The last three PBA championships have been epic. All three series have gone the distance (Purefoods played a 5-game series last Govenor’s Cup) and each time, we’ve seen a new champion crowned. In this new era of the PBA, does Talk N’ Text have what it takes to go back-to-back?
But this is what makes repeating in the new PBA so tough – the cramped schedule gives players less time to recover from deep playoff runs. Just ask Alaska and San Miguel Beer, both of whom struggled at the start of last conference. While Alaska did make the quarterfinals, it never really found the mojo that carried it throughout the Philippine Cup, while San Miguel Beer failed to qualify for the playoffs. Meanwhile, as of this writing, Rain or Shine, TNT’s opponent in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, is sitting at a rough 1-3 after getting just a split in its Dubai trip.
TNT is currently sitting in the middle of the pack, with a 2-1 slate that I’m sure it’s pretty happy with, considering that it’s missed Jason Castro and Kevin Alas for three games and Ranidel De Ocampo for two.
Luckily for TNT, it’s found the perfect Asian import to help them stay afloat while they allow Jason Castro to recover.
Many Pinoys are familiar with Sam Daghles, thanks to his numerous battles against Gilas as he suited up for Jordan. His nickname is “the Jordan of Jordan” but after finally seeing him up close and personal, he’s more like the Magic of Jordan.
Daghles is a great floor general who brings leadership and stability to TNT nation. With Castro and Alas both nursing injuries, Coach Jong Uichico has handed the keys to the Jordanian guard and let him run the show. To Coach Uichico’s credit, he’s stuck to his word of installing an offense that fits his roster and he’s done the same now that Castro is out and Daghles is on his roster.
Daghles and Castro are two completely different players. The Blur is a flat out scorer, a great penetrator who uses his speed to get deep into the paint or his now reliable jump shot to keep defenses honest. TNT pretty much threw out the playbook and just gave him the ball to run tons of ball screens until the defense finally bent.
Daghles plays a more deliberate style of play, using his size (side note – there’s no freaking way the dude is just 6’3”. The stories of how teams get their imports to make the height limit are stuff of legends, but that’s for another day) and craftiness to keep opponents on their heels. It’s a style that more resembles the European style of play.
From the get-go, it’s clear that he’s looking to set up his teammates. How many guys in the PBA regularly make passes like this:
The problem right now though, is that as good as he is, he can’t quite carry the load by himself. The burden of playing nearly 40 minutes a game, as well as the overall physicality of the PBA has affected his shooting. He’s actually shooting just 26% from the field and it doesn’t help that he’s forced to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock once the offense bogs down. Furthermore, he’s also averaging nearly 5 turnovers a game, as teams have locked in on him to make life difficult.
The numbers show it too. Currently, TNT’s offensive rating stands at 99.8, good for 6th in the league. Last conference, at the end of the elimination round, the Tropang Texters had a tidy offensive rating of 104.0, good for 2nd in the league. Furthermore, their overall net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) is at -2.8, after it had come out at +4.4 during the Commissioner’s Cup.
The team is also struggling on the boards, as it’s only posted an offensive rebound % of 24.2%, dead last in the league. This would be alright for a jump-shooting that has an effective FG% of above 50%, but on the defensive end, they are allowing opponents a OREB% of 32%, also putting them dead last in the league. In a conference where at least 4 teams have no height limit, and the top four teams get twice-to-beat advantages in the quarterfinals, one or two losses due to poor rebounding could be very costly.
That being said, the Texters need to get Castro and Alas back in fold ASAP. While Daghles is great to have as an Asian import, he can’t carry the load by himself, especially with TNT not really having any reliable back up PG at the moment. Having just one week for preparation to implement two imports isn’t enough, no matter how great a coaching staff TNT has.
But the truth is, all Daghles has to do is keep them afloat until Jason makes his comeback. Having an all-Asia guard to keep the engine running while your other all-Asia guard gets back to 100%? That’s quite a luxury to have.