Jimmy Alapag has seen it all for a basketball player.
He’s won and lost titles, experience the game as a player and as an assistant coach, retired and even came out of it, and it’s that kind of immense experience that Ginebra head coach Tim Cone is wary of.
Cone on Thursday said Alapag is the defining component in the finals series between the Gin Kings and Meralco for the PBA Governors’ Cup title.
“The real x-factor here is Jimmy,” said Cone during the press conference for the finals series at PBA Café in Pasig. “There’s no secret here, the level of play elevated when he unretired and joined Meralco.”
“He’s the x-factor in the series.”
Alapag retired in January of 2015 but was reactivated as an assistant playing coach in August for the Bolts.
More than a year later, the legendary point guard is leading the charge for Meralco in its first finals appearance.
Cone said Alapag brings not only helps the team on the court, but also brings the attitude it takes to get to the next level.
“He knows how to win, he’s won in different levels, and he’s gonna teach these guys how to win,” said Cone.
For Alapag, a one-time MVP and six-time champion, Meralco’s trip to the finals is a product of their hardwork.
“This is something I’ve always envisioned for this Meralco team when I came out of retirement,” said Alapag. “Coming from 1-10 in the All-Fiipino Cup I thought it wasn’t gonna happen anytime soon.”
“We’ve done the work and put ourselves to go for the championship, and we have a tough challenge ahead of us so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
Here’s one finale with a heavy dashes and dozes of a special series.
Special coaches, special imports, special local players and special ball clubs.
Barangay Ginebra and Meralco, with their elite coaches Tim Cone and Norman Black and highly motivated troops, kick off their PBA Governors Cup best-of-seven title playoff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday night.
At season’s end, one of them washes away long years of yearning for a crown.
Meralco chases a first crown in franchise history while Ginebra is out to end an eight-year title drought.
In a pre-finals press conference at the PBA Café at Metro Walk in Pasig, each side expresses great determination to top one another and claim the ultimate prize in the league.
“Nine-nine percent in media and among the fans assume it’s gonna be Ginebra. But we’re going to battle,” said Meralco slasher/gunner Jared Dillinger.
“It’s going to be an exciting series, a fast-paced battle between two hungry teams,” said Meralco forward Cliff Hodge.
Meralco is gunning for a first championship but Ginebra appears to be the hungrier, having been without a crown since the team’s last title run in the 2008 Fiesta Conference with import Chris Alexander.
In the twilight of his playing career, Ginebra star Mark Caguioa said he aches to win a championship for their adoring fans.
“For me, it’s all for the fans now. The last time we’re here (in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup finals), we lost. Hopefully, we pull through now,” said Caguioa.
“It’s been a long process for us to be here. We know they’re going to be tough, but we’ll battle with a goal of winning it all,” said Japeth Aguilar.
“Getting here is a feat in itself. But we want to go all-out to prove that our semis win (against titlist San Miguel Beer) was no fluke,” said Sol Mercado.
The series also features exciting side battles for the Best Import award between Allen Durham and Justin Brownlee and the Rookie of the Year honors between Scottie Thompson and Chris Newsome.
But all four are more focused to help their team go all the way to the top.