Monday, December 5, 2011

The Possibility for Rudy Hatfield to Play this PBA Season

Rudy Hatfield won’t be available to play for Barangay Ginebra until next month. If the Kings make it to the semifinals of the Philippine Cup, the H-Bomb might still be able to catch up and play this conference. And if Ginebra advances to the finals, Hatfield could find himself in coach Siot Tanquingcen’s rotation.

But is the Ginebra coaching staff willing to gamble and fix what ain’t broke by bringing in Hatfield with the Philippine Cup playoffs just around the corner? Chemistry is something that doesn’t come easy. It takes time to develop familiarity and trust among players. Tanquingcen recently engineered a trade that brought in Allein Maliksi from Barako Bull and Rico Maierhofer from B-Meg. Maliksi still hasn’t played a game for the Kings while Maierhofer played briefly in one. They’ll be broken in slowly so as not to upset the rhythm of Ginebra’s usual rotation. What’s going for Hatfield is he isn’t a stranger to the Ginebra system, having worked before with Tanquingcen and assistant coach Jong Uichico.

Lineup changes may be made only until Dec. 12, the day after the end of the eliminations. So if Tanquingcen has plans of enlisting Hatfield for the playoffs, he’s got to line him up by Dec. 12 even if the H-Bomb won’t be ready to play until early next year. It’s possible that Ginebra will have been eliminated by the time Hatfield is available but it’s also possible that the Kings may still be in contention.

At the moment, Ginebra is 7-5 with two games left in its schedule – Barako Bull on Thursday and Talk ‘N’ Text on Sunday. If the Kings win both assignments, they’ll move up to 9-5. The goal is to finish the eliminations in the top six because winding up No. 7 or No. 8 will mean playing either of the top two placers with a twice-to-win disadvantage.

Either Talk ‘N’ Text or Petron will notch win No. 10 after their encounter at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight. The winner will automatically gain at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, the first stage of the playoffs. If B-Meg beats Shopinas on Thursday as it is expected to, then the Derby Ace Llamados also earn at least a playoff for the other twice-to-beat advantage with win No. 10. A three-way tie for first will result if Petron beats Talk ‘N’ Text, B-Meg beats Shopinas and Talk ‘N’ Text beats Ginebra on Sunday.

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Under tournament rules, there will be no playoff to break ties unless it is for the second and eighth slots. With Alaska and Shopinas out of the running, the only possible playoff will be for second place if Petron, B-Meg and Talk ‘N’ Text finish with identical 10-4 records

Rain Or Shine will end up at 9-5 with a win over Alaska in the first game of today’s twinbill. That will assure the Elasto Painters of a top six rung

Barako Bull now totes a 6-6 record with two games to go – against Ginebra on Thursday and Powerade on Sunday. The Energy Boosters could go up to 8-6 to tie Meralco in the standings. It’s possible that Barako, Meralco and Ginebra will finish with identical 8-6 marks. Rain Or Shine will also finish at 8-6 if it loses to Alaska today. In this case, the logjam will be broken via the quotient system. That means the Ginebra-Barako and Barako-Powerade games will be bloody battles where the goal is to win by as many points as possible

Ginebra PBA Governor Robert Non said yesterday he’s leaving it up to the Kings coaching staff to decide if Hatfield will be in the lineup for the Dec. 12 cut-off. Uichico confirmed that Hatfield won’t be ready until January and his contract remains under negotiation. Uichico said he expects the contract to be finalized this week.

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Last Sunday, Ginebra played without Maliksi, Maierhofer and Jay-Jay Helterbrand but managed to upend Meralco, 81-71. In the Kings’ six wins before the game, they held their opponents to an average of 79.8 points. Ginebra was also No. 2 in field goal percentage allowed at an even 40 percent. The indicators showed that for Ginebra to beat Meralco, the Kings had to limit the Bolts to 80 or less and less than 40 percent shooting. No question, defense was the key to victory and so it was. Meralco scored only 15 in the first period and 12 in the second then sputtered with just seven in the last 8:21. The Bolts hit only 32.5 percent from the field and delivered 71 points. Mike Cortez led the way with 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three steals and no turnover in 36 minutes. Rico Villanueva chipped in 11 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes.

Ginebra has now won three in a row, four of its last five, but the Kings will be hard pressed to extend the streak unless Tanquingcen harnesses Maliksi, Maierhofer and Helterbrand for the tough games ahead. Somehow, Tanquingcen has been able to collect wins with hard-nosed team defense, a style that Ginebra isn’t traditionally known for. The Kings built a reputation as a run-and-gun machine through the years but times have changed. Now, the accent is on defense and if that’s what it takes to win, neither Tanquingcen nor the Barangay multitude will have it any other way.


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