Rain or Shine coach Chris Gavina ranked high defending champion Barangay Ginebra alongside San Miguel, TNT, and Phoenix on his list of teams to beat in the upcoming 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
"From last conference's 'bubble' season, you have to have Ginebra on that list. Also, TNT, Phoenix, and San Miguel with the return of June Mar [Fajardo] and [Terrence] Romeo and now, the addition of [CJ] Perez to their lineup, they will be a force to be reckoned with once the season commences," confided Gavina to ESPN5.com as teams finally resumed practices last week.
Ginebra, which dominated TNT in five games to win the 2020 All-Filipino Cup, injected new life into its frontcourt after dealing longtime slotman Greg Slaughter for Fil-German big Christian Standhardinger in a one-for-one swap with NorthPort.
On the other hand, SMB boosted its stock by acquiring Perez in a trade with Terrafirma. The former Rookie of the Year brings additional firepower for the already loaded Beermen as he joins forces with Fajardo and Romeo as well as veterans Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross.
At the same time, the Rain or Shine tactician isn't discounting what Magnolia can do, especially with the presence of Calvin Abueva.
"Calvin fits coach Chito's [Victolero] persona as a coach: tough, in your face, and high energy type of player willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win," explained Gavina, noting the impact "The Beast" will bring to the Hotshots.
"You can't teach what Calvin brings to the table like his innate ability to make an impact on a game through his sheer effort and the determination is frightening to witness when you're an opposing coach," he added.
Expecting an ultra-competitive season, the 42-year-old mentor intends to instill a strong mindset of trying to outwork opponents as Rain or Shine builds on a new core of young players.
"How I will approach this preseason as a coach is to instill a mindset that we need to prepare as if we're the worst team in the league and focus on how much smarter and harder we have to outwork the teams that I previously mentioned," he shared, also adding that he was overjoyed to see his players face-to-face when they began training in Batangas City.
Gavina is glad as well with how team management has been supporting him as he tries to take off from where Caloy Garcia left off since the latter was appointed consultant and head of basketball operations.
"I feel that management's directives in injecting championship-bred players into our stables will allow myself to really invoke my right as a head coach to demand excellence each and every day, not only from our rookies but from our grizzled vets as well," he shared.
With that, Rain or Shine's new coach expects practices to be highly competitive with rookies Santi Santillan, Franky Johnson, Anton Asistio, and Andrei Caracut adding youth to the franchise that last won it all in the 2016 Commissioner's Cup.
"This influx of high-level young talent injects a great deal of competitive fire to our returning players and will make for interesting days at practice," stressed Gavina, "I will be preaching that no one on our team should ever be afraid or intimidated by any of their teammates trying to compete and bring out the best in them each and every day."