Basketball

2011-12 PBA preview: With Tim Cone, can B-MEG be favorites once more?

InterAKTV/Jaemark Tordecilla

Coach: Tim Cone
Assistants: Koy Banal, Richard del Rosario, Jeffrey Cariaso, Johnny Abarrientos, Dayong Mendoza
Lineup: Jonas Villanueva, Rico Maierhofer, Josh Urbiztondo, Mark Barroca, Rafi Reavis, Peter June Simon, Roger Yap, Marc Pingris, James Yap, Jerwin Gaco, Kerby Raymundo, Joe Devance, John Ferriols, Val Acuna

Offseason Review: Beginning this season, basketball fans should get used to seeing Tim Cone calling the shots and running the fabled triangle offense for the Llamados.

“This is a team that has a lot of talented players. I would love to see James Yap, Kerby Raymundo, PJ Simon and a young Mark Barroca running and fitting into the triangle,” said Cone.

Apart from rookie Barroca, the fifth overall pick, only former Alaska forward John Ferriols is new to the B-MEG lineup. Ferriols was brought along by Cone to help get the other players familiar with the system.

But several players are making a comeback after missing parts of last season due to injury. Kerby Raymundo, Rico Maierhofer, and Rafi Reavis may not yet be 100 percent yet to start the season, but should be healthy enough to contribute when the action heats up in the Philippine Cup.

Outlook: Right before Tim Cone announced his transfer to take over B-MEG, a head coach of an elite PBA team said that with the American coach at the helm, the franchise would be a powerhouse.

“Tim Cone sa B-MEG? Ang lakas nun,” said the coach.

Cone himself wasn’t bashful when asked about his immediate goal for his new team: “We want to be the crown jewel of the San Miguel Corporation.”

“We don’t want to be buddy-buddies with Petron or Ginebra. We want to beat Petron and Ginebra. Before we can compete with everyone else, we want to be the best SMC team.”

The swagger was surprising for the usually diplomatic coach, but it seems to have rubbed off on his squad. Team manager Alvin Patrimonio said that morale is very high with the entry of Cone, and that the team is dreaming big dreams.

B-MEG is a talented, veteran-laden team with a core that has won two Philippine Cup titles. Interestingly, the team has made it to the finals of the Philippine Cup in every even year since 2006; the Purefoods franchise won the title in 2006 and 2010 while finishing second to Sta. Lucia in 2008. Can B-MEG do it again in 2012?

Cone certainly has his eyes on the prize.

“We want to break Crispa’s all-Filipino record,” he said. The two teams are tied for the most all-Filipino titles in PBA history at five.

Still, questions remain: How will B-MEG, traditionally a team that has relied on isolation plays for stars like James Yap, Raymundo, and Peter June Simon adjust to Cone’s equal-opportunity offense? How will Cone’s in-your-face personality mesh with the Llamados’ core that has thrived under a players’ coach such as Ryan Gregorio? And will the team buy into the new coach’s defensive system, which has been the secret of Cone’s success all these years?

And then there is the matter of injuries. Will the players be healthy enough for the long haul?

But for board governor Rene Pardo, there’s no reason for the team to fail this time.

“Definitely, this team will be a Llamado this season,” said Pardo.

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