MANILA, Philippines – There's a reason coach Tim Cone keeps Joe Devance by his side.
Cone has mentored 3 different squads in the past decade – Alaska, Purefoods (Magnolia) and now, Barangay Ginebra – and in all of those teams, Devance has been with him throughout the years.
Together, they have won 8 PBA championships, and they are on track of winning their 9th title as a coach-player tandem with Ginebra in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup finals.
On Friday night, July 27, the 36-year-old forward proved why he will always be an asset to Cone's system as he helped the Gin Kings give San Miguel a rough 127-99 beating in Game 1 of the best-of-7 affair.
Devance filled up the stats sheets with 20 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals all the while notching a career milestone with his two triples by becoming the 41st player in league history to join the 500 triples made club.
Cone, the winningest coach in PBA history with 20 titles, was the least surprised of his old reliable's performance.
"He was the new big man before the big man became new – the new style of big men," Cone said.
"He doesn't jump well. He's a good shooter, not a great shooter. He's a good finisher, not a great finisher. He's a good ball handler, not a great ball handler. But he has great basketball IQ."
"And his versatility allows him to use that basketball IQ. That's what makes Joe special."
Devance had been relatively quiet early in the conference, finishing the elimination round with per game counts of 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Even in the first 3 games of Ginebra's best-of-5 semifinals clash against Rain or Shine, the do-it-all cog normed 6.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals.
But when the Gin Kings sought to close out the Elasto Painters in Game 4 to advance to the finals, Devance broke out of his shell and delivered 19 points, 6 assists, two rebounds and two steals in a nail-biting 96-94 triumph.
"We give him a scheme, and he can just see it, and he can see it and see how it's going to work and go out and execute it to perfection. And that's what makes Joe special," Cone added.
"He is kind of the glue guy who puts everything together."
Devance and Co. shoot for a 2-0 series lead against the Beermen in Game 2 on Sunday, July 29, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.