Are you not entertained?
Well you may not be surprised with the result.
A stellar game from Justin Brownlee and the ever-present home court advantage the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings usually enjoy were, among other things, the recipe for the Gin Kings’ 15th PBA Championship.
Christian Standhardinger may have won Finals MVP thanks to his steady presence on both ends of the floor for much of the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals and Jamie Malonzo may have had the best game of his career in Game 7, but Brownlee set the tone early in the title clincher.
The three-time PBA Best Import of the Conference was relentless in his drives to the basket, mixing up his layups with some jumpshots in the perimeter and from behind the 3-point line. The rest of Ginebra followed suit, as the Gin Kings frontline asserted themselves inside, while the backcourt punished the Bay Area Dragon’s defense with some momentum-dousing shots. The Dragons still found ways to score inside, but their dismal 3-point shooting (26 percent on 42 shot attempts) could not have come at a worse time.
The cohesion that Brownlee has with Ginebra since suiting up for the team in 2016 has made him a candidate for naturalization since the PBA championships came in bunches. It’s not uncommon for imports to do a little bit of everything, but there are those that tend to force the issue and (intentional or not) sacrifice team success for individual numbers. With Brownlee, it’s all about winning, with his stats at the end of the game merely being a product of his efforts to put his team over the top.
Of course, being with the Gin Kings for more than five years builds a familiarity that can rarely be beat, but even before all that, Tim Cone and the rest of the Ginebra coaching staff found someone they knew would fit into their roster like a glove. With big men like Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter (for a time), and Standhardinger, the need was someone who could provide support to the frontcourt, but more importantly, someone who would show up when it was gut-check time.
Filipinos are hoping that this version of Brownlee won’t just be a constant for when he suits up for the Gin Kings; now that he is a naturalized Filipino, the hope is that what the PBA-record 54,589 fans saw in the Philippine Arena is just a glimpse of what we could all witness come the 2023 FIBA World Cup August. The big shots, pinpoint passes, and the overall effort that have been infectious could potentially be more effective with an even more talented cast of teammates (although it’s fair to say that Ginebra themselves can represent the Philippines in some international competitions if all players were eligible).
Gilas Pilipinas had previously been naturalizing centers, but with the development of Kai Sotto and even the likes of June Mar Fajardo and Aguilar, complements were more apt. A frontcourt partner who can crash the boards while the others box out? Someone who can develop chemistry with teammates on the low block? Brownlee could check those boxes and then some. How the now six-time PBA champion operates within the confines of Ginebra certainly serves as a blueprint, but all of this, of course, largely depends on whether or not he will be selected for the final roster.
Brownlee will be 35 years old by the time the FIBA World Cup kicks off, but more than age, the availability of Jordan Clarkson could dim his chances. As it stands now, Brownlee is certainly the frontrunner, with Ange Kouame’s future plans and recovery following knee surgery something to monitor.
The 2022-2023 PBA Commissioner’s Cup ended with how it started: a 15-point win by the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. The Gin Kings couldn’t have scripted for themselves a better ending for them and their fans and while their fanbase basks in the glory of championship success, the rest of the country hopes that this stellar effort from Justin Brownlee and company can eventually translate to glory on the international stage.