MANILA, February 17, 2004  (STAR) The only thing fans can predict in this year’s Philippine Basketball Association is its unpredictability.

Sure, teams like Talk n Text, Red Bull and Coca-Cola remain the fancied ballclubs in the fold in the transition Fiesta Cup, but those which struggled last year made sure they have souped-up squads to boast of when the new season of the pro league kicks off this Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

A flurry of trades in the off-season and a fresh influx of talents from the amateur ranks have paved the way for the composition of one of the most well-balanced rosters in years, thus making the hunt for the league’s only crown an anybody’s ballgame.

For one, Shell, which has not contended for a championship in years, underwent a top-to-bottom revamp starting with the appointment of American coach John Moran to replace long-time mentor Perry Ronquillo.

Moran has made quite an impact since he took over, letting go of former top pick Eddie Laure and starting guard Dale Singson to make room for No. 1 choice overall Rich Alvarez and big men Billy Mamaril and Carlo Sharma.

The three have instantly made Shell competitive at the frontline–a spot where the Turbo Chargers were beaten black and blue in past years.

Coming off its worst season under young coach Ryan Gregorio, Purefoods was also among the busiest teams in the off-season, using the rookie draft and trade market to address two major concerns.

In Jun Limpot, the Hotdogs got a crafty veteran who could be a constant threat at the low block—something Gregorio felt the team lacked last season; partly the reason, he said, the team’s shooters couldn’t get enough good looks at the basket.

The Hotdogs have also gotten two of the biggest gems from the draft: James Yap, a deadly gunner who is good enough to step into a starting forward spot, and his UE teammate Paul Artadi — a tested warrior at point guard.

FedEx, on the other hand, went solely to the draft to revamp its squad, infusing young blood and getting better on paper.

Trading former No. 1 pick overall Yancy de Ocampo for the last of three first-round picks in the draft, the Express got themselves a handful with high-leaping Marc Pingris, 6-5 ex-national Ranidel de Ocampo and former Ateneo star Wesley Gonzales.

Barangay Ginebra has also given its fans enough reasons to look forward to the league’s transition season, putting together a bigger and more balanced line-up after a couple of major movies in the off-season.

By getting Andy Seigle in the Limpot trade, the Kings got hold of a big man who can complement — not compete for time and shots with — Eric Menk and Romel Adducul, making for a better-rounded frontline.

The same goes for Rodney Santos, who is a player who can settle into the back-up role to Mark Caguioa.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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