‘No one can serve two masters’

MUSINGS MARK RABAGO

2022-11-30T08:00:00.0000000Z

2022-11-30T08:00:00.0000000Z

The Manila Times

https://digitaledition.manilatimes.net/article/282243784610741

Sports

C HOT Reyes’ recent experience helming Gilas Pilipinas and TNT Tropang Giga is the best example of the biblical truth that “no one can serve two masters.” Reyes stirred the national team to two inspiring away-from-home wins against Jordan and Saudi Arabia in the fifth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers. And not a few weeks after his triumphant return to Manila with his coaching acumen praised once again, Reyes failed to help the MVP group’s premier team in the PBA make it to the playoffs of the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup after ending the conference with a 4-8 win-loss record. It’s the first time the nine-time champion coach failed to stir a TNT team to the playoffs. In fairness to Reyes, the Tropang Giga was riddled with injuries in the tailend of conference when they were fighting for dear life. First to get bitten by the injury bug was much ballyhooed import and Gilas naturalization candidate Cameron Oliver, who was eventually replaced by Matt Mobley. Then Jayson Castro, TNT’s heart and soul, would join Oliver on the sidelines after spraining his right foot in a game against Barangay Ginebra. To compound things, center Poy Erram’s sore knee forced him to sit out the Tropang Giga’s coup de grace game against the San Miguel Beermen. What also was very telling in TNT’s illfated Commissioner’s Cup stint was the inability of Reyes to effectively integrate new recruit Calvin Oftana’s game to the previously much-vaunted Tropang Giga offense. The 6’5” do-it-all forward would get his usual numbers playing for TNT, but it wasn’t as impactful as everyone hoped it would be. In the end, TNT’s backroom dealing to get the former San Beda star (in exchange for longtime Tropang Giga star Troy Rosario in a convoluted three-team trade that also include Blackwater Elite rookie Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser) has blown up right in their face, at least in the short term. And the MVP group’s woes don’t stop there as the two other PBA teams under its umbrella (three if you count farm team Blackwater Elite) — the Meralco Bolts and NLEX Road Warriors — are also in danger of missing the Commissioner’s Cup playoff bus altogether. At 4-6, Meralco’s last game to finish up the elimination round were against, coincidentally, NLEX and the San Miguel Beermen. The 4-7 Road Warriors can give its sister team a solid ala-Sagip Kapamilya by giving away the game to Meralco. But that win in itself, which effectively eliminates NLEX from postseason play, may be for naught as the Beermen, the flagship franchise of the SMB group (hence the name), may not be as willing to play possum as the Road Warriors in the Bolts’ last game. The Bolts’ woes in the conference starts and ends with its choice of import or imports. Original reinforcement Johnny O’Bryant proved ineffective despite averaging 26 points and 16 rebounds as coach Norman Black started with a woeful 1-5 record. Meralco wanted to swap the NBA vet with NBA G Leaguer Jessie Govan, but the latter was too tall for the Commissioner’s Cup’s 6’9” import height limit. By the time the Bolts settled for former NLEX import K.J. McDaniels, they were already in a deep hole and despite the former Houston Rocket towing them to three straight wins, his arrival is proving to be too late the hero. NLEX, meanwhile, tapped NBA veteran Earl Clark of the Los Angeles Lakers fame and was tipped to make some noise in the final conference of the PBA’s 2022 season. However, the Road Warriors were already in upheaval even before the conference began when coach Yeng Guaio wasn’t renewed and jumped ship to his former team, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. His hand-picked successor, Frankie Lim, initially balked at the idea of returning to the bench and when he finally acquiesced to coach again in the PBA, he had two sit out a game as part of his suspension that emanated when he was still coaching Barangay Ginebra in 2015. To make matters worse, NLEX also began the season with key role players injured as J.R. Quiñahan, Anthony Semerad, Philip Paniamogan, and Kris Rosales all attended games in civvies. With all those problems in tow, it’s not a mystery why NLEX’s campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup didn’t gain any thread. So here we are facing the possibility of an MVP team-less Commissioner’s Cup in the PBA. Maybe it’s time for the esteemed MVP, a basketball nut if I ever saw one, to reassess his teams in Asia’s first play-for-pay league. Come to think of it, Matthew 6:24 could also apply to his PBA dealings but in this case, no one man can serve three masters…or a fourth (wink, wink).

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