21 September 2011

Gregorio Focusing More on Offense?

Ryan Gregorio
It seems that Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio had this disturbing notion that MacMac Cardona's return from injury will bring the lightning back to the Bolts' attack this coming PBA season. He also believes that the addition of six new players is a major piece in the revamp that's expected to transform the team into a competitive two-way basketball machine.

"Offense was a problem that needed to be addressed," said Gregorio. "MacMac's absence left a big vacuum in our balance on offense. Sol (Mercado) took much of the scoring load but it wasn't enough for us to win consistently. The arrival of Mark Macapagal, a shooter, Chico Lanete, a threat, and Mark Yee, a scorer, will definitely help us run, score on fastbreaks and improve our numbers on offense. With the adjustments in personnel, most of our problem areas on offense will be cured."

This is the same confident belief that was shared by Gregorio when he was still the coach of Purefoods, now known as BMeg Llamados, as they are about to face the Sta. Lucia Realtors in the Finals of the 2008 PBA Philippine Cup. History taught us that the Realtors emerged victorious in the seven-game series after they employed a running defense that stifled Purefoods' two-man offense. Ironically, the Realtors' coach then, Boyet Fernandez, now serves as one of Gregorio's assistants at the Bolts bench.

In the recently concluded Governors Cup, Gregorio said Meralco fared poorly in offense, ranking seventh in average points (92) and ninth in field goal percentage (.350), fastbreak points (8.5) and assists (15.0). As a result of these numbers, the Bolts failed to advance to the playoffs, finishing at 3-5. Meralco lost its last three outings with Cardona sitting out seven of the Bolts' eight games.

Without learning anything from the 2008 All-Filipino series, Gregorio is again prioritizing the team's offense. He was busy offseason trying to make the Bolt's a deadly offensive unit without realizing that even in their good nights, their best offense won't be enough if they can't get the ball.

With new players in their fold, it would make sense if the Bolts focus on defense at the beginning of the season. Players need to get the ball before they can do anything with it - the better their defense is, the more often they'll find themselves in possession of the ball. And Gregorio should keep in mind that, even at the professional league, the average shooting percentage is under 45 percent last season – greater than half of all shots that go up end up in a miss.

More problematic is Gregorio's strategy in defense. He is leaning on Ballesteros and Bulawan to anchor the squad without designing a fluid defensive coverage that involves all five players on the floor. "They're known defensive specialists," he said. "Jason and Gilbert will obviously strengthen our interior defense, toughness and as a result, create turnovers. In sum, our overall outlook is to be tough on defense and quick on offense."

Will defensive plays be given to Boyet Fernandez? Hopefully, this is the case, but I am not that confident it will not be diluted by other staff close to Gregorio.

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