MANILA, SEPTEMBER 4, 2006 (STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - This writer has been making the rounds of PBA team practices, both to find stories for The STAR and features for The Basketball Show. And it is no surprise that the consensus among the teams is that Barangay Ginebra is the team to beat, what with their acquisition of Billy Mamaril, Rafi Reavis and Rudy Hatfield. One coach even looked at me with utter incredulity, as if it weren’t even a question.

But, talking to the Gin King’s head coach Jong Uichico, you get the sense that he still has a lot of work to do, and not much time to do it in. After spending the better part of 13 years with San Miguel Beer’s franchise, he’s slowly getting used to putting on a different uniform when he goes to work. He is literally starting from scratch, although he has a heck of a talent pool to start with. But there are some things that may take a bit more time.

"First is building relationships with the players," Uichico reveals. "We’ve built relationships with the players of San Miguel for the past 8, 9, 10 years. Second is the style of play. The style of play that Ginebra is used to and the style of play that San Miguel is used to are two entirely different styles. We’re trying to strike a balance, without taking away Ginebra’s strength."

Since Ginebra started practice earlier than most other teams, they’ve got a head start in terms of teamwork and conditioning. Uichico says that they’re in pretty good shape physically, but are still trying to build their chemistry while adapting a new system.

"The trip to Brunei helped us a lot, discovering our weaknesses and our strengths," Uichico says. "It helped them adjust to me as a coach, and helped me adjust to them. We’re taking this pre-season tournament of the PBA to get to know everyone better, and see how they’ll play with each other."

Although the general impression is that he basically just has to roll out a basketball and watch his powerhouse team steamroll the competition, it’s far more complicated than that. Each player has to understand how to participate in the process of winning. Ginebra knows that a star-studded team is fertile ground for intrigue and complaints about playing time and scoring opportunities.

"First and foremost is for me to find the players’ niche in the system," the champion coach of San Miguel Beer explains. "Second is the sacrifice of the players. Because we’re overloaded in certain positions, one or two have to sacrifice until we find the right rotation and right role-playing. Basically those are the two most important things I have to tackle first."

On another matter, Uichico denied rumors that the Gin Kings are trying to unload center Romel Adducul. According to team management, they don’t know who started the rumors, but they haven’t made any moves in that direction.

"We’re not initiating anything. I’ve talked to Romel, and he doesn’t want to be traded," Uichico declares. "Just because we seem overloaded in certain positions doesn’t mean we want to trade anybody. Why would we want to trade Romel, when he’s the only legitimate center we have aside from Eric Menk who can score inside?"

At least three teams – Talk ’N Text, Air21 and Welcoat – have reportedly expressed interest in acquiring the 6’6" former Asian Basketball Confederation All-Star. But Uichico says nothing concrete has come up, more so since some teams think that they can get Adducul for a song since his team is loaded with quality players.

"We’re just standing here, and they’re the ones approaching us," he elaborates. "But for us to even think about it, it would have to be something really tempting. If not, don’t even think about it."

Uichico is in the unenviable position of steering the league’s crowd favorite. And with the abundance of talent that he has, describing his position as "the hot seat" is an understatement.

"There’s much pressure for me to win right away," Uichico admits. "Especially because it’s Ginebra. Not because it’s me, but because anyone who coaches Ginebra is expected to win right away. Yun lang. It’s part of the job, and we just have to do what is called for."

But what may be called for is a championship, immediately. And that is definitely the biggest difference in coaching Ginebra these days.

Morales camp survey: Pacquiao bout to end in KO By Abac Cordero The Philippine Star 09/04/2006

Even in the boxing website which he helped put up, Erik Morales does not enjoy a tremendous edge over Manny Pacquiao as a pre-fight, on-line poll for their Nov. 18 showdown would show.

The poll, now running for six days at BoxLatino.Com, gives boxing fans from around the world the chance to air their expectations for the third and decisive match between the two great fighters.

Boxing fans can vote on a Morales win either by knockout or decision, a Pacquiao triumph again either by knockout or decision, or a draw, technical or otherwise.

So far after 535 votes, Morales winning by knockout has drawn an approval rating of 38.32 percent, not too far ahead of the 36.26 percent of the voters who went for a Pacquiao win by knockout. This means that almost 75 percent of those who have cast their votes believe that the fight, set at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, could go either way.

But with one man down on the floor.

Morales winning by decision earned 22.06 percent of the total votes. In this scenario, the Mexican is way ahead of the Filipino. Only 2.99 percent of the voters believe that Pacquiao can win by decision.

The fight ending in a draw, according to fans, is as remote as the fight not pushing through. For a draw, it’s a mere 0.37 percent.

The Filipino ring icon lost to Morales via a 12-round unanimous decision when they first met in March of 2005, but evened up the score with a sensational 10th round knockout in their rematch last January.

Morales, a three-time world champion who turned 30 last Friday, had great difficulty meeting the 130 lb limit for the rematch, and is moving heaven and earth to ensure he climbs the ring in November in much better shape.

Otherwise, Pacquiao, who has vowed to train long and hard for the fight, might just end up beating Morales a second straight time. Again, probably, with "El Terrible" down on the floor.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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