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Patient Cone confident Aguilar, Tenorio will soon find rhythm

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Caperal helps Ginebra off to a 2-0 start (4:58)

Prince Caperal scored a game-high 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting to boost Ginebra past Blackwater. (4:58)

Barangay Ginebra trusts Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio enough to know they'll turn it around sooner than later in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.

In the meantime, Cone says he'll continue giving his stars a lot of reps in hopes of whipping them back to shape ahead of schedule.

"I think it's obvious to you guys. Eye-balling them at this point, it's just as obvious to me as it is to you guys. They're not a hundred percent. They came in late," coach Tim Cone said Friday. "But we gotta keep throwing them out there. How are they gonna get in rhythm or how are they gonna get in shape unless they go out there and play?"

Aguilar and Tenorio, who came off a laparoscopy surgery to remove his appendix, arrived at the Clark bubble just days before the Gin Kings' season opener last Oct. 11.

Ginebra hasn't really felt the effects of Aguilar and Tenorio's slow starts and is currently on top of the standings alongside TNT and Phoenix with a 2-0 record, though the team will certainly need more later on if it wants to engineer its first All-Filipino title run in 13 years.

Tenorio's play, in particular, will be a much-welcomed boost if the Gin Kings make a deep playoff run. The 36-year-old guard kept his 'Iron Man' streak alive at 643 games but is evidently still far from peak form, as he's only had a point across two games while missing all five shots and recording zero assists in 9.5 minutes per contest.

"They're still treating his wounds from his surgery," Cone said. "He's actually just been an amazing specimen in terms of continuing to play and practice. He's not like, not practicing and going out and playing. He's doing the full practice and getting into the games. Just amazing, his courage."

Cone thinks Tenorio is "maybe two to three weeks away from getting back to being the LA that we know."

"No doubt he will get back there, 'cause guy's got such a great work ethic. He's underweight, he needs to get heavier, he needs to get stronger, build more definition. He's lost a lot of definition," he added.

Meanwhile, Aguilar is averaging just 9.0 points on 33 percent shooting to go with 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 blocks in 21 minutes per game -- far cries from numbers that earned him the Finals MVP award in the 2019-20 Governors' Cup last January.

"Japeth still has ways to go. He knows it," said Cone. "We talked about being 2-0 without a fully-functioning Japeth Aguilar. It's really a bonus. We think Japeth's gonna get better literally game by game."

In the meantime, the Gin Kings will continue sharpening their focus elsewhere while relying on other contributors -- like Prince Caperal (17.5 points on 68 percent shooting from the field, 80 percent on threes in two games) -- in hopes of padding their lead atop the leaderboard.

"We understand we're playing at a level right now and we're gonna get better two weeks from now. And after that, we're gonna get better at the end of next two weeks. So we're gonna continue to hopefully grow and get better," Cone noted.

"The way we could do that is we have to recover our habits, recover our shape. We had a lot of defensive breakdowns last night (Thursday against Blackwater) just simply from confusion. That's something we pride ourselves on, not to be confused defensively. But we still have guys that don't have the habits of doing things the way we expect them."

Ginebra will battle the same Meralco team it beat in the Governors' Cup finals early this week this Sunday, Oct. 18, at 6:45 p.m. Cone described the matchup as "our biggest test so far."

"The last time we beat them in a championship, the first game after we played them, they blew us out by 25 points. They're gonna be ready for us and we know it," he shared. "We're gonna have to find a way to meet their intensity because they're also coming off a huge win after having a tough first game. So it's really gonna lift them up and motivate them. And we only have a couple of games to prepare, today and tomorrow. This will be our biggest test so far, I think. It's gonna be a tough one."