations.

It’s time for the Tropang Giga to refocus — and they have to do it as soon as possible.

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