ALL ABOUT TEAM BALL
Solomon Mercado never doubted the capabilities of GlobalPort, even though the team wasn’t even given a second look given the Batang Pier’s busy offseason, which included a coaching change one week before the start of the new PBA season.
For even after a faltering 1-3 start, made worse by the franchise’s back-to-back defeats to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and three-time Philippine Cup champion Talk ‘N Text, Mercado took charge by engineering the franchise back to life to with his big, fighting heart.
Mercado’s burning desire was made more pronounced when he fired a personal conference-best 33 points to lead GlobalPort to a pulsating 93-89 win over Meralco.
Two days later, the Biola University product led GlobalPort’s second half blitzkrieg to ambush title contender Rain or Shine, 90-88, en route to the franchise’s first-ever back-to-back wins.
For his efforts, Mercado clearly came out as the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of December 2-8, beating teammate Jay Washington, Petron Blaze’s June Mar Fajardo and Barangay Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar.
Mercado knows the odds are stacked against them this season, since the team also has five rookies and several veterans acquired from trades during the offseason.
“I know you guys didn’t believe. Nobody really thought where we’ll be at right now. New coach in one week (before the start of the tournament), six rookies, eight new guys. Who would have thought we’d be 3-3?” said the 29-year-old GlobalPort playmaker.
Mercado, who also serves as mentor to rookie guards Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, said their newfound intensity is a product of the team’s commitment to play defense and the conscious effort to play team basketball.
“It’s (back-to-back wins) a confidence boost for us, the stuff that we do together off the court translates on the court,” he said.
“The commitment of sharing the ball, and with everybody playing a key role, and then, to get this back-to-back wins after doing that is huge for us.”
While the tournament is still a long way to go, Mercado is confident that each victory brings the Batang Pier a step closer to their goal of making the playoffs, and who knows, perhaps, a first-ever Finals appearance in just the franchise’s second season. (RD)
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