2 games on tap in 'kume' cup blastoff

FOUR heartbreak teams in the Philippine Cup that’s about to end will readily plunge into action right on opening day of the PBA’s import-laced Commissioner's Cup on May 19.

Blackwater, Meralco, Alaska and Columbian Dyip figure in a double-header as they seek to kick off their campaign on a high note in the midseason conference after forgettable stints in the kickoff conference.

The Elite, who are counting on Alex Stepheson, one of the six returning imports, play the Meralco Bolts in the 4:30 p.m. opening tussle while the Aces take on the Dyip in the main offering at 6:45 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Bolts failed to make the playoff round in the Philippine Cup and are hoping their fortunes will change for the better with the tapping of European league veteran Gani Lawal.

Based on coach Norman Black’s initial assessment, the 6-foot-9 Nigerian-American forward/center has been showing a lot of promises for the Bolts, who won just three of their 11 outings in Philippine Cup.

“Gani is doing fine,” said Black in a text message to People’s Journal yesterday.

According to Black, Lawal, who was selected 46th overall by Phoenix Suns during the 2010 NBA draft, ‘protects the paint very well and is a good inside scorer.’

Apart from that, Lawal is also a good rebounder, said Black.

“He’s a good fit for the Meralco team,” stressed Black.

The good thing about the 30-year-old Lawal is that he is entering the PBA in good shape as he is still fresh from a stint in the Japanese B. League where he played for the Shiga Lakestars. He averaged 21.0 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game for the Lakestars.

Lawal had also won titles in Italy (2014) and in Greece (2015).

A member of the Nigerian national team that played in the 2013 FIBA Africa Championship, Lawal also played professionally overseas in Poland, United Arab Emirates, China, and Latvia.

The Aces, meanwhile, have opted to tap Chris