For Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, the journey to reclaiming their place atop the PBA's upper echelon involves more than bringing back seven-time PBA champion coach Yeng Guiao.
It also involves fitting specific players into tried-and-tested methods.
Coaching changes often require tedious transition phases, but a few philosophical similarities between that of Guiao and the previous Rain or Shine administration might have helped them skip that part of the process and jump straight into brass tacks.
That being a shared affinity for leveraging two-man actions more than most teams in the league in order to get cleaner looks.
"He was surprised at how players got into his system kaagad. Sabi niya, 'Matatalino pala kayo, mabilis ma-pick-up ang sistema.' So we were able to adapt right away to what coach Yeng wants," lead assistant coach Caloy Garcia, who concurrently serves as Rain or Shine's president for basketball operations, told ESPN recently.
"The thing right now that he mentions is that we're a ball-screen team," Garcia added, "but what's nice is parang nag-adapt siya. Unlike before na single ball screen lang agad, now ang daming movements namin na ginagawa before we get into the ball screen action."
This Rain or Shine roster might not boast too many highly-proficient guard creators -- often the biggest beneficiaries under Guiao teams -- but there are names on the roster who stand to immediately gain from his arrival.
Perhaps none more so than Rey Nambatac, the 28-year-old signed to a three-year max extension by the franchise in November last year.
It's been tough sledding since inking that extension for the five-year veteran, who still only has one season (2019) under his belt where he shot above 40% from the field -- but being involved in more screening and handoff actions could immediately increase his output under Guiao.
Last conference, Nambatac scored a sturdy 1.04 points per possession (PPP) when attacking off handoffs, per InStat -- way above league average (0.80 PPP) in a play-type where only one other player shot more per game. He was deadlier off of screens, where he put up 1.25 PPP (league average is 0.84), though that only comprised a miniscule percentage (6.1) of his offense.
Being in these favorable situations would definitely make life easier for Nambatac, a 5-foot-11 guard who lacks the size, elite handle, and superb burst to make taller, lengthier defenders pay, and whose go-to plan of attack is to get to the rim and within floater range once he gets that separation.
"I've known Rey since college -- he loves the ball screens, so for sure he will adapt to how coach Yeng coaches," explained Garcia, who first coached Nambatac in his lone season as head coach of Letran back in 2013.
Garcia also pinpointed other young guards on the roster like Andrei Caracut, Gian Mamuyac, Mike Nieto and Anton Asistio as other likely beneficiaries -- provided there is improvement to come.
Caracut appears to be a little further along the development track compared to his colleagues in the backcourt and could be poised for some sort of a breakout sooner or later.
He oozes poise and control in the pick and roll, where he has displayed commendable ability to keep his dribble alive, freeze the screener's defender, and keep them guessing as to what he would do next.
Caracut still has problems finishing at the rim (just a subpar 33.0%), but his floater around short midrange is money (60%), and he has shown flashes of a more consistent jumper.
His 13-point on 44.4% shooting and 8.0 assist averages in the final two games last conference -- including a 12-point, 10-assist outing vs. top defensive team Magnolia -- is an encouraging sign of things to come.
Nieto, Mamuyac and Asistio have all shown the ability to score in the pick and roll, but the passing aspect still needs more work.
Asistio is more inclined to look for his shot in ball screen situations; Nieto and Mamuyac continue to flash on-ball juice and have vastly improved over the past couple of years, but both are still growing into the role and may need more time before being recognized as true primaries.
"I see that Caracut's game will also improve under coach Yeng. And almost all the guards namin kasi Ateneo boys, like 'Mamu' (Mamuyac) and Mike and Anton -- they can all shoot. The adjustment lang talaga is how to use the ball screens more," Garcia noted.
Guiao's return and the speedy growth of his new wards don't guarantee instant success. But for a franchise looking to climb the ladder and return to its glory days, having Guiao back to steward their affairs is a good start.
After all, it's never a bad idea to lean on what has worked in the past when you want to raise the stakes.