It’s a bit odd to see the Converge FiberXers at the bottom of the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup standings.
As of this writing, the FiberXers are 1-7 and were on a six-game losing streak to begin the conference before getting their breakthrough win over perennial cellar-dweller Terrafirma Dyip, who currently have a better record than them at 2-5.
Unfortunately, the losing resumed when they faced the surging Meralco Bolts, who were enjoying the momentum of their historic win over the B.League champions Ryukyu Golden Kings in the East Asia Super League. The game was close and Converge clearly had a chance early on, but the Bolts pulled away later on by imposing their will inside and punishing the FiberXers with back-breaking 3-pointers when they tried to adjust.
So far, Converge has experienced blowout defeats, close losses, game-winners, and overtime heartbreakers and it seems even a mid-conference import change may not solve things, at least for the time being. The talent is there, as they have big man Justin Arana and rookie Schonny Winston, among others. They’re also among the younger, if not, the youngest squad in the PBA and head coach Aldin Ayo has been at the helm for more than a year, so what gives?
Perhaps it’s the turnover within the roster apart from the likes of Arana, Alec Stockton, and Aljun Melecio, who have been among the longer-tenured players on the roster. The mainstays will still be there even with the departures of Maverick Ahanmisi and Jeron Teng, but the shuffling of role players may have made it difficult for Ayo to really implement his system. Moreover, the FiberXers faced teams that have reloaded in the offseason, so the rest of the field got a head start. They will still have to face the league-leading Magnolia Hotshots on the 23rd, but Converge’s opponents after that (the NLEX Road Warriors and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters) have below .500 records.
Of course, there will be some claims that the FiberXers are tanking to secure a high first-round pick to draft Justine Baltazar, who recently won an MPBL title with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns. Baltazar’s coach with the Giant Lanterns, Pampanga governor Dennis Pineda, was poised to be Converge’s governor until the PBA Board blocked it. FiberXers team owner Dennis Uy also hails from Pampanga so there certainly is a connection, but Ayo has denied these claims and even the addition of Baltazar may not completely address the issues surrounding the team.
Perhaps a year with this roster will give Ayo some stability required for a postseason run. Ayo can look at Meralco for inspiration, as the Bolts’ roster has remained generally intact over the last few seasons. The players were able to build familiarity with one another and that has helped Meralco succeed amid the tough times.
What’s the outlook for the Converge FiberXers moving forward? An early exit in the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup may be a foregone conclusion, but they can still work through their current struggles with the remaining games on their schedule to get something going for the next conference. After all, a change in fortunes won’t come to those who can’t help themselves.