In Barangay Ginebra’s last 2 blowout wins, the team’s vocal and supportive fans chanted the name of veteran playmaker Jayjay Helterbrand in a bid to see the former PBA Most Valuable Player play alongside his pal Mark Caguioa.
For a brief moment on the floor, Helterbrand and Caguioa shared time together during the Kings’ 110-84 blowout win over sister team San Miguel Beermen.
The veteran backcourt duo, known as the “Fast and the Furious”, led Ginebra to 4 championships during the past decade, endearing Caguioa and Helterbrand to the team’s legion of fans.
Over the last 3 seasons though, things have changed. And Father Time has a lot to do with it.
The 39-year-old Helterbrand saw his playing time dwindle to career-lows over the last 3 seasons with younger guards taking the lion’s share of the minutes.
On Wednesday, coach Tim Cone again obliged the fans, fielding the Ginebra veteran playmaker, but this time, he left Caguioa on the bench for good after contributing 16 points in the Kings’ 103-90 win over the Meralco Bolts.
Cone had a ready explanation to that.
“I’m not really big on throwing veterans out there for garbage time because they deserve more than that,” the American said matter-of-factly.
Given a choice between sending a veteran or a rookie, who has yet to see action, Cone stressed he’d choose the latter.
“There’s a level of respect for the veterans. And I’ll threw my young guys out there,” explained the 58-year-old Cone.
“But if I have a veteran who hasn’t played all game and I have a couple of rookies who hasn’t played, I’ll play the rookies first before I play the veterans,” he added.
The 18-time PBA champion coach said Helterbrand’s limited exposure on the floor was due in fact to starting playmaker LA Tenorio’s heads-up plays in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup, while rookie Scottie Thompson needs some time on the floor to mature at the point.
“Like I said, he (Helterbrand) kills in practice because he makes such veteran plays and smart plays in practice and we’re not afraid to play him in a game,” said Cone.
“It’s just that he’s caught between Scott and LA, so it doesn’t leave much time for Jayjay to play when we try to do those 2 things,” he added.
In the ongoing conference, Helterbrand is averaging career-low numbers of 0.2 point, 0.2 rebound and 0.5 assist in just 5.2 minutes of action. – By Richard Dy
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