The big reason is Greg Slaughter.
As the second straight All-Filipino Conference this April looms tougher, the Gin Kings re-signed the 7-foot Fil-Am in an obvious move to strengthen further their frontline.
On February 8 last year, Slaughter announced on Instagram that he was taking a break from PBA after his contract with Ginebra already expired.
The Gin Kings’ frontline is already formidable with the presence of the fleet-footed, 6’9″ Japeth Aguilar, but the return of Slaughter will definitely make the Gin Kings a tough customer for everybody in the import-less conference.
Coach Tim Come confirmed that Slaughter has signed with the Gin Kings, but added he is not privy to the details.
“We’re happy to have him back,” responded Cone when reached to verify if Slaughter is indeed back to Ginebra. “He (Slaughter) gives us such great versatility and huge presence in the paint.”
Slaughter missed the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup in Angeles City bubble, but the Gin Kings persisted and went on to clinch the title by beating Talk ‘N Text in the best-of-of 5 Finals, 4-1.
A second straight All-Filipino Conference is still two months away, but the Gin Kings, according to Cone, are making voluntary practices.
“At this point, we’re having voluntary practices and won’t start official practice for at least a couple of more weeks,” said Cone.
Slaughter’s comeback to the Gin Kings after an almost one-year hiatus that saw him miss last year’s campaign, is also seen by oddsmakers as a prudent move since Ginebra will be the last to pick among the 12 teams in the 2021 Draft on March 14.
There are also brisk discussions among netizens that the next conference could already be a toss-up between Ginebra and San Miguel Beer, whose prized center in June Mar Fajardo is expected to return as well after a long bout with injury.
Defense would also be the name of the game when playing the Beermen since they have also acquired a versatile shooter in CJ Perez via trade a few days back.
Cone himself is convinced the Beermen will continue the team to beat.
“With San Miguel’s aging core – although that core is still incredibly strong – there was an obvious need to acquire youth,” said Cone in reference to SMB’s acquisition of CJ Perez from Terrafirma.
“Now with Perez and (Terrence) Romeo, they have two young guards that can help finish JunMar’s prolific career,” added Cone.
“Needless to say, they (Beermen) will pose great challenges now and down the road. They continue to be the team to beat,” said Cone, the most successful coach in the PBA for leading three teams to multiple titles.
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