Ginebra loses Devance for two months but gets back three others

Barangay Ginebra forward Joe Devance is set to miss the elimination round of the PBA Governors' Cup as he heals from a recent surgery on his right foot.

Devance, who walked around with a boot during the Kings' first tune-up game of the break, said he immediately underwent procedure after their second-round elimination in the Commissioner's Cup to alleviate the pain brought by plantar fasciitis on his right foot.

"I was already getting shots in my foot so I don't feel any pain. I think I had two or three shots already and by the third one, I still had pain. I already asked coached when we finished the conference if I could get a surgery. I couldn't play another conference without getting a surgery," Devance told reporters on Friday.

The 12-year veteran downplayed concerns of a long absence and said he'll be back around November, just in time for a possible playoff run by Ginebra.

"It's not like a major surgery, but if I don't take care of it, it needs to heal because they broke the bone. It needs to heal correctly, if not I'll be out even longer. That's why I gotta be in this boot for a while," he said. "I should be alright. It's nothing major."

Despite Devance's absence, Ginebra can still look forward to getting their depth back in the season-ending conference as Jeff Chan, Art dela Cruz and Jared Dillinger look healthier entering the final two weeks before the PBA schedule resumes on September 20.

All three saw the floor for the Kings in their tune-up against the Magnolia Hotshots, where Ginebra snagged an 87-83 win to kick off their preparations. Only Dela Cruz saw extended minutes, though, as head coach Tim Cone said the team opted to put the two others on a minutes restriction.

"Jared played maybe a minute and a half, or two minutes. We just didn't want to extend him too much. We didn't want to extend Jeff. Jeff played only in the first half. Art seems to be the healthiest right now at this point and just for him, it's about getting rhythm," he said.

Dela Cruz missed the second conference after sustaining a groin injury last May 26, in Ginebra's second game of the midseason tournament. Without him along with Dillinger and Chan, the team's bench suffered and produced a paltry 20.06 points per game, which ranked dead-last.

"Our bench wasn't there last conference," said Dela Cruz. "I hope we bounce back. A handful of us were gone. Coach told us that losing a chunk of the rotation when we were gone was big. I was also hurt because I knew I should have been there defending, contributing."

Being a hundred percent healthy this time around should help Dela Cruz, who could play a featured role off the bench for the Kings. He showed flashes of some much-needed versatility -- something that Ginebra will definitely ask for him -- against the Hotshots, where he often kickstarted the offense as a point forward in the first half and in the closing quarter.

"This conference, there's a lot of expectations on us," he said. "For my part, I need to be versatile, and I should expect to be ready all the time even if I'm not being fielded. I don't have a firm spot -- I'm not a one, a two or a three. I just fill in what the team needs. Right now, opposing imports are smaller so I can play defense against them since we have bigs behind me."

"Getting here has been such a huge help for me. I get to play different spot, that's why it's also a big responsibility for me. We've been told that we're hybrids, that's why we're here because we can play multiple positions," he added.

There's still the matter of finding their timing, though, but Dela Cruz said Ginebra's challenging twice-a-day practices can help accelerate their progress on that end.

"The difficulty for me is the twice-a-day practice. This is the most challenging part while we're in the process of getting back to our rhythm because we took a long break. If we get past this, we'll be able to get back our conditioning and our timing in the game," he explained.

"Me and kuya Jeff are running well. It all starts in practice, our chemistry, our bond and our roles with the team. That's why continuous practices are still good, but we still have more days to go through."

Cone also admitted that Ginebra generally has a long way to go before they get the fluidity that they want, but he's confident that the team will eventually make the necessary strides.

"This is a process. You don't worry about where you are right now too much, as long as you feel you're making progress from when we started, and we do feel we're making progress," said Cone.

"It's still really early, but I guess the things I do like is we're moving the ball hard and guys are in pretty good shape. We didn't lose too much shape over the month that we were off. But still, we have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of things we still need to do," he added.