03 December 2014

Starting Over With A Shallow Bench

Meralco's Bench
It almost seems like an afterthought.

Stuffed between last year’s 9th place finish and what looks to be a promising future, the 2014-2015 Meralco Bolts Philippine Cup campaign very well could be one of the most forgettable since its 5th place finish during the 2012-2013 season.

Shackled by a short bench and a shallow talent pool, new head coach Norman Black will have to bide his time during what should be a “honeymoon’ conference until the arrival of a sound import in the next two conferences.

Preseason expectations are at an all-time low for the Bolts; however, Black can still remain cautiously optimistic about the squad’s finish since their last two games will be against the Kia Sorrentos and Globalport Batang Pier.

Black should not be overconfident though considering how little about the current team resembles its processor, the defunct Sta. Lucia Realtors. That team may have not won many titles but it oozed talent at every position. The current Bolts team that acquired the Sta. Lucia franchise barely can find a healthy body to start at the center position.

But what Black should like about this team is its willingness to learn. He should strive to cultivate that passion on the fundamentals “ mainly toughness, defense and rebounding “ and thus far the Bolts have responded.

In its first two wins, the Bolts have shown attention to detail that it lacked throughout much of former coach Ryan Gregorio’s 4-year tenure. The squad’s defense is already showing progress after limiting their opponents to 30-40 percent shooting.

The team is improving, but they still have a long way to go. Everything is there for the team and they just need to execute.

Replacing old habits with new ones should be Black’s major focus as he attempts to make the most of his players’ physical skills. He should encourage veteran Danny Ildefonso to make a more consistent effort on defense this season.

He should goad both Ryan Buenafe and James Sena into the weight room and transform them into more of a threat on both ends of the floor. The two players are two of the three Bolts with the lowest efficiency. The other one is rookie Philip Morrison.

Black has helped Cliff Hodge learn to use his athleticism to his advantage in getting better position on the low block. All of that effort seems to be paying off for the young power-forward after transforming into the team’s ultimate double-double machine, 12.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

A 4-5 start doesn’t conjure up images of the 2007-2008 Philippine Cup champion Sta. Lucia Realtors, but it’s all that can be expected considering how thin the Bruins are in all position. With John Wilson, Sean Anthony, Reynel Hugnatan and Gary David doubtful in their next two elimination games, Meralco will have an uphill battle ahead.

The lack of proven players’ coming off the bench is just one reason Meralco was picked in preseason polls to finish in the lower half of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup. While challenging conference favourites San Miguel Beermen and Alaska Aces might be difficult, the Bolts still have a slim chance to defy expectations. However, they have to start now.

No comments:

Post a Comment