Reloaded TNT out to end championship drought

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.


Additions: Poy Erram (trade), Kib Montalbo (draft), Val Chauca (draft), Jjay Alejandro (free agent) Simon Enciso (trade), Lervin Flores (free agent), Gryann Mendoza (free agent)

Subtractions: Marion Magat (trade), Yousef Taha (trade), Ed Daquioag (trade), Mike DiGregorio (trade)

Holdovers: Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, Kelly Williams, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Harvey Carey, Ryan Reyes, Troy Rosario, Almond Vosotros, Jay Washington

The lowdown

It's title or bust for TNT.

After falling short of a championship last season, the KaTropa will try to pounce on the absences of June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter and try winning its first Philippine Cup since the 2012-13 season.

Disappointing losses in the Commissioner's Cup Finals and the Governors' Cup semis have pushed management to reload in the middle and add the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Poy Erram.

The team found a way to acquire the services of the 6'7" center by stocking up on guards like Ed Daquioag and used them as trade chips.

With the addition of the former Ateneo player, TNT has been elevated to being one of the favorites in the All-Filipino.

Now loaded with a potential starting lineup of Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Ray Parks, and Erram, the team will also feature Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes, and Simon Enciso as its rotation players.

Despite getting Erram less than two weeks before the team's season opener on March 11, the big man got a head start by training with team consultant Mark Dickel, who serves as the interim Gilas head coach.

"We just gotta get continuity together and then start playing real games, you know. Practice games are great, but ultimately, they're still just like practice. Once the real game starts then we'll get more familiarity with each other," Dickel told ESPN5.

Moreover, the team is pleased with the addition of former La Salle skipper Kib Montalbo, who was selected in the first round, 11th overall in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft.

The Bacolod native, who played with MPBL squad Makati prior to moving to the pros, inked an 18-month deal with the squad.

Ray Parks, who was traded to the team last November, signed a one-year extension with the team, and is expected to prove something for himself, according to team governor Ricky Vargas.

"I think it's a win-win situation for us. We get to know him better and he gets to know what TNT is all about. Its duties and own mission and he shares that with us. A year is enough," said the PBA Chairman.

Biggest question: How will the team mesh in a short amount of time?

Integrating new pieces in such a short amount of time will be the team's biggest question mark heading to the Philippine Cup.

Dickel, meanwhile, is tempering expectations, citing that other teams have the same belief that they could win it all in a very open title window.

"I don't know about all that. I'm sure all the teams feel the same, that their teams are gonna win. I thought we should have won last year's Philippine Cup, and I thought we should have won last Governors' Cup, and I definitely thought we should have won the Commissioner's Cup," explained Dickel.

"So there's no change for us. We're desperately trying to win a championship. So expectations don't mean anything. All we've got to do is get in the games and prove it."