Talk ‘N Text is out to complete the rare Grand Slam by winning the final conference of the season, the Governor’s Cup. But competition will be fierce as it seems all the squads are making moves to shore up their weaknesses. With the strict height restrictions the PBA imposes the imports teams find are always interesting. How tall of a player teams are allowed to sign is contingent upon where finished in the earlier two conferences. For the Governor’s Cup BMeg, MGK, TNT, and Petron have a 6’2” height limit. Alaska, Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Air21 all have a 6’4” limit. After finishing at the bottom of the pecking order the Powerade Tigers are allowed a player up to 6’6”. Below is a look at who is here, who was rumored to be coming, and who may be going very soon. Of the 9 imports playing at this moment there is one NBA veteran, 6 D-League veterans, and two former D1 players. This collection of import talent may have the best resumes the league has ever seen. Whether or not that transfers well onto the court is another story all together.
Alaska Aces – Looking for a player to shore up their frontline Alaska brought in Jason Forte. Forte is a well-traveled pro who played two games in the PBA a year or so ago. While I understand the need to fill a position, many other players must have fallen through for the Aces to pick up Forte. Frankly he is a solid all-around player, but he does nothing exceptionally well. In his first game he scored 16 points, grabbed 14 boards, and dished out 5 assists. While those numbers look good, it took him 25 field goal attempts (and 6 free throws) to score 16 points. Often the ball stopped rotating when it came to him and he tried to force the action. In his second game he scored 22 points, but disappeared for much of the second half. He showed a lot of hustle, but he can not be relied upon to get his team a basket when they need it. With an 0-2 record Alaska fans are already calling for his removal.Things will have to change quickly if he is planning on staying in the Philippines much longer.
Barangay Ginebra Kings– Coming off an MVP year in the D-League, Curtis Stinson may be one of the most high profile imports to ever join the PBA. Stinson should find great success in the PBA for two main reasons. First, in the D-League games I watched this season he excels at the drive and dish or kick out. Filipino ballers love nothing more than to hang out at the three point line ready to bomb away. Second, Stinson is around 215 pounds. He will be able to take his opponent into the post ala Mark Jackson. In his first game Stinson was as good as advertised turning in a solid all-around performance. He only scored 15 points, but added 9 rebounds and 8 assists. His coach, Jong Uichico, summed it up nicely “He’s okay as he competes, defends, plays the post and gets his teammates involved.”
Petron Blaze Boosters – Playing for the first time with the Petron name, no team has been more active in the rumor area and evaluation of potential players. Initially the rumor was that they would be bringing in Will Conroy. After that fizzled they were rumored to be deciding between Bobby Brown (NBA veteran) and Ricky Harris (former UMass star and international pro). They announced they would bring in Harris before quickly changing their minds and deciding on Mike Taylor, the former D-League star and NBA player. Taylor supposedly was a beast in the preseason practices, but he then got hurt and is out for the next few weeks. So at the last minute they brought Harris back in, and he was pretty terrible in the first game scoring 8 points on 3/15 shooting and only collecting 2 assists. Others agreed with my assessment and Harris was sent home immediately after the game.
Game 2 of the conference for the Petron saw the arrival of D-League stud Jeremy Wise the morning of the game. Showing no signs of jet-lag or the fact he had never played with his teammates before, Wise starred with 33 points, 6 boards, and 6 assists. Wise looks to be the perfect compliment for Cabagnot who finished the game with 12 points and 10 assists. Most impressive of all was that Wise played within the team system and did not force anything. He is going to thrive in the break-neck pace of the PBA.
Rain or Shine Elasto Painters – High Point University’s finest Arizona Reid is making his PBA debut this conference. Reid gets my “Most Likely to Make Me Forget Gabe Freeman Award” this conference, a huge honor as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows. Before coming to our corner of the world Reid has played in leagues in Italy, Finland, Lebanon, and Switzerland. He plays with a ton of energy and can even hit an outside shot. Over his first two games he has averaged 30 points and 14 rebounds while leading his team to a 2-0 start.
Talk N Text Tropang Texters – Maurice Baker was named as TNT’s import for the third conference pretty late in the game. Originally Scottie Reynolds was the choice, but he recently sustained an injury while playing in another league so will be unable to come over. The TNT coach was quoted as saying they “went to the bottom of the barrel” to find Baker. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. With their strong Filipino squad, Baker will be looked to as a floor general to keep everyone together. A lot of pressure is riding on Baker here, as TNT goes for the elusive Grand Slam. While Baker had a solid first outing he is going to need to step his game up even more with the injury to star point guard Jimmy Alapag. Baker will have the difficult challenge of balancing scoring and distributing the ball.
I will make sure to provide further updates as the conference progresses, particularly if any of the imports are replaced. If anyone wants to know how to watch online send me a tweet @asiabballupdate.