If and when the PBA resumes with the Philippine Cup, Matthew Wright of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters feels that it’s the same ‘heavyweight’ teams that are legitimate contenders for the title.
Wright’s top teams are not surprising – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, TNT Tropang GIGA and San Miguel Beer.
The sharpshooter said that it’s hard not to put Ginebra in the conversation of ‘teams to beat’ this season considering the fact that the Kings are the defending Philippine Cup champion, and second they got a huge upgrade by landing center Christian Standhardinger.
“It’s hard to really count out Ginebra,” said Wright when asked about his ‘top four’ teams in the coming all-Filipino conference when he appeared on The Chasedown last Saturday on Cignal TV’s One PH channel.
“They won a championship last year and they got Christian. Barring any major injury, I don’t see any reason why they are not making it to the top four this season in the PBA.”
Ginebra won the Philippine Cup during the league’s ‘bubble’ tournament last December in Clark, Pampanga. The team defeated TNT in the best-of-seven title series 4-1.
Months after that, the team dealt 7-foot center Greg Slaughter – who did not play during the bubble season – to the NorthPort Batang Pier for Standhardinger, who is teaming up with 6-foot-10 forward Japeth Aquilar.
Wright also sees TNT as a ‘top four’ contender despite not having – so far – scoring machine Bobby Rey Parks Jr.
One man, according to Wright, makes the difference for TNT is returning coach Chot Reyes.
“I know how he is as a coach, he’s going to bring his style of leadership which is unique, to TNT,” said Wright, who played for Reyes during his stint as a member of Gilas Pilipinas.
Reyes is returning as coach of TNT, a team he helped win four championships between 2008 and 2012. TNT remains loaded with Jayson Castro, RR Pogoy, Poy Erram, Troy Rosario and newcomer Mikey Williams, the fourth overall pick in the last PBA Rookie Draft.
As for San Miguel Beer, Wright thinks the team led by six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo is out to prove something after a disappointing campaign in the ‘bubble’ where the Meralco Bolts eliminated the Beermen despite a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinal round.
SMB was without the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, and Terrence Romeo, who sustained an injury early in the tournament. The two are returning this year with the rest of the veteran squad.
Another thing going for San Miguel is the addition of CJ Perez, whom the team obtained in a trade with TerraFirma Dyip.
“They had a disappointing bubble, and those guys have a lot of pride, they’re champions as well,” said Wright, referring to the five straight Philippine Cup titles of SMB from 2015 to 2019 and eight of 15 championships in five seasons.
“They’re getting older, but they’re very reluctant to relinquish that ‘top dog’ mantra… I know for a fact that they’re gonna bounce back,” added Wright as SMB also has Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos.
To compete with his top four, Wright picks his own team.
“I’m gonna say Phoenix,” he said.
The team made the semifinal stage of the last Philippine Cup fell short when they lost to TNT 3-2 in the five-game showdown.
Phoenix improved its team in the off-season by trading Calvin Abueva to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok,and obtained Chris Banchero, and then added Vic Manuel in a separate deal.
“Nothing’s gonna change on my end. I’m still gonna be the same Matthew Wright… I’m still gonna be aggressive. I’m still gonna look to take the last shot when the game is on the line.”
“The difference now is that I feel like we have more options, I’ll have more options to pass (with the addition of Manuel and Banchero).”