We're near the halfway mark of the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup, and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape.
The usual suspects are in their predicted spots (San Miguel, Kia), while a few surprises find themselves in the middle of the pack after promising starts (Ginebra, NLEX). Credit the erratic nature of the standings to some individual overachievers and unfortunate injuries, the latter we don't wish on anyone from the league.
Aside from heightened physical play among locals, the PBA has also seen a number of fallen players in recent weeks. FHM isn't downplaying the setbacks involving other cagers, but the following losses have had a greater effect on their respective teams' All-Filipino campaigns.
San Miguel Beermen (6-1): Alex Cabagnot (foot injury)
While Chico Lanete has filled in admirably for the seasoned guard, no one can deny the latter's impact whenever he's on the court. The Beermen, as invincible as they are in an All-Filipino conference led by June Mar Fajardo, appear more vulnerable with lacking parts. And if a contender like Magnolia or Ginebra pushes SMB to the brink, somebody else should come up clutch with Cabagnot out.
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (6-2): Joe Devance (foot injury)
You can relax now, kabarangays—Joe isn't going anywhere despite being placed on the unrestricted free agent list. Losing Greg Slaughter is a bigger blow (2-1 without him), but not having the point-forward digs a deeper hole in Ginebra's imposing frontline as Jervy Cruz and Raymond Aguilar can only do so much. Coach Tim Cone has to do double duty on his schemes without his coaching extension on the floor.
Meralco Bolts (2-5): Ranidel de Ocampo (calf injury)
There's a running joke about Meralco being only competitive during import-flavored tournaments. The wing-heavy squad is brutally thin in the middle; their best big man (Reynel Hugnatan) is more effective from beyond the arc. De Ocampo's presence will definitely shore up the Bolts frontcourt, and last year's Governors' Cup Finals could've had a different outcome if he was able to finish the series.
GlobalPort Batang Pier (3-4): Terrence Romeo (knee injury)
Missing the services of arguably the country's best scorer, Stanley Pringle and Sean Anthony, as well as new acquisition Kelly Nabong, have proven their worth on a tough GlobalPort team. Although Coach Pido Jarencio and his wards learned the hard way it's better to have a legitimate closer in their recent overtime loss against Alaska. Admit it: The PBA has become less exciting without the Bro and his ballhandling.
Magnolia Hotshots (6-2): Paul Lee (ankle injury)
Just when the Hotshots were finding their groove, the superstar guard, who is also their top player, goes down. Magnolia has more than enough pieces to hold the fort until Lee returns—Mark Barroca and Justin Melton. Now, the bigs have to dictate the tempo, both defensively and offensively, by maximizing the available talent inside the paint. Suddenly, trading Allein Maliksi was a bad idea.