Even with Brownlee likely to be out of Comm’s Cup, opposing coaches believe Ginebra remains a formidable force even with a different import


Ginebra import Justin Brownlee in Game 5 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. –PBA IMAGES

Justin Brownlee’s looming absence from the Barangay Ginebra roster in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA)—at least for the early part of the 48th Season—could cut open a path for other clubs to swoop in and take the Commissioner’s Cup.

“I think it’s not only San Miguel Beer that is thinking of that. I’m pretty sure other teams are already into that. Justin has won a lot of championships here,” coach Jorge Gallent told the Inquirer on Tuesday, the first day of the league’s Media Day at One Esplanade in Pasay City.It should be a sort of rosy scenario for several teams, especially for a deeply talented team like the Beermen. But some contenders are quick to look at that possibility with cautious optimism.

“Offhand, it seems that there will be an advantage or it will give other teams a better chance of getting to the finals or semifinals—whichever,” outspoken Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said. “We all know that whenever Brownlee’s there, Ginebra tends to become either a finalist or champion. But I really think we should be careful with such a thought.

“With the resources of Ginebra, with the expertise of its coaching staff and their scouting abilities, they can easily tap a skilled import to get by,” he said.There has been no official word yet on the length of Brownlee’s suspension after he flunked a drug test during the Hangzhou Asian Games (Asiad). But Ginebra management has since said it has been looking for a stopgap talent.

Commissioner Willie Marcial said that basketball leaders have yet to be notified of the official sanctions that will be meted out against the naturalized ace, who was integral in delivering the Philippines’ first Asiad gold in 61 years. Brownlee could serve a shorter ban if he is able to prove that the cannabis he was flagged for was ingested out of medication.

Tempered outlook

Brownlee potentially being out for the entirety of the conference that opens on Nov. 5 also doesn’t give TNT’s Jojo Lastimosa the assurance that the Gin Kings will be out of it.

“It’s hard to say,” said Lastimosa, who steered TNT past Brownlee and dynastic Barangay Ginebra in the last Governors’ Cup. “Every season, every conference is different. Even without Justin there, I think there’s a lot of formidable teams and imports [out] there.

“Of course, it’s a big plus that (returning ace) Rondae (Hollis-Jefferson) is with us. We know how good he is and what he brings to the table, so having [him] there gives us a little bit of confidence even without Mikey (Williams) and Roger (Pogoy).”

Lastimosa’s outlook is tempered in the fact that they may be battling with less firepower—something Ginebra teems with even with Brownlee to serve a suspension.On paper, Ginebra still commands attention as it remains stacked with battle-hardened players such as Christian Standhardinger, Stanley Pringle, Jamie Malonzo and of course, a pair of heroes from that Asian Games golden dozen in Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar.

“As I’ve said, if you have the resources, if you have the expertise and the network—all of which Ginebra has—[you] can easily reel in an import,” Guiao said. “While it’s hard to fill the big shoes of Justin, I’m sure they’ll figure it out.” INQ

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