7 Pressing Questions for Team SLR

On: 08 September 2009

SLR Team a year ago

With Denok Miranda and veteran Dennis Espino finally becoming former Realtors, the Sta. Lucia Realtors look to be almost done (completely done?) wheeling and dealing this off-season. Since the roster is almost set, some Realtors started bring a list of questions facing the team for the 2009-2010 season. Here are some of the most common that can be found in several sports forums:

Will Kelly Williams remain healthy?

All Realtor Believers could make a strong argument that, with the 'human sensation' on the court rather than in street clothes on the bench, the Sta. Lucia Realtors could have been a possible finalist in the last Philippine Cup. The Realtors are a different team with Williams on the floor, especially defensively. If he makes a healthy return, it will go a long way towards reestablishing the Realtors as Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) title favorites for several more seasons.

Without K-Will, the Realtors still have a formidable frontcourt with the acquisition of Gabby Espinas. However, with him? They could be downright scary.

How quickly will age catch up to the Sta. Lucia Realtors?

By now, with Espino gone, the Realtors only have two veteran players who are over 31 years old - Paolo Mendoza and Marlou Aquino. Both players have not logged in a lot of minutes in the last two years and are not expected to do so in the coming seasons. However, with an improved bench, Coach Boyet Fernandez should be able to find a lot more rest for these veterans and reserve them for the crucial matches in the semis. Mendoza and Aquino have shown in the previous season that when they hit a certain amount of minutes played, they tend to hit a wall. They both looked bruised and battered after a game where they were spent lots of minutes on the court that they perform emphatically after that. Hopefully, the return of K-Will and the additions of Espinas and Josh Urbiztondo take some pressure of the veterans, and they will be energized and fresh entering the semis.

Can Espinas coexist with K-Will and Nelbert Omolon?

There are rumors that Espinas will only take away minutes from Williams and Omolon, that he will not be fully utilized on the floor, that his bad experience with the RedBull Barakos was a sign that he cannot carry the team to crucial wins. And these rumors may be true. Espinas is not anymore the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the amateurs.

But that’s fine for the Realtors. They don’t need Espinas to come in and be a star; all they need is a good defender off the bench and another big man who can spread the floor. If Espinas can comfortably accept a backup role and settle for being the leader of Realtors' second unit rather than one of the team’s stars, SLR will have a huge upgrade in its frontcourt. But if he sulks about coming off the bench, gets ill-advised technicals during the wrong parts of games and bombs too many threes at the worst possible times? The Realtors could have a problem on their hands.

Who will play backup point guard?

Coach Boyet Fernandez has not announced anything about who will start at the point after the departure of Miranda, but it seems that the Realtors are gonna be happy with Ryan Reyes playing the point. Urbiztondo and Chris Pacana are ready to play back-up for that position. However, for the whole season, it will not surprise anyone to see Reyes and Joseph Yeo sharing the off-guard spot, while the two new recruits direct the plays.

As an aside, fans should not rule out the capacity of Mendoza to hit some big-time shots. The undersize guard may be nearing the twilight of his career, but once he gets more comfortable with his offense, he can still shoot 31.75 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Can Ryan Reyes take the next step towards stardom?

In the 2007-2008 All-Filipino Conference, Reyes showed just how close he is to being one of the top point guards in the entire PBA. When he’s going well, there is no point guard in the PBA who combines his defensive ball-hawking, terrific rebounding, great court vision and incredible speed.

Reyes was close to turning the corner last year, if not for the spite of injuries. And he could still improve in leaps and bounds if he improves his consistency and his jumpshot. With his blazing speed, Reyes doesn’t need a deadeye jumpshot like Yeo, just a sufficient one to keep defenses from collapsing off him.

How well are the top teams mesh after their new additions?

These questions may be about the Realtors, but including their closest competitors makes a lot of sense. The Realtors are the only top contender to make substantial changes in its core players – all the other contenders made a lot of moves, but retained their starting fives. However, the jury is out on how the new starting fives will coexist.

If the San Miguel Beermen, Purefoods Hotdogs or Ginebra San Miguel can reacquire the solidarity that made them so tough to play last year, the Realtors might be a step behind their rivals.

How many rebounds will Realtors lead the league by?

With a frontcourt that includes K-Will and brother-in-law Charles Waters, the question isn’t whether the Realtors will lead the league in rebounds ... it is by how much. The addition of rebounding-magnet Waters makes the Realtors a good bet to be one the highest rebounding teams this coming season. He has performed extremely well during their practice so far, but can he do the same thing during actual games?

Hopefully, those rebounds can also translate to points on the other end.

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