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Hoop Nut One-on-One: Manny Pacquiao’s Debut

In its 40th season, the Philippine Basketball Association chose to open festivities with a match featuring the league’s newest teams — Blackwater and Kia Motors. The depth chart for either team will hardly elicit admiration, but the main draw that was Manny Pacquiao proved to be effective in drawing the attention of PBA hoop nuts nationwide.

In this inaugural One-on-One post, Rolly Mendoza and I will take a look at the phenomenon of Pacquiao becoming a pro hoopster and his actual debut in the PBA.

ROLLY: As a professional boxer, Manny Pacquiao’s last knockout (TKO) win was versus Miguel Cotto in 2009. He has notched 6 wins and 2 losses since that fight, but with zero knockouts. Some people say he has lost his edge and his desire to dominate the sport. Maybe it’s because he has other things on his mind. Pacquiao has been busy with numerous activities on his plate that have nothing to do with boxing. One of those is to be an active playing coach in the PBA.

Pacquiao’s pursuit to be a relevant part of the PBA materialized during the opening game of Season 40 this past Sunday. PacMan inserted himself into the starting line-up as his Kia Sorento Motors played the Black Water Elite at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. He received oohs and aahs from the near capacity crowd of 52K whenever he handled the ball. However, PacMan played around 7 uneventful minutes where he tallied 2 turnovers, 1 foul, and had zero points. More importantly, his team was down 9 points when Pacquiao got subbed out. To summarize, PacMan was very ineffective as a starting point guard and floor leader.

Consequently, Kia went on to win the game by 14 points as PacMan did not re-enter the game for a second stint. That was an excellent decision because PacMan looked outmatched and somewhat confused while on the court. That was to be expected because Manny has no background in playing organized amateur/collegiate basketball, so it makes a lot of sense that he has difficulty in playing effectively on the court. He also has no experience in coaching teams, so coaching duties went to (rightfully so) assistant coach Glenn Capacio, who managed to insert the right rotation (hello LA Revilla) that handed Kia its inaugural win in the PBA.

As a professional basketball player and head coach, PacMan is currently undefeated. Surely, that unblemished record won’t last that long (their 2nd game is versus Ginebra), and PacMan will probably not even be with his team for the coming weeks due to his upcoming fight this November.

If PacMan will not attend most of the basketball practices and not really coach, what is he doing with Kia serving as a playing coach? Wasn’t it more prudent to have Manny represent their team as a team governor or team manager or even an assistant coach if the ploy was simply to sell tickets, merchandise, and garner fan support?

As a 35-year old rookie who still dabbles in professional boxing (among other endeavors), why waste a roster spot on him when a more talented and younger ball player would have been the wiser choice (by a mile)? Fast-forward to when imports are allowed to play in other conferences — will Manny take away a roster spot from an active local player to make room for the playing coach and the import? Heck, will an import even take Manny seriously if he decides to offer coaching tips or instructions?

What happens when Manny is busy doing his other activities and not with the team, thus not playing nor coaching? Will people still want to watch Kia? The answer is probably N-O. I get it that maybe Manny wants another challenge in his life or maybe he actually wants to be a decent professional baller. That’s fine and well but he needs to practice and train with his team 100% of the time if he has any hopes of improving and becoming a serviceable player.

This was a good marketing ploy/idea by Kia at the beginning. Key word: WAS, past tense. It might be a good time to let PacMan leave/resign while things are positive for Kia. It would look much, much worse when Kia starts losing games like any other expansion team and when Manny becomes a total non-factor or a no-show.

Sure, players are motivated right now because PacMan is a novelty during PBA games, but how long can that last especially if Manny is not really around? Hopefully, Kia and Manny won’t wait that long. Retire at the top, Manny. You have nothing else to prove in the PBA.

ENZO: There’s a HUGE part of me that totally agrees with Rolly. Were we surprised with Pacquiao’s less-than-stellar 7 minutes of basketball mediocrity? Nope. Were we relieved that, after getting subbed, he was never sent back in? Sure. Were we shocked when he said that he’d miss a ton of games to box and then MAYBE attend to his duties in the Philippine Congress? Hell no. This is Manny Pacquiao. I mean no disrespect, but if we were brutally objective, this guy pretty much half-asses all his endeavors NOT named boxing.

He’s certainly a living legend in the ring. He’s one of the best ever. His fights eradicate Metro Manila traffic. He’s a national (global actually) sports icon. Yada yada yada.

Let him be all that.

But in Congress? His attendance rate is just 55%, which is fifth-worst among 290 members of the House. And NOW he picks a grand time to take on something superbly time-consuming — being a PROFESSIONAL basketball player at the sport’s highest level in the country.

I mean, we have guys who went through the system, toiled through the youth, collegiate, semi-pro, and pro levels of Philippine basketball. These guys practice practically every day. They play anywhere form one to three games a week for three conferences that stretch out from October to July the following year. It’s the longest basketball calendar in the world.

And PacMan comes waltzing in willy-nilly to miss practices, start in his team’s debut game, play 7 minutes, and then have the audacity to say he’s gonna miss a ton of the next games for his other commitments.

I don’t want to say it’s a mockery (but it is). I’ll just describe it as, oh how can we put this diplomatically, UNPROFESSIONAL.

We have a guy who is really taking not one, but two team spots (one player spot and the head coach spot) and is virtually exempt from all the conventions and accountabilities of being a professional athlete.

I hate having to describe one of our modern national heroes as nothing more than novelty and the PBA’s version of “click bait,” but the fact of the matter is, as we’ve all known since he announced his eligibility for the PBA Draft, he is really more of a distraction than an attraction.

Unlike my buddy Rolly, however, I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for PacMan to jump ship immediately. I mean, let him suffer through the consequences of being in the PBA and let his team swallow its pride on an nightly basis for having the champ on its roster. Wouldn’t it be a laugh if, by some crazy instance, Kia advances to the next round and then gets eliminated just when Manny decides he wants to play again? It’ll be bad for the sport, but hella great for entertainment’s sake.

Kia made the unprecedented and infamous choice of having a pro boxer cum Congressman on its team. Let the team face the consequences, and then have them axe Pacquiao before the next conference begins.

C’mon, Kia and Manny. You had your pro debut. You had your undeserved shot. I think it’s high time you all took this pro basketball thing seriously, right?

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