Art Dela Cruz set to make long time coming Ginebra debut
Danine Cruz on Aug 13, 2018 01:22 PM
Long time coming for Art Dela Cruz.
After months of recovery, Art Dela Cruz is projected to finally debut for Barangay Ginebra in the upcoming PBA Governor's Cup. As per Dela Cruz and head coach Tim Cone, they are looking into fielding him starting around October.
"Sabi ni Coach [Tim Cone], middle of the conference. My goal is October, second week of October. But my focus right now is rehab nga, and then sabi rin sa akin ni Coach na this time, i-sure mo na 100% ka na. And loaded naman yung team so there's no hurry," said Dela Cruz Sunday afternoon during Ginebra's victory party with fans for their latest championship.
"He's due back maybe in October, but we'll see. We'll play it by ear by that time, we're not gonna push him," added Cone.
Dela Cruz first ruptured his Achilles tendon during a Gilas Pilipinas practice in March 2017. He was still a player of Blackwater Elite then. When he was shipped to Brgy. Ginebra in a trade that involved Chris Ellis, Raymond Aguilar, and Dave Marcelo in August 2017, he re-injured his tendon before he had his Ginebra debut.
It has been 17 months and counting since Dela Cruz last played a game in the PBA.
"Medyo matagal na. Talagang maging patient lang ako, iniisip ko din 'yung long-term eh, hindi lang itong conference na ito," he said.
In those long months, Dela Cruz focused on his injury's rehabilitation and understanding the sophisticated system of Cone's triangle offense.
"Learning na rin yung triangle sa akin. Actually, bago lang ako sa triangle, most of my career is run and gun sa college [San Beda] eh. Ito slow ball kaya maganda rin pag galing ka sa injury, di ka masyadong masusunog," explained the former NCAA star.
Interestingly, the versatile forward is also trying out the point guard role.
"Actually, nagpa-practice na ako tapos ang position na nilalagay sa akin ni Coach, point guard. Ang laking bagay na noong sa college naumpisahan ko na. Pero ngayon, primary na eh. Primary na na point, kaya point going from power forward," said the 6-foot-4 player.
As the Kings still celebrate their latest conquered land now - the Commissioner's Cup, there is no rush for Dela Cruz. After all, Ginebra seems to have long term plans for him in the pipeline.
"After a second Achilles surgery, we do not want to rush him back. He's only 25, so he's got a lot of basketball ahead of him. And I keep telling him: it's not about this conference, it's about the next 8-10 years, that's when we want him for. We want him ready for the next 8-10 years," Cone shared.
This is not a surprise given Cone's high regard on the do-it-all forward. He considers his game as a marriage of Scottie Thompson's and Joe Devance's.
"We were choosing between him [Dela Cruz] and Scottie [Thompson] when he came out of the  draft, and we chose Scottie which was obviously a great pick. But Art was a close second, just because we thought that his skills were very unique, similar to what Scottie does, but in a bigger version," Cone explained.
"Art to me is kind of like the in-between Scottie and Joe, kind of right in between those two guys."
Dela Cruz has so far posted norms of 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in the PBA.
Aside from Dela Cruz, Cone also targets to line-up new acquisition from Globalport Julian Sargent who is recuperating from a shoulder injury.