Gonzalez Leaps Back

On: 03 June 2009

Norman Gonzalez stares down at the import.

Sunday night (31 May 2009) began like so many have for Norman Gonzalez. His role is to come off the bench to relieve either Nelbert Omolon or Anthony Johnson. He had no rhythm, no shot, no … nothing. He drove hard to the rim and, suddenly, Shawn Daniels, the Burger King Whoopers' burly import, was there, swallowing up the ball before it could leave Gonzalez's hand.

The Sta. Lucia Realtors (SLR) had come to expect this from Gonzalez over the past weeks since Kelly Williams was sidelined by a rare blood disease. They knew he needs to get into rhythm by having more touches on the ball. They also knew that he could explode any day now, even if they wouldn’t admit it.

Gonzalez knew this, too. So with the fist game of the best-of-three series just starting, with the Realtors' season having reached a crossroads, he took a pass from Dennis Espino and looked up to see Daniels again standing between him and the basket. Gonzalez bounced hard off the court before he got fouled for a trip to the 15-foot line, cradling the ball just long enough to let everyone know the ferocity that awaited.

An instant later, Gonzalez was punching the ball through the rim, crashing down on the other defenders. He lingered for a moment, staring past his teammates at all those delirious fans, and smiled back, a moment that seemed as cathartic as it was exuberant.

The Realtors smiled back. This was the Norman Gonzalez they had hoped to see, the Norman Gonzalez they need if they’re going to close out the Whoopers and push their way towards a semi-finals match-up against the San Miguel Beermen. Gonzalez churned in a total of 17 points, 7 rebounds and went 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the 93-84 victory, which gave the Realtors a 1-0 advantage in their quarter-finals match-up. It was his best performance in two months, and the Realtors hope not his last.

The Realtors haven’t seen that kind of game from Gonzalez since they beat the the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters last 27 March 2009. He struggled to get back into his fighting form after that and has not been the same since. Throughout the elimination round, he averaged 5.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 17.3 minutes per game.

Gonzalez has been reluctant to talk about his performance except to say the coach Boyet Fernandez kept on egging him to just shoot whenever he finds himself open. He also knew the importance of winning the first game of the best-of-three series.

Gonzalez's future with these Realtors is tied to their success, as well as his own play. While he said he wants to return, the decision is not entirely his. If the Realtors get a respectable finish or a championship, their manager, Buddy Encarnado, would be far more inclined to keep the team together. If they lose? Giving the veterans, including Gonzalez, a contract that eats up the team's budget could be a hefty price for a roster in need of some remodeling.

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