Eros Stock – Slaughter will ‘kill it’ at NorthPort, Standhardinger a ‘throwback Ginebra player’
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone believes Greg Slaughter will absolutely elevate his game as the undisputed man in the middle for the NorthPort Batang Pier.
“I honestly think Greg is just going to kill in NorthPort,” Cone told a handful of reporters present after the virtual P(BA) Press Corps Awards Night on Sunday. “In many ways, this could be a really good thing for Greg.”
Slaughter was traded by Ginebra last Friday to NorthPort, who sent out Christian Standhardinger in a blockbuster one-on-one trade.
Cone’s confidence in his former ward stems from an understanding that both Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar split time at the center position for the Gin Kings, making it difficult for both big men to consistently post elite production.
“He was kind of in a timeshare with Japeth throughout his whole career. They had a difficult time playing together consistently. There were stretches when they ended up just substituting for each other, and that was really difficult for both players,” he explained.
“When Greg wasn’t around for the bubble, you saw Japeth kind of spread his wings and really kind of take off because he had the position all to himself.”
Aguilar bucked a slow start in the 2020 P(BA) Philippine Cup to eventually earn a spot in the Elite Five, a substitution to the usual Mythical Teams in non-bubble seasons. In 22 games, the 34-year-old high-flyer averaged 15.5 points on 57.3 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 assists.
Slaughter, on the other hand, averaged 9.6 points on 50.8 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.9 blocks in 49 games during his last full season with the Gin Kings in 2019.
There was also admission on Cone’s part that Slaughter was restricted to certain roles within the flow of Ginebra’s system. With NorthPort, he thinks the big man will have more freedom to showcase other aspects of his game.
“We kind of pigeonholed Greg because of our system and what we wanted from him, and we didn’t really give him the freedom that he really wanted. And I think that if you give him that freedom, I think he’s gonna put up just tremendous numbers, and he’s gonna look really, really good, and he’s gonna have an opportunity he’s never had in his career,” Cone remarked.
While Cone understands any hesitation Slaughter may feel about leaving “the Mecca of our basketball”, he feels the Batang Pier will provide the greatest opportunity for Slaughter to dominate the five.
“I don’t think anybody ever wants to leave Ginebra. I mean it’s like the Mecca of our basketball. I realized that as I came here, I didn’t know that. I saw it from a distance, but being here, it’s just the Mecca of basketball — you have the fans, the attention, the backings of San Miguel and boss RSA (Ramon S. Ang) and Alfrancis Chua. It’s just a really great place to play basketball,” Cone commented.
“But I think in the long run, I think this could be really, really, really good for Greg. And I think he’s primed. I’ve been talking to him and seeing the energy he’s come back with during this break, I think he’s primed for a huge breakout. Sayang it’s not gonna happen with us, it’s probably going to happen with NorthPort.”
Obviously, it’s not all bad for Ginebra. In Standhardinger, Cone says the Gin Kings are getting a rugged but highly-effective player who’s “a throwback to the older Ginebra players (with) the way he plays, the way he gets up and down the floor, his physicality.”
“He just gets the job done. He’s not a pretty player by any means, but he’s very, very effective and he’s very efficient,” he said.
Cone made note of the Standhardinger’s defensive acumen and how he fits much better alongside a true rim protector in Aguilar.
“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 said.
Standhardinger blocked only one shot in 2020 and is generally ground-bound, while Aguilar in the same conference was second in blocks (1.4) and block rate (4.4%) among qualified players.
“I think he’ll fit with Japeth maybe a little bit better. I think they’ll be able to play a lot of minutes together and not give each other breaks once in a while. Generally they’ll be able to play together,” said Cone. “It’s gonna be fun to explore the relationship between the two of them. They’re both kind of polar opposites — Japeth’s the high-flyer and he’s the grounded type.”
Getting Standhardinger adjusted to the system is a relatively trivial matter compared to integrating himself fully into the Ginebra culture, said Cone.
“I think that the term ‘system’, the idea of learning what we do basketball-wise, it’s not a big thing,” he said. “Basketball is basketball. Yeah, we run a different system from other teams, but to me the key word is culture. Can we integrate him into our culture? That’s what takes longer — to understand our culture, the way we do things, the way we treat each other, and what’s expected of you in terms of practice habits and dealing with your teammates.”
Of course, it’s still important to for Standhardinger to get his game flowing within the Ginebra system. But Cone thinks that’s only secondary to the Fil-German center’s ability to inculcate the team’s philosophy.
“Luckily, we’ve got great models in Joe (Devance), LA (Tenorio), Mark Caguioa. They’ve accepted that culture and modeled that culture,” said Cone. “They’re superstars in their own right, but they still stay with inthe culture, then they model it.
“Stanley (Pringle) got the system quickly, he just had to learn to get the ball moving a little bit more than what he was normally used to and trusting the ball to come back to them. Christian is going to have to probably learn how to initiate our offense, and be a little bit more patient than he normally is, and things of that sort. But the key will be really the culture and how he fits into our culture. That’s really paramount with us.”
Standhardinger is arguably a much better fit within the Gin Kings system due to his mobility and defensive versatility, but Cone quickly cautioned against championship assumptions and said that it’s “an easy trap to fall into”, citing last conference’s run by the 1-10 NorthPort Batang Pier as an example.
“Everybody was talking about how Christian was going to dominate and Sean Anthony. And they came in and had these huge expectations, but they got off to a slow start and never really recovered. And that’s an easy trap to fall into, and that’s where you got to be careful and learn how to manage your expectations,” Cone said.
Cone hammered home his point by saying Standhardinger’s arrival doesn’t immediately mean the abundance of talent will translate to on-court success.
“Yeah, we’re coming off a couple championships and yeah, we’ve got Christian to a team that won without Greg– an addition without having anything subtracted from us. On paper, we should be competing for that championship. But again, on paper and getting out on the floor are two hugely different things. So that’s going to be our challenge,” he said.