Cone said that this is going to be their greatest challenge coming into the PBA season.
“That’s going to be our greatest battle, battling expectations,” Cone said Sunday night after the virtual PBA Press Corps Awards night where he received the honor as Outstanding Coach of the Philippine Cup bubble tournament held at TV5 studio in Mandaluyong City.
“The expectations are going to go even higher for us, we’ve won a couple of conferences in a row, and fans get used to the winning, and the more they win the more hunger for the win and the higher the expectations. It’s an easy trap to fall into.”
Cone said that despite the addition of the 6-foot-8 Standhardinger, obtained in a trade with NorthPort Batang Pier for 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, other teams have also improved their roster.
He pointed to Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and San Miguel Beer, two teams that also made headlines with the acquisition of CJ Perez from Terrafirma and Calvin Abueva from Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters in separate deals the previous month.
Also, TNT got a shot in the arm with the return of coach Chot Reyes, who has led them to four championships from 2008 to 2012, and Cone said Reyes’ comeback should impact the Tropang Giga – a team they played in the final series of the last all-Filipino conference.
Aside from the three teams, Cone said he expects NLEX, which owns the third and fourth picks in Sunday’s PBA Rookie Draft, Meralco, Phoenix and Alaska as threats in their title-retention bid.
“There are a lot of good teams out there. It’s not a walk in the park. On paper we look good but we got to do it on the floor,” said Cone, who holds the PBA record by a coach for most championships with 23.
Cone said Standhardinger is set to start training this Wednesday.
He described the league’s 2019 Governors’ Cup Best Player of the Conference a “throwback” the way Standhardinger gets up and down the floor, the physicality and still “gets the job done”.
“He’s not a pretty player by any means, but he’s very, very effective and he is very efficient,” said Cone.
“I’m looking forward to working with him defensively, because I think he’s an outstanding defensive player. He can guard multiple types of players and it’s going to be fun to explore that part of his game.”
He also likes his new frontline pair of Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar – two players that play differently as the former loves to bang bodies, while the latter is a 6-foot-10 high-flier.
Cone even likens Standhardinger to his former Alaska player in PBA legend Bing Hawkins.
“I’m pretty good with grounded players. My all-time favorite is Bong Hawkins. No one is more grounded than Bong Hawkins. So I’m looking forward to working with Christian,” said Cone.
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