MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra went all-out to win its first PBA Commissioners' Cup championship in 21 years, and it ultimately paid the price.
Now currently in the middle of their Governors' Cup title defense, the Gin Kings suffered a serious bite from the feared injury bug.
Not one, not two, but 7 total Ginebra players are now on the shelf due to injuries – namely Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado, Jervy Cruz, Art Dela Cruz, Raymond Aguilar and Julian Sargent.
With only Prince Caperal left as the last big man standing heading to Ginebra's Governors' Cup rematch against the San Miguel Beermen, league veteran Joe Devance took matters into his own hands despite dealing with a bummed left knee and left foot.
The 9-time PBA champion approached head coach Tim Cone in practice and told him he would play, nearly two weeks before he is even ready.
The 36-year old Devance finished with 17 points, 7 assists, 2 rebounds and a block in 33 minutes of action.
After the game, Cone could only heap high praises for his team vet.
"I gotta give credit to Joe," he said in the post-game presser. "Joe was not supposed to play these last two games. He wasn't supposed to be in the lineup for another week and a half at least. He just said he would play through the pain."
"He's taking a lot of medication to play through the pain," he continued. "He saw that Japeth went out in practice before our game and he came up to me and said, 'Coach, I'll try.' Looking around, I said we really needed him. My hat goes off to Joe for fighting through everything and continuing to play. He's done that his whole career."
The weary Devance was only thankful that his other teammates stepped up, most notably Aljon Mariano who finished with 20 points on a perfect 7-for-7 clip.
"That's huge," he said. "It's AJ's time right now so, I'm proud of him. He balled out. He's the hardest worker on the team and with the injuries, it's like a blessing in disguise for AJ [and] Prince. You know, for all the guys that haven't really been playing that much, it just gives them confidence and really just helping us get deeper so, it's a blessing in disguise. We still have a lot of growing to do together so I'm proud of those guys."
But he did admit that he has had difficulty keeping up and keeping healthy, especially these last few injury-plagued conferences.
"I don't know if it's my age or what it is but, I'm just trying to hang on and just keep up with these young guys, you know," he said. "I'm still having fun, it's just when the pain is really bad, that's when it gets tough."
"[I'm] probably like [at] 60%," he continued. "My knees are pretty bad right now – my left knee and my left foot. Actually, one of the doctors suggested I get surgery but I really wanna do everything I can to not get surgery. I'm just trying to figure out a way to help the team win."
Thankfully for Devance, Cone said that his injured wards are scheduled to return one by one around October. By then, Devance would likely have his workload decreased, as it should be.
Devance has fought like a true champ. He deserves to rest on his laurels. – Rappler.com