Yeng obstacle to Tim’s thirst for 2nd ‘slam’

WHAT is a Grand Slam?  What is the beauty behind it?  Why do team owners covet it like crazy?

Winning all three conferences staked by the Philippine Basketball Association every year is a Grand Slam. In short, it is composed of three conference victories—a sweep of all three offerings for the season.

The beauty behind the feat is that in all competitions in sports, it is one of the hardest to achieve.

In tennis, the Grand Slam is winning all four majors—Australian Open in January, French Open in June, Wimbledon in June-July, and US Open in September.

In golf, the Grand Slam is winning all four majors, too—the US Masters in April, the US Open in June, the British Open in July, and the PGA Championship in September.

Like our three-conference PBA Grand Slam, there is also the Triple Crown in horseracing.

Team owners in the PBA do not only get a kick out of winning the Grand Slam.  Achieving it is the pinnacle of success. Only three teams in the 39 PBA seasons have accomplished the feat:  Crispa in 1976 and 1983, San Miguel Beer in 1989 and Alaska in 1996. For the last 18 years, no team has come close to winning the league’s fifth Grand Slam.  

Until San Mig Coffee came along.

Barely two years into the league, San Mig Coffee is in that enviable position now of scoring a rare Grand Slam.

Coached magnificently by Tim Cone, the man who gave Alaska its 1996 Grand Slam, the Coffee Mixers are on the brink of history as they begin tomorrow their best-of-five PBA title showdown with dangerous and old nemesis Rain or Shine.

The Painters of coach Yeng Guiao made it to the championship clash with the Mixers after miraculously climbing out of a 1-2 hole against Alaska with their improbable wins in Games 4 & 5.

Almost headed for elimination in Game 4, Rain or Shine eked out a 123-121 overtime win on back-to-back hits by Beau Belga with 11.8 seconds left.

A crippling break struck Alaska when JVee Casio slipped while about to complete a solo fastbreak layup that should have given the Aces a 123-121 bulge.

Belga buried the game’s final basket on a follow-up of Jeff Chan’s miss as Casio, hounded by a hurting ankle following that fatal fall earlier, flubbed a short, quartercourt jumper at the buzzer.

Casio, his ankle swollen, would also miss the Game 5 decider on Saturday together with teammates Sonny Thoss (back spasms) and Gabby Espinas (fractured right ankle), a huge boost for Rain or Shine that resulted in the Painters’ finals-clinching 97-94 victory over the hard-luck Aces.

With the best-of-five playoffs set to start tomorrow, San Mig Coffee has been heavily favored to win even before the Rain or Shine-Alaska series could be completed. But if only for the record, San Mig Coffee, now the best-selling 3-in-1 coffee from San Miguel Corporation, has already scored a Grand Slam of sorts—in reverse.

After winning the third and last PBA conference in 2013 (the PBA Governors Cup), San Mig Coffee swept the next two conferences against Talk ‘’N Text in the Reinforced tournament and, yes, against Rain or Shine in the Philippine Cup.

And so, this is a rematch between San Mig Coffee and Rain or Shine, although their last title clash did not include imports as it was the old All-Filipino format that had been won in six games by the Mixers.

But another twist makes the series doubly interesting as this will also be a return bout between Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee after they battled for the same title in 2012, with Rain or Shine prevailing.

Thus, will Rain or Shine repeat or will San Mig Coffee record a second Grand Slam for the San Miguel Corp. outfit?  Yeng an obstruction to Tim’s thirst for a second Slam?

 My lips are sealed—for the moment.

 ALL IN    For the record, the monthly salary of Manny Pacquiao as Kia head coach in the coming 40th PBA season set to blast off on Oct. 19 has never been discussed between the world welterweight boxing champion and Kia Motors management.  I had a lengthy coffee-and-pizza conversation on Thursday with Ginia Domingo, the charming president of Kia Motors, and she said to me:  “In fairness to Congressman Manny, he has never mentioned about his salary in all the talks that we had had about our impending stint in the PBA.  What he keeps telling me and the other company officials is, he is more concerned with building a champion team and nothing else matters.”  

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