The upside for KIA
by rick olivares
At the end of the day, it’s a 77-88 loss to the Purefoods Star Hotshots but for the KIA Sorentos, they can take away some positives from this game.
For the first time, since their Opening Day win over BlackWater Elite, the Sorentos played tough like a veteran PBA side and not an expansion club. Not to disrespect the coaching staff that has able veterans like Glenn Capacio, Louie Gonzales, and Chito Victolero, but the effect of the return of Manny Pacquiao -- who was fresh from his win over Chris Algieri last Sunday in Macau – to the bench was electric. The man simply has boundless energy returning to the PBA hardcourt three days after his last boxing match and his presence sure was an inspiration to KIA that looked dangerous and on another gear.
I don’t believe that people should overlook this aspect of KIA and Pacquiao. Not every head coach is an excellent Xs and Os man. Some are good with it but actually are better motivators while their assistant provide the other technical expertise. One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand the basic rudiments of what is going right and wrong on the court but the proper encouragement and motivation can sometimes turn the trick.
KIA definitely has serviceable parts to borrow an automobile term but they are still lacking a few key pieces to the contender puzzle.
Personally, I wondered why the expansion clubs were not given a chance to land some direct hires in the manner of which Magnolia/San Miguel, Purefoods, and Tanduay to name a few were allowed to do so.
Anyways, it’s done.
Against Purefoods, for three quarters, the Sorentos gave Tim Cone’s Hot Shots lots to worry about. As KIA looked ready to play the night’s spoilers, Cone called time and let his players breathe and relax instead of telling issuing instructions. These Hot Shots after all are a veteran squad that has five titles to their name. They know what to do in these situations.
Led by Mark Barroca, they stopped their upset-conscious foe and turned the tables on the them, a 57-51 third quarter deficit, by playing suffocating defense and dropping a 25-6 bomb from which KIA never recovered. That was 37 points the defending Philippine Cup champions dropped in the fourth period alone!
And perhaps more ominously, sent a message to the rest of the league that they have woken up from their early season slumber and are peaking at the right time.
It would be easy to extol the virtues of Purefoods’ fourth straight win to go to 5-3 (tied with Talk ‘N Text and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel) but I’d like to instead focus on KIA though they are at 1-8. Against their savvy foes, KIA – pun intended – simply ran out of gas.
However, it is good to see Sorentos center Reil Cervantes develop the confidence that was sapped while burning a hole in his shorts on Ginebra’s bench. Cervantes can play. He showed that in the UAAP and the D-League where even if undersized for the center slot can post up and hit the outside shot (including the three-point shot which he has developed further). He was always good in passing the ball especially out of double teams but on the run last night, he found a flashing Rich Alvarez in the lane for a deuce.
LA Revilla is showing the folly of making him sit on the bench (read: GlobalPort). He can score and pass and has a good vision. As court general, he should impose himself more and rather than dribble too much and wait until the shot clock is winding down before throwing up an attempt.
I haven’t seen Rich Alvarez play this much since his days the Shell Turbochargers (I am not sure though during his stint in Alaska) but he is showing what he could do – play defense, rebound some, and attack the basket. Plus, he could pass.
Aside from acquiring a real go-to player who can provide consistent scoring sock and command some double teams on the floor, KIA might want to look on how to get some of their players untracked. They do not need to have a platoon of stars who are doing the rigodon ala Barako Bull.
They (the Sorentos) have other good and serviceable players in Karl Dehesa, Chito Jaime, JR Buensuceso, Alvin Padilla, Mike Burtscher, Rudy Lingganay, and Hans Thiele. A team can be really good with one or two stars to go with role players who can get the job done. They could address this somewhat if they find a really good import to help them in the next conference.
Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what kind of tinkering they can do for the rest of the season.