A flibbertigibbet? A will-o’-wisp? A clown?
How can we define the Kia franchise in one word? Four years after entering the PBA, they still can’t seem to find direction for the team. During that short span, they managed to draft Manny Pacquiao and make him a playing coach, trade away high draft picks, make a star out of LA Revilla and Aldrech Ramos only to trade them away, and let go of the best acting head coach to ever set foot in the league (Seriously, why did you fire Chris Gavina?).
Maybe this fits: a mess.
Now seven games into the PBA Philippine Cup, the Kia Picanto is dead last in the standings with a 1-6 record. What’s worse is that the team got drubbed by more than 20 points in four of its outings. How the management turned the awesome Gavina-led Mahindra to this is beyond my comprehension. What’s certain is that Kia is as for from being a winning team as they are from being marketable. I suppose that’s what they mean by ‘unconventional’.
Not to discredit the effort that their players are putting into the game, but they can use a lot of help. One look at the team’s roster and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Here are arguably the four best players in the Picanto roster: Rashawn McCarthy, Eric Camson, Jackson Corpuz, Carlo Lastimosa and Russell Escoto. As good as these players are, they look like they’ll get blown away by the second or third stringers of several top-tier teams.
The team is more like a poor man’s version of Cleveland’s Frankenstein crew rather than one cohesive unit. Maybe that’s the reason why the Picanto still hasn’t breached the 20-assist mark in any of its games this conference.
Things won’t get better soon—not since they traded Christian Standhardinger away for loose change (and Troy Rosario, Aldrech Ramos, LA Revilla…).
This brings me to the question: How do you solve a problem like Mahindra (or Kia)?
Implementing an instant remedy to the chaos that the Picanto created is like holding a moonbeam in your hand, or catching a cloud and pinning it down, or keeping a wave on the sand—it’s impossible to achieve. The only thing KIA can do is to build up its roster from the bottom up, stick to a better process, and hope for the best.
Maybe it’s time to stop imposing the management’s definition of unconventional and start giving direction to this team. Luckily for the Picanto, there are still a few players available (or might be available) who can make the team likeable, and become building blocks for the future.
Why Kia needs to acquire him: potential go-to-guy on offense
Kia thrived when Aldrech Ramos and KG Canaleta were on the team. Both guys are tall forwards who can shoot from the outside. Without them, there’s just no other forward in the lineup who can torch the opponents from anywhere in the court like they did.
Maybe they can replicate that level of success with Andreas Cahilig.
Cahilig is not on any active PBA roster as of today. Maybe it’s the injury that he sustained prior to draft day. Maybe it’s his status as an unknown when he entered the 2017 PBA Draft. Whichever is true, don’t let his current situation make you think that he doesn’t have what it takes to be good in the PBA.
He’s a European forward whose height is at par with the typical big men in the Philippines. At 6-foot-5, he can be an instant mismatch on offense. Having played professionally in Sweden, he’s used to playing with bigger guys. He can play the 2 and 3 positions with ease. In the PBA, his height is enough to dominate most wings, while his range and versatility can be used to overwhelm slower bigs who are comfortable defending near the basket.
Trading Standhadringerl away was a grave mistake on Kia’s part. Maybe they could somehow offset the loss with Andreas Cahilig.
Why Kia needs to acquire him: high marketability, championship experience, additional talent at PG
A high-profile player who was left without a team this year is Thomas Torres. He was a third-round pick before he was cut by the Magnolia Hotshots ahead of the season due to the logjam at the guard rotation. His less-than-impressive performance in his last season with La Salle didn’t help his cause, either.
Maybe this is the blessing that Kia is waiting for, as Torres is available for the team to sign. He can instantly be the most famous guy on the Picanto roster, and he will definitely increase the team’s marketability. The likes of James Yap, Mark Caguioa, Marc Pingris and Chris Tiu still draws fans. That’s what Thomas can immediately do for the team.
But he can offer more than just his fame for the Picanto. He’s a point guard who can direct the offense and put up points when needed. In UAAP Season 79, Torres scored at least eight points in eight elimination round games, five of which he scored in double digits. He was also among UAAP’s top 15 assist leaders during that year.
He still needs to improve his consistency and efficiency in scoring. But with KIA’s lack of talent at the PG position, the team could definitely use a playmaker with championship pedigree like Thomas.
Why KIA needs to acquire him: star potential, veteran presence
The surplus of talent in San Miguel and, later on, his injury have caused Lutz to miss breaking out and cashing in on his prime. It’s such a letdown for his fans, especially since he was one of the marquee players for Gilas 1.0.
But it may not be too late for him. If Kia gambles on Lutz and somehow gets even 80 percent of his peak form, it will still be a win for the Picanto. Honestly, the team still struggles to find that one true superstar for the franchise (if only they don’t throw their picks away every now and then). Lutz might fit the role for the team.
The catch is, this scenario will greatly depend on whether Lutz can show that he is healthy enough to play. There’s no doubt that he’s a great player. In his last notable stint in the ‘14-’15 Philippine Cup, he averaged 10.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Can he recover from his injury, get back to his old form, and produce the same numbers for Kia?
I certainly hope so. I am rooting for Lutz to pull off a Danny Seigle/Kelly Williams type of comeback. Kia should probably hope so, too.
Arnold Van Opstal
Why Kia needs to acquire him: high marketability, center of the future
Asi, Sonny, June Mar, Greg and Japeth, Ranidel, Rafi.
Every good team has a good/great big man on its lineup. That’s what Arnold Van Opstal might be able to offer to Kia. At 6’9, he can easily tower over almost every player on the Picanto’s roster. Sure he’s numbers are for from impressive, but he was stashed for so long by San Miguel. Looking back at his college career, he can certainly be a serviceable starting center who can grab boards and finish close to the rim.
However, there are two problems if KIA wants to acquire his services: he’s injured, so they’ll have to wait before he can play and they have to be patient in his growth, too. He’s not a plug and play option that will dominate from the get go. They will have to allow Van Opstal to grow individually and within the context of the team.
And if all else fails with AVO, Kia will still have a bankable face to make them more likeable as a franchise.
Billy Mamaril and/or Yancy De Ocampo
Why KIA needs to acquire them: to fill the gaping hole at the 5
“Hey, San Miguel! We were so generous when we gave away Christian to you for a bunch of your third stringers. Would you be kind to give us one or two of your spare big men? No? Okay.”