25 October 2013

Kerby Raymundo's Role is Critical

Kerby Raymundo
Right now, the most important player for the Meralco Bolts is Clifford Hodge. That much is obvious at least for me, but I'd submit that the next most important player for the Bolts in the 2013-2014 season might just be Kerby Raymundo.

As early as a few years ago, everybody wanted Raymundo. Back in September 2011, I ranked the 2 year maximum contract he signed with B-MEG Llamados (formerly San Mig Coffee Mixers) as one of the worst in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Why? Because during his stint with the Llamados (2011-2012) he can only produce 9.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.7 assist per game. After he was traded to Barangay Ginebra in January 2012, it gets even worse. In all the 38 games he played with Ginebra during the 2012-2013 season, he averaged a mere 7.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He also played only 16.6 minutes per game, a career low for the lanky 6’7” forward who was drafted by the now defunct Red Bull way back in 2001.

I consider this dip in his performance as a basketball menopause and not a slump. We have seen this happen with too many athletic PBA forwards over the years — once they lose it, it hardly comes back. Few exceptions include Asi Taulava, Rudy Hatfield and Nelson Asaytono.

Suffice it to say, he's vastly overpaid from 2011 to 2013 based on his recent historical production. Remember that Raymundo was the first player to avail of the new raise in the maximum monthly pay in the PBA when he agreed to an extension in 2011 worth PhP 9.24 with the Llamados for the next two years.

Breaking it down to figures ordinary folks can mentally handle, this means Raymundo received a monthly paycheck of PHP 350,000 during the 2011-2012 season and PhP 420,000 in the 2012-2013 season. His contract expired last 31 August.

Make no mistake about it, this is a bad contract. So bad that it makes Beau Belga a superstar in a Mark Caguioa team. Hopefully, the Meralco Bolts will not be galled into making a fool of themselves by signing Raymundo to a similar contract. They can actually use the savings generated to sign a quality big man later. From a strategic standpoint, a big damage in morale will be inflicted if the Bolts is going to pay Raymundo the same amount he conveniently secured from the two San Miguel Beer squads.

Now, all of that leads us into the projected start of the All-Filipino Conference, 20113-2014. There's a very real chance that Raymundo, if he did keep himself in top shape despite suffering from a bone bruise in the middle of this year, could be the best player on this team off the bench. And when the import-laden conference begins, you might see Raymundo become even more productive.

Raymundo is also one of the few veterans on this team and we have already seen his tough-love leadership when he tried to come back from an injury after Ginebra hit a slump. He pulls no punches and he backs it up with his effort on the court. That's another big take-away. This guy's motor is always running and he's always (at minimum) giving it his full effort.

All of which could be very beneficial to a young, developing team with few true leaders or veteran examples to follow. But that might not be the biggest long term benefit that Raymundo provides.

If the power-forward from Bataan continues to excel in his role with the Bolts and maintains that level through the first few months of the season, we could very well see some improvements in the way Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Hodge discipline themselves on and off the court.

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