This is somewhat starting to become quite a routine. Rain or Shine dominates during the elimination round, earning a top-4 position and with it an early twice-to-beat advantage during the quarterfinals. Come the semifinals, depending on matchups and injuries, they have a strong chance to make the Finals.
And that’s where the cliché comes out:
Always a bridesmaid but never the bride.
Rain or Shine has made SEVEN straight semifinals appearances. In fact, after their breakthrough championship in the 2012 Governor’s Cup, they’ve lost four straight times in the Finals. That’s got to hurt, especially for superstar Paul Lee, who got injured in the one Finals they actually won.
In a way, this Rain or Shine team reminds me of the mid-2000 Detroit Pistons, who made six straight Eastern Conference Finals. That team was led by a strong back court of Billups and Hamilton (Lee & Chan), had solid defenders at the wing (Tayshaun Prince for the Pistons; Norwood / Ibanes for ROS) and the Wallace “brothers” (Extra Rice, Inc.).
Despite the extended run of success, the team only had one championship to show for their efforts, losing to solid teams like the Spurs and Celtics.
This brings up the question of whether this is as good as it gets for the former Welcoat franchise. Teams are always going all out for championships – after all, as Sir Fred Uytengsu of Alaska would say, it’s all about the RINGS baby (okay, he probably wouldn’t say that).
Should the Elasto Painters break up their core? Or are they just a few pieces away from breaking through and establishing a dynasty?
Here are some big decisions that management will have to think long and hard about during the off-season as it sets the direction for the franchise for next season.
To Gilas or not to Gilas?
This sounds super selfish and admittedly controversial, but it’s something to consider. Over the past two seasons, the Painters have lent guys like Chan, Norwood, Lee and Belga to the National Team. Yes, Gilas has performed well, even winning a game at the World Championships, but the price of playing nonstop basketball for two straight years is evident across the league.
Chan, Lee and Belga have all had to deal with nagging injuries here and there. Couple this with incredibly bad luck with the rest of the roster – Arana, Tang, Tiu, both Cruz’ have also spent their fair share of time in the clinic – Rain or Shine’s roster isn’t as deep as it would appear. Now that Gilas is apparently eyeing Raymond Almazan as well, there could be as many as five ROS players joining the pool come this August.
Will this give them enough time to rest their banged up bodies for the next long and grueling PBA season? Probably not.
On the flip side, being part of such a prominent program can also do wonders for their development. Just take a look at the Lethal Weapon. After being exposed to a higher level of competition, Lee’s game (and confidence) has skyrocketed (cue rocket emoji). Imagine if we see similar development for Almazan. The Painters would then have a reliable inside force taller than 6’4 that they could rely on.
Who should they draft?
After the whole mystery with Lee’s “free” agency (I use the term “free” very lightly – there’s no such thing as true free agency in the PBA, but that’s a topic for another time) last season, the Painters drafted Kevin Alas, only to deal him for a future pick in this year’s draft.
Now that the draft order is complete, we see that the Painters’ are drafting at the #3 slot, in a draft that has several players who can be key contributors right away.
Assuming that Ray Parks Jr. makes an NBA lineup (good luck!), the top two picks should be Mo Tautuaa and Troy Rosario [READ: Potential 2015 Draftees from the UAAP]. Now where does that leave ROS?
Should they pick former DLSU Archer Norbert Torres? After all, he does fit the bill of a Rain or Shine big. He’s 6’6”, a good rebounder and has a decent touch from the outside.
Or should they go with Gabe Norwood 2.0, Chris Newsome? Their games are somewhat similar and Gabe could be a great mentor for Chris. Add in the fact that many coaches have raved about Newsome’s team-first attitude, he could fit in nicely with the rest of ROS roster.
Another guy they could consider is Scottie Thompson, the do-it-all wing at Perpetual Help and last year’s NCAA MVP. Like Newsome, he would add some more playmaking, defense and athleticism. With small-ball becoming the new trend in basketball, ROS could just go ultra small and play one big and four wing players to spread the floor. I wouldn’t put it past Coach Yeng.
Whoever ROS decides to pick, they really can’t go wrong.
Change Yeng Guiao?
Just kidding. This ain’t happening. Wanted to make sure you were paying attention. Guiao’s a great coach and knows how to get the best out of his players. He’s here to stay.
Keep Pushing Forward
If you ask me, Rain or Shine should just stay the course. Seven straight semifinals appearances, despite not having a championship to show for it, is nothing to scoff at. I guarantee that most of the teams in the league would rather be in their position rather than where they are now.
They are good at drafting and developing players. They have a good coaching staff and a good core of players who have gone through wars together. If anything, they are tough. They don’t quit and that’s what you want from a champion team.
Eventually, Rain or Shine will break through, win that second championship and paint the town red.