The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings found themselves in unfamiliar territory without their legions of fans in the PBA bubble.
But this didn’t stop Ginebra to chalk up its second win after edging the Blackwater Elite, 103-99, Thursday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone, however, admitted that there are going to be lots of adjustments for his wards, who were used to hearing the loud cheers of the Ginebra faithful before the coronavirus era.
“It’s such a lift and and a help when you have the whole crowd. The whole crowd’s cheering for you because you don’t have to motivate your players as much,” said Cone during Friday’s PBA media availability. “The crowd motivates the players, the crowd keeps the players going and when you’re down, your crowd lifts you up.”
But in times like these, especially with the new bubble environment, Cone expects everyone in his team — from the veterans to the rookies and the bench — to generate that energy as a source of motivation.
“I still think we can improve on what we’re doing. [My] guys aren’t used to it but I think we’re getting a little bit better at it and I think well adjust and go forward… but certainly no doubt it’s much bigger adjustment for us than any other teams,” Cone added.
Thankfully, the PBA has adopted the same virtual crowd system from the NBA’s bubble by setting up LED screens to select online viewers.
Scottie Thompson, for his part, echoed Cone’s sentiments of having to adjust big time to the audience-free setup, considering that their fans have been the “6th man” of their team.
“I think kailangan lang din talaga namin masanay,” said the 27-year-old Thompson, who posted 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Ginebra. “In the long run masasanay din kami… Alam namin na andyan pa rin ‘yung crowd namin sa buong social media, nanonood sila. Iniiisip namin na adnyan pa rin sila.”
Upon entering the AUF gymnasium, Thompson and his teammates were quick to notice that the virtual fans created a sea of red, which obviously were rooting for Ginebra. That alone, Thompson said, served as a huge energy booster for the Kings, who were undefeated in the bubble so far at 2-0.
“Alam talaga namin na kahit saan kami, kahit anong mangyari, andyan talaga sila para sa amin.”
So whether it’s virtual or actual, the sixth man’s presence will remain alive and kicking.