To say that the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters went through a lot over the past two seasons is an understatement. From victories to controversies to groundbreaking personnel changes, the franchise has faced it all.
The 2016-2017 season was supposedly Rain or Shine's transition period to the leadership of head coach Caloy Garcia. Although he initially implemented a system that was largely similar to Yeng Guiao's, the adjustment is inevitable when losing a coach like the legendary Guiao. Nonetheless, they made it to playoffs in each conference in Garcia's return to the helm. They never got past the quarterfinals but the fact that they got to that point in that adjustment period was more than decent.
This season, they continued to search for better formulas. They traded away Jericho Cruz to the TNT KaTropa in exchange for rookie Sidney Onwubere. Later in the year, they also dealt Don Trollano to TNT for Norbert Torres.
All these moves seemed to come together nicely for Rain or Shine when they were lording over the Commissioner's Cup. But in the Governor's Cup, there were too many hurdles as they saw their streak of five consecutive playoff appearances come to an end.
This year had a little bit of everything for Rain or Shine. They experienced three kinds of campaigns in the three conferences of the season. Perhaps the only thing Rain or Shine didn't have this year was a championship.
In the Philippine Cup, they were steady, finishing the eliminations in the middle of the pack. With Cruz becoming a more integral part of the backcourt after the departure of Paul Lee, few people would have thought that it was going to be his last campaign with Rain or Shine.
The Elasto Painters' tournament ended in a quarterfinals sweep by Barangay Ginebra.
In the Commissioner's Cup, they found a gem of an import in Reggie Johnson. The bullish reinforcement overpowered competition and worked spectacularly with his local teammates. With Johnson in the middle, Rain or Shine took the top seed heading into the playoffs. They survived a quarterfinals scare when NorthPort (then GlobalPort) defeated them in the first game of the playoffs, but with a twice-to-beat advantage, they took care of the Batang Pier in their second meeting.
Unfortunately, they met a familiar foe in the semifinals - the same team that eliminated them in the previous conference. But this time, it wasn't just Barangay Ginebra. It was Barangay Ginebra that recently re-acquired the services of Justin Brownlee which proved to be too much for Rain or Shine as they lost their series 3-1 to the eventual champions.
And in the year-ending Governors' Cup, they tried to make a run for the playoffs but there were simply too many roadblocks along the way.
First was the sacrifice they made of volunteering to represent the country in the Asian Games. The team lent six players - Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, Chris Tiu, Maverick Ahanmisi and James Yap - to the national team.
Later in the tournament, they also went through a controversial stretch when Almazan was reportedly not attending practices and could not be located. He missed all but the first two games of the conference. On top of that, the team also lost two key players in Belga and Tiu, who both suffered injuries that kept them away from action towards the end of the season.
There were simply too many distractions for Rain or Shine in the last conference and that led to a rare occurrence - a PBA playoffs without the Elasto Painters.
What they need
With the turmoil that has been going in the team, the first thing that they need is to realign and get everyone on the same page again. Well, there's been progress there as Garcia has spoke in public that he and Almazan have patched things up. Team Governor Atty. Mamerto Mondragon has also announced that Almazan will be returning to the team.
Once all of these are ironed out, once the injuries heal, then it will be time for Rain or Shine to move forward.
Rain or Shine has always had one of the deepest roster in the league -- having multiple weapons at every position. That's why the team never really needed an identified go-to guy. However, while team basketball is the trend of today's game, having that one killer has always worked well for a team -- not necessarily to dominate the ball, more of to take charge when the team needs someone to do so.
Before, Jeff Chan emerged to be the main gunner. Then the role was inherited by Lee. Right now, it seems like that role is still up for grabs.