09 June 2014

Bolt's Below-Par Players This Season, Part 2

(Second of Three Parts)

Danny Ildefonso
We started a couple of articles ago of trying to identify disappointing Meralco Bolts players this 2013-2014 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Aside from the obvious ineffective coaching style of Ryan Gregorio, some of the players in the current line-up failed miserably in either meeting up to their contract or living up to the pre-season expectations.

At the top of the list, we have already identified formerly feared gunner, Gary David, who can’t seem to make the jump from being tagged as the ‘main man’ to just one of those players. However, any player can fall into this category if they’re not focused enough on improving, which takes us to the second name on the list.

Danny Ildefonso

This one could be argued against very easily. First off, the 16 year veteran wasn't supposed to be a critical part of the offensive nor defensive plan of the Meralco Bolts so the expectations are unfair. Secondly, he just transferred to the Bolts after spending most of his playing career with the San Miguel Beer and Petron, so he needs some time to adjust.

Well the fact of the matter is he is a two-time Most Valuable Player (PBA) of the league in 2000 and 2001 and fair or unfair that comes with a certain amount of expectations. Also, he's having an atrocious season even by the standards of his contemporaries, Asi Taulava and Danny Seigle.

It all started when his former coach, Jong Uichico, was transferred early this year by the Manny V. Pangilinan group from the Meralco Bolts to the Talk N’ Text stable in exchange for assistant coach Nash Racela. Uichico has been with Meralco since the early part of January 2012 after he parted ways with Barangay Ginebra, ending a long partnership with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) that lasted for about three decades and 8 Championships.

Then the second conference started and Ildefonso looked worse somehow. He started off missing some crazy number of shots in a row as he looked sluggish, was forcing shots, and over-thinking every aspect of the PBA game. Then the confidence starts to slip away and Ildefonso would deliver unforgettable numbers of 3.37 points and 2.32 rebounds per game, while hitting 40.0 percent of his shots from the floor. The figures may be slightly better compared to his last season with the SMC, but still far from his 2011-2012 average of 8.07 points and 5.08 rebounds per outing.

Ildefonso still have a few flashes of brilliance although his durability has kept him from building on these signs of promise. Couple that in with the fact that coach Gregorio was barely giving any minutes to a grizzled warrior that needed every minute he could get in order to stretch those aging muscles.

Seriously, how the hell is Ryan Gregorio a coach? It's not like the Bolts were competing for anything, so why wouldn't he play Ildefonso 25 minutes a game instead of 13.05 minutes when it seemed pretty obvious that Reynel Hugnatan is getting winded from extended exposure? Remember when coach Gregorio said before the 2013-2014 season begun that they are a much-improve team in paper? That was a good laugh.

All in all this season by Ildefonso was incredibly disappointing and while it is too early to call on him to retire, he is certainly on track. Look at the comparison between him and his former tormentor, 41-year old Taulava. The Air 21 center averaged 37.47 minutes, 12.67 rebounds and 14.53 points per game! The most egregious stat though is that Taulava, the 2003 MVP, has an overall efficiency of 38.04, while Ildefonso can only manage with an efficiency of 15.63.

Not to further pour salt on the already open wound, but Taulava was a Bolts player from 2010 until 2012 and during those seasons, he posted career lows in all aspect of his game. That in itself shows how coach Gregorio has failed to maximize a player’s potential.

(to be continued)
(Part 1, Part 3)

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