Is RR Garcia the missing piece in TNT's title puzzle?
Paul Lintag on Jun 18, 2017 09:47 AM
Since Jimmy Alapag's first retirement, TNT has yet to find Jayson Castro a new star running mate at the point guard position. Enter RR Garcia.
TNT's PBA dynasty was built with Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro running the point.
The flagship MVP franchise won five titles with the two star guards in charge, turning Talk 'N Text from perennial contenders to established champions.
However, since Alapag's first retirement, championships have come few and far between for the Texters, with the team winning only one title after the Mighty Mouse was not around to save the day anymore.
With Castro going solo, TNT's only championship win was the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup. The Texters haven't been back to the Finals since.
TNT looks like it found a suitable running mate for the Blur at the point as the rechristened KaTropa traded for former UAAP MVP RR Garcia in the middle of the 2017 Commissioner's Cup.
And since Garcia arrived to TNT back in Arpil, the team finally has an established name to pair up with the reigning two-time best point guard in Asia.
TNT's PBA dynasty was built with two star point guards running the show and it's no coincidence that the KaTropa are back in the Finals again with Garcia serving as a true partner for Castro. That's just how it works for this team for some reason.
If there are doubts about Garcia's pedigree, the former FEU Tamaraw just proved his worth as TNT closed out top-seed Ginebra in the semifinals Saturday.
While Castro was sensational in dropping a near triple-double, Garcia was not too shabby himself, going for 16 points, five rebounds, and five assists.
His second quarter explosion allowed Castro to get some extended rest and avoid foul trouble. That proved to be handy as the Blur buried the Gin Kings in the second half, dropping 21 points on Ginebra in an incredible display of offensive prowess.
"Malaking bagay rin para kay kuya Jayson para hindi siya mapagod pati makapag-pahinga siya ng maayos," Garcia said on his role with TNT.
Oftentimes, Castro is forced to shoulder everything for the KaTropa after Alapag's departure and Ranidel De Ocampo's slow decline. Now, he has a fine backup in Garcia.
And TNT head coach Nash Racela has done a magnificent job in trying to maximize the pairing on the floor.
"Kasi pag nilabas siya, ako yung papasok," RR said. "Syempre pag sinuwerte din ako, minsan sabay din kami [on the floor]. Yun lang yung ginagawa samin ni coach Nash [Racela] kaya malaking bagay din para samin."
"I think both Jayson and RR are learning to play with each other. Whether together on the court or the other guy is sitting down. Ang maganda is that they complement each other. You saw it today," Racela added.
Making his second straight PBA Finals this season, he won the Philippine Cup with San Miguel, Garcia is looking forward to play in his first true championship series.
He barely played in the All-Filipino as he suffered an unfortunate shoulder injury.
Garcia is healthy and ready to go now though, and he might be TNT's missing piece.
"Excited ako ngayon syempre kasi talagang makakalaro ako, makakatulong ako sa team," he said.
Winning a title with the Beermen just a couple of months ago, Garcia will be all business against San Miguel, a team that features perhaps the best guard rotation in the league.
And while Castro remains as the best guard in the land, he's not going to be forced to face the San Miguel juggernaut this time around.
He has Garcia running the point with him now.
"Syempre former team ko, friends ko naman yung mga ibang player dun. Pagdating sa laro, laro talaga. Pagdating sa labas, kaibigan ko," RR said.
"Alam naman natin powerhouse team yan, San Miguel. Siguro para manalo kami, we need to play as a team, magtulungan kami. Hindi lang isa o dalawang tao. Dapat lahat kami," he added.
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