07 January 2011

Even in Losing, There is Validation

Meralco Bolts Team
The Meralco Bolts may have had bowed out of contention for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Filipino title last 22 December 2010, while their detractors smirked and blurted unprintable words against them beyond the dusty confines of Araneta Coliseum, but one thing clearly emerged from that brokenhearted building. The Meralco Bolts are not yet done and wanted more.

What they want is a title. Macmac Cardona smiled at the way last minute negotiation was made to bring in new players to help their cause. Even Gabby Espinas, a candidate for the Most Improved Player this early, clenched his fist in confidence on his way past the scorer's table, past the fans starting to bundle to the exit when the outcome of their match with B-Meg became clear.

They didn't want their momentum to end last December. The Bolts had gone and got good and muscled-up with free-agent talent. They’d gone on several come-from-behind victories, and they wanted the league to see that an old powerhouse could breathe again. This was supposed to be a Cardona team, it was his offensive skills that made him the team’s go-to-guy. However, the fired-up Espinas, the athleticism of Hans Thiele, the hustle of Chris Ross and experience of Asi Taulava are things that are responsible for grabbing this forlorn franchise and willing it out of rubble and into relevance.

That evening of 22 December 2010 had been the most compelling night in a long, long time for the Meralco franchise – a 92-88 loss to the B-Meg that left the Bolts as invigorated as it did devastated. For all of the Bolts impressive victories this conference – 7 out of the past 14 – they might have proven more in this loss to B-Meg.

Detractors and those who opposed to another Manny Pangilinan team in the PBA took a lap to gloat, and now they are screaming in public forums that these Bolts ought to be careful about wishing to renew their championship dreams. The Bolts that emerged from the remnants of Sta. Lucia franchise – who traded away their top players had long stopped offering resistance – are gone now. Cardona and Espinas changes everything for Meralco, and the specter of another star player coming next conference makes the Bolts a gathering storm in the league.

For now, the Bolts ought to understand this: The league respects some of their players and a few of their coaches. They know that Cardona and Espinas are responsible in keeping their offense consistent, Thiele and Ross are becoming defensive icons, while Taulava can still exhibit the form he was once feared every now and then.

Beyond the evolution of these five talents in a singular unit, his singular talent, they engaged the team in a way that has been startling. They were not really dying to play for Ryan Gregorio. It was obvious in public engagement that the players are just proud to be part of a revival of an old powerhouse. Yet they need a coach that can motivate them further and prevent another implosion when the next conference starts. More importantly, a coach that can sustain their resurrection.

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