MAJOR POINT: Will Terence Romeo and SMB Work?
Eric Menk on Jan 25, 2019 10:03 AM
"The two basic problems I see in Terrence’s game, broadly speaking, is his over dribbling and his defense." - Eric Menk
It has been just over a month now since the best team in the PBA, the San Miguel Beerman traded for high scoring guard, Terrence Romeo. Already having won six PBA titles in the last four years and not having to give up one of their stars to obtain Romeo, will this trade overcrowd SMB’s ship or will it make them unbeatable? Just two games into the young Philippine Cup and the Beerman 1-1, there are still a lot of questions that haven’t been answered.
It was well known around league circles that TNT KaTropa was shopping Romeo around the league for months with no takers. It is also well documented that TNT and the MVP Group certainly doesn’t want to trade with SMB, helping them add even more talent to a rival franchise. So how did SMB add the best scoring guard in the league to begin with? SMB gave up three assets to acquire Romeo, but other PBA teams certainly could have made similar offers for Romeo. However, nobody did. SMB saw an opportunity, took a chance and made the deal.
A Talented Guard with Negative Perceptions
Terrence Romeo is one of the more talented guards in the PBA. He is a three-time PBA scoring champion. Romeo is a fan favorite around Asia, based on his high scoring performances in international competition with Gilas Pilipinas. Terrence was even third overall in assists in the 2017 season.
However, with all that unquestionable talent, there are also certain perceptions about Terrence that he is selfish and that he doesn’t play defense.
In the past Romeo has had disagreements with coaches and teammates. There have been stories about him missing or sitting out practices. Players and coaches in the PBA view Romeo as arrogant. Teams that had opportunities to acquire Romeo, weighed his talent against the perceived hassle of having him on their team and passed, plain and simple. Everyone, except San Miguel Beer.
Is this negative perception of Terrence Romeo fair? Maybe it is. Having played with Terrence his rookie season at GlobalPort, he does have an undeniable confidence that he plays with. In a different light, that would be viewed as a good thing. When your team loses, which GlobalPort and TNT did with Terrence, it’s viewed as a bad thing. I think Terrence has brought a lot of this on himself. But, I also think EVERYTHING isn’t COMPLETELY his fault. Terrence learned to play basketball a certain way. He has had a great deal of individual success playing his way. How much have coaches he’s played under over the years really tried to adjust his playing style for the betterment of the team? It’s hard to say. A player is a reflection of their ambitions sure, but they are also a reflection of the coaching they’ve received.
Over Dribbling and Lack of Defense
The two basic problems I see in Terrence’s game, broadly speaking, is his over dribbling and his defense. Romeo is a creative ball-handler and an excellent one-on-one player, but it’s the times he takes seven to eight or more dribbles to create a shot where the problem lies. While it can be fun to watch Terrence put on a dazzling dribbling display to create space from his defender, it also turns his teammates into spectators rather than active participants. This happens too many times and it becomes a habit for a team. Teammates that don’t feel like active participants aren’t generally happy. They also can’t be expected to be in a rhythm or play with confidence when the ball does finally end up in their hands.
The other problem I mentioned is his defense. With the ball in his hands so much and with him working so hard to create his shots, Romeo’s focus on defense has been questionable. Having played on teams that have planned their game against Romeo’s GlobalPort teams, we would attack his defense in an effort to increase his workload even more. We thought that if we made him work on the defensive end, that would wear on Romeo for 48 minutes. He might still get his numbers and make tough shots, but at some point either his defense would suffer or because he was working so hard on the defensive end, his offense would suffer or both. While that wasn’t the only thing we attacked when playing those GlobalPort teams, it was part of our game plan that was usually successful.
These aren’t secrets. Every team in the PBA knows that while Romeo is a dynamic scoring guard, it has yet to be proven that his style of play, can lead to winning basketball. While playing on some talented teams at GlobalPort and TNT, Romeo’s teams made just one semifinals appearance in fifteen tries and managed only one semifinals win in their lone appearance. So those questions about Romeo have merit.
