The Blackwater Elite began the already-strange 2020 Philippine Cup with optimism and hope. Not much of either remains as Blackwater exits the PBA Bubble on an eight-game losing skid.
With Nash Racela at the helm as head coach, Blackwater had a collection of collegiate basketball standouts had not yet fulfilled their potential in the PBA. All of them, however, were eager to prove their worth. A hot start to the Philippine Cup led to early victories against NorthPort Batang Pier and the NLEX Road Warriors. They even gave Barangay Ginebra a scare, losing only by four points, 103-99.
Things then started to slide and the Elite never recovered. They suffered back-to-back double-digit losses to Alaska and TNT and then had some of their games postponed due to events beyond their control. Their 35-year-old rookie Maurice Shaw struggled to even be on the floor, plagued by back issues from the start.
When the competitions resumed, the Elite dropped a 90-88 decision to the San Miguel Beermen and an 89-85 loss to the Meralco Bolts in back-to-back days. A loss to the winless TerraFirma Dyip was the final dagger to Blackwater's playoff hopes.
"Everything is still the same about the PBA. The structure and the dynamics are still the same and the only difference is that I'm handling a different team," said Racela. "I would have wanted it to end differently. We had two close games. If we won those, things could have been very different for us. We just want to look at the positives so we could move forward to the next season."
The close losses were tough to swallow but Racela knows their chances were also dampened by events beyond their control.
"It was very difficult to play six games in nine days and we were coming from an 11-day break," the Blackwater said. "It took away our flow. It took away a lot from us. We lost a player. We started the PBA Bubble with Paul (Desiderio) and then he had to leave. You'd always want to have a complete delegation, if possible. Things that we didn't have control over happened."
It'll be back to the drawing board for Blackwater who might pull the trigger on their planned name-change to Bossing when the PBA returns next season. However, before that even happens, Racela admits that there's a lot of work to be done.
"We'll assess right after this with the coaches and management to see how we could improve what we have now. We learned a lot about ourselves and about the team. We'll need to study how we'll get better. We'll try to build a strong foundation for Blackwater," he said.
Unfortunately for the Elite, their first round pick in the upcoming PBA Rookie Draft is with NLEX due to the trade that involved JP Erram moving from the Road Warriors to TNT Tropang Giga. The Elite have TNT's first picks in 47th and 48th Seasons of the PBA.
"As a coach I want to have long, athletic players who could really hustle, jump, and scramble. As a coach in my first conference with Blackwater, I don't think I'll be able to get a dominant big man through a trade or free agency," said Racela. "Rather than look for that big, we'd rather focus on the four other positions because there might be available talents there. We want athletic players."