23 May 2016

Why Bolts Need More Amer-Newsome Backcourt Exposure

Chris Newsome
Any PBA team can have a winning combination where two guys believe they are the alpha on a team — so long as their games mesh. The natural, obvious examples are Junemar Fajardo and Arwind Santos, or James Yap and Marc Pingris.

It has not worked with Meralco Bolts' Jimmy Alapag and Chris Newsome.

The relationship between the two is not the biggest problem — they get along better than L.A. Tenorio and Mark Caguiao ever did — the issue is their games simply do not mesh. The reason why is simple.

Neither possesses knockdown 3-point shooting ability to play well off one another. Alapag used to, but not anymore. Both prefer to have the ball. Newsome has added a screen-and-roll element to his game that nobody envisioned when he first came into the league.

This has little to do with whether Alapag and Newsome like each other or get along. Simply put, the two didn't play well together consistently in the last two conferences getting outscored by 2.5 points per 100 possessions when both were on the court. If left unaddressed, their uneasy alliance will continue to have a negative effect the Bolts' chances for a PBA crown.

Until utilizing them together in screen-and-roll plays more frequently down the stretch, coach Norman Black often called isolation plays for Newsome. The other stood on the perimeter, where Alapag's 28.7 percent 3-point shooting struck little fear. This is Alapag's lowest percentage since joining the league way back in 2003.

PBA teams cannot be constructed like a fantasy team, where collecting the most talent is all that matters — fit is crucial. Mental makeup of players matters. Chemistry is not simply a high school class.

The reality is both Alapag and Newsome likely are back with the Bolts in the 2016-2017 season. Alapag would be hard to move since his game has already reached its peak several years ago. Newsome could bring real value, especially if the Bolts start to think longer-term rebuild, but he is one of the three best players on this team and should be part of its future.

Bolts management errs on the side of caution, so they likely do nothing.

There are no easy, clean, simple answers here for the Bolts. However, one immediate option is to give more time to rookie Baser Amer and Anjo Caram. They are young, but promising guards. All they need is more opportunities to hone their confidence. Alapag needs to recognize that and just come off the bench. A change has to be made, one way or another. It's become obvious, and it's time.

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