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NorthPort ready to go with Standhardinger leading the way

There are a lot of interesting storylines for each team as we open another PBA season on Sunday, March 8. Several ESPN5.com writers covering the league examine and look at the different PBA teams, highlighting the storyline for each, heading into the 2020 Philippine Cup.

NORTHPORT BATANG PIER

There's no doubt that NorthPort has the personnel to compete in the Finals following its solid showing in the 2019 PBA season.

Fil-German big man Christian Standhardinger was the biggest headline grabber during NorthPort's semifinal finish in the 2019 Governors' Cup.

The 30-year-old Standhardinger proved his worth in just his first conference for the Batang Pier, punching in monster stats line of 22.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals on the way to bagging his first Best Player of the Conference Award.

Standhardinger has been strengthening his knee in the offseason. But he should form a deadly combination with incoming sophomore guard Robert Bolick once the former San Beda star fully recovers from an ACL tear on his right knee.

Additions: LA Revilla (via trade), Kelly Nabong (via trade), Sean Manganti (rookie), Renzo Subido (rookie), Cris Dumapig (reserve)

Subtractions: Sol Mercado, Russel Escoto

Holdovers: Paolo Taha, Robert Bolick, Nico Elorde, Sean Anthony, Garvo Lanete, Jonathan Grey, Jervy Cruz, Bradwyn Guinto, Christian Standhardinger, Kevin Ferrer

The lowdown: NorthPort's core of Standhardinger, Bolick, Sean Anthony, Kevin Ferrer, Jervy Cruz and a vastly improved Paolo Taha can give any of the PBA's elite squads a run for their own money.

Except for Bolick, this same core teamed up with import Michael Qualls in stunning top seed NLEX in the 2019 Governors' Cup quarterfinals, before falling to eventual champion Barangay Ginebra in the semifinals, 3-1.

Throw in NorthPort returnee LA Revilla, mercurial big man Kelly Nabong, and rookies Sean Mangti and Renzo Subido and this Pido Jarencio-coached squad is ready to compete in the season-opening Philippine Cup.

Biggest question heading into the season: Will Standhardinger stay put or will NorthPort just be his pit stop?

The Fil-German big man's name has been in the rumor mill recently, with the former Nebraska and Hawaii standout said to be landing at Barangay Ginebra in a trade.

But then again, that remains to be a rumor until NorthPort management decides to make a move.

For NorthPort fans, it's obvious that they would rather see the hardworking, many-time Gilas big man stay and provide the high energy plays for the Batang Pier.

As for NorthPort team manager Bonnie Tan, he'd rather not to touch on topic of trading Standhardinger. Instead, he opted to look at what the Batang Pier can do as a team this coming season.

"If our team remains intact and our players stay healthy, we will match or exceed our performance from last season," Tan said.

For the time being, Ferrer is questionable for NorthPort as he recovers from his foot injury. NorthPort will be making its 2020 PBA season debut versus NLEX on March 11.