The PBA bubble in Clark, Pampanga is now two weeks in. It has experienced the inevitable hiccups and unfortunate injuries, but on the good side of things, fans have also been welcomed to a handful of red-hot starts.
TNT Tropang Giga swingman Ray Parks is among the guys that have showcased a blistering run, which is good news for the team, the TNT Nation, and his once-deteriorating brand. Everyone’s been waiting for such a burst ever since he was traded to the team midway into the 2019-20 Governors Cup.
Before we go into his stats, let’s quickly track Parks’s PBA journey first:
Parks was the Blackwater Elite’s second-overall pick in the 2018 PBA Draft, then-fresh-off his numerous appearances in foreign hoop competition, including a stint in the NBA D-League.
The 27-year-old immediately lived up to the hype and averaged 19.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.5 steals per game in 29 games for the team, effectively landing him a PBA All-Rookie selection.
Out of nowhere, however, the Elite shipped him to TNT in November 2019, just 11 months after he got drafted. At that time of the trade, they were also on the heels of a 7-4 conference finish and a Quarterfinals berth, tied for the franchise’s best conference record and finish in team history.
It was one of the more inexplicable trades in recent memory as he was clearly the franchise player that a young team like Elite always lacked.
TNT, one of the perennial powerhouse franchises in the league, didn’t unload up much in the swap. Don Trollano was only Tropang Giga’s fourth scorer, Anthony Semerad was a bench warmer, and the 2021 first-round pick will likely be at the bottom of the round, not quite the price tag for someone like Parks.
Probably the basketball gods working its magic, the union did not initially appear to be fruitful. Parks underwhelmed in his debut conference and could only average 14 PPG for TNT in the regular season (he was putting up 20.1 PPG in the conference for Blackwater). It didn’t get better in the playoffs too as they got bounced in the semifinals by the Meralco Bolts, with Parks not becoming much of a factor.
The league-wide hiatus probably helped
The COVID-19 pandemic that halted the scheduled All-Filipino Cup last March might’ve helped Parks reflect and re-energize his game. He appears to have regained his usual mojo, and is actually having a Best Player of the Conference-worthy campaign.
Through his first four outings, Parks is tallying 23.0 points (4th in the conf.), 6.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per contest on an astounding 63% shooting. With such a lift, TNT is sitting atop the conference standings with a perfect 5-0 slate.
Last October 13th, in his best performance yet, he outdueled co-2018 rookie class member CJ Perez of Terrafirma Dyip. He poured in a career-high 40 points and shot 13-for-18 from the floor, en route to leading TNT to a 112-101 victory.
Parks became the second player to score 40-plus points in the conference, following teammate RR Pogoy, who had 45 in the opener and has also visibly raised his game to a new level. The two are starting to emerge as an exciting wing tandem, and it may be rooted to the swarming defense that Parks is always attracting.
It should be interesting to see how far Parks, Pogoy, and the top-heavy TNT will push through in the conference.