Brownlee arrival completes formidable Ginebra nucleus

Justin Brownlee (right) comes back for another tour with the Gin Kings and will chase a fifth PBA title. —PBA IMAGES

Justin Brownlee finally joined Barangay Ginebra in practice on Saturday, and coach Tim Cone knows that his resident import will continue filling the gaps for the Gin Kings when they open defense of their PBA Governors’ Cup title in exactly a week.

“Where we are weak, he makes us strong,” Cone had said in a previous interview as Brownlee shoots to win a fifth championship in his eighth tour of PBA duty. “His knowledge of the league is a difference-maker.”

The well-loved American arrived to a thrilled bunch of teammates at Upper Deck Gym in Pasig City early Saturday afternoon, with veteran forward Joe Devance filming the lighthearted moment on his Instagram page.“Pizza! That boy late,” Devance said in jest as he went closer for a hug. “How you doing, Justin? You look good, dog! You lost weight?”

“I’m trying to keep my weight up,” Brownlee responded with a chuckle.

Brownlee leads a healthy mix of newcomers and returning imports for this year’s season-ending showcase. A former Best Import, he will try to help the Kings bounce back after Ginebra failed in its Philippine Cup title defense.

And even without shooting a single basket and the opening still four days away, TNT coach Chot Reyes has already declared Brownlee to be the yardstick from among all imports will be measured.

“Right now, the bench mark is Brownlee,” he said. “This, coupled with [their] super local lineup makes them the early [favorites].”

Barangay Ginebra plays an Olu Ashaolu-powered Alaska side on Dec. 12, as the Kings brandish a solid crew also made up of the tireless Christian Standhardinger, high-leaping Japeth Aguilar and the crafty backcourt pair of Scottie Thompson and Stanley Pringle.

Latest trade

In related league news, Meralco tinkered with its roster on Saturday morning, sending Filipino-American guard Trevis Jackson to Rain or Shine for rookie Franky Johnson.

“He is a good teammate, and we thank him for giving his time and effort to Meralco. We wish Trevis the best with his new team,” team manager Paolo Trillo said of Jackson, whom the Bolts selected fifth overall in the 2019 Rookie Draft.

In Johnson, Meralco gains pretty much a copy of its former player. Selected 17th in the previous draft, he played in just three games for the Elasto Painters before management assigned him to their 3×3 squad.Jackson, meanwhile, is set to bolster a Rain or Shine backcourt led by young guns Javee Mocon and Rey Nambatac.

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