How can SMB use Romeo?
So how will SMB use Romeo? Terrence is a scorer, asking him not to look to score would be foolish. That’s his main strength. Putting Romeo in positions in the half court to score in three dribbles or less would be a significant improvement in his offensive efficiency. Lightening his minutes and usage rate, should also give Romeo more energy to focus on improving his defense. But, would Terrence be open to these adjustments to his game? Romeo could do himself a big favor by being a willing passer before looking to score. He could also impress his new teammates and coaches with a consistent effort on the defensive end of the court. That would be a perfect world for SMB and Romeo, but people are skeptical that will actually happen.
People question SMB’s decision to bring Romeo in. The general line of thinking is, SMB has a good thing going. They have many superstars already. Bringing in another strong personality and ball dominant guy could screw up SMB’s team chemistry. After all, SMB added Christian Standhardinger last year and they haven’t won a title with him yet. They are still trying to figure out how to incorporate Standhardinger into their successful ways. Adding Romeo could add even more instability. I understand that rational, but I think it is worth the risk.
First off, SMB didn’t have to give up a major rotation player to acquire Romeo.
Second, the Beermen don’t need Romeo. They aren’t going to be dependent on his production. They have an established starting five. They also have a decent bench led by Standhardinger. It remains to be seen how much SMB’s staff will ask Romeo to adjust his playing style, but if it doesn’t look like it’s working they can always bench him and play Von Pessumal, Ronald Tubid or Paul Zamar instead. Romeo could also be used as an insurance policy should aging guards Alex Cabagnot (36 years old) or Chris Ross (approaching 34 years old) come down with an injury. Arwind Santos is also 37 years old. Jun Mar Fajardo is coming off of a lower leg injury which he missed significant time at the end of last year. It is smart for SMB to continue to add good, young talent with their already experienced group. Romeo on a rival team could give SMB problems. But, now that he’s on their side, use him or not, SMB doesn’t have to play against him. It is this type of proactive thinking that has led to SMC teams dominating the league in recent years and has won SMC Sports Director, Alfrancis Chua PBA Executive of the Year in 2018.
Unfortunately, Romeo sprained his ankle in his first game with SMB, missed his second game and is scheduled to miss two more. In these short, single round elimination games there is not a lot of room for experimentation. But, with SMB heavily favored to make another deep playoff run in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup, I’m sure Terrence will get another chance to prove he can fit in with his new team.
A Great Opportunity
Romeo should look at this as a great opportunity and maybe his last one with a winner. If Romeo shows he can make sacrifices, be a good teammate, dribble less, pass more and show focus on defense, he can help improve SMB. And should SMB win a few more titles with Romeo playing quality minutes for them, the questions about his game will be forgotten.
On the flip side, if it doesn’t work out at SMB for Terrence, his status as a talented, but individualistic player in a team sport, will probably define him as a basketball player.
While I would like to see some new teams get into the title picture, I am rooting for Terrence. Having played with him, I know he’s a hard worker. In my conversations with him, Terrence always said the right things and seemed eager to learn. And while his actions didn’t always line up with his words, I do hold out hope that Terrence can learn and adapt. Plus, I enjoy watching any player grow, develop and reach their potential. Naysayers will say Terrence is going to be Terrence. But, I’d like to believe that people aren’t just what they are. Individuals can adjust and adapt to create a constantly better version of themselves as people and as players. Can Terrence do that? Can Coach Leo Austria manage another stud in their crowded stable? I’d bet on yes, but maybe I’m wrong. I’m anxious to find out and so is the PBA universe. We’ll be watching.
Eric Menk played in the PBA from 1999 to 2016. Menk is a four-time PBA champion, three-time PBA Finals MVP and one-time PBA MVP (2005). He currently is an assistant coach for Alab Pilipinas in the ABL and writes for ABS-CBN Sports. Menk also has his podcast Staying MAJOR as welll as his own YouTube channel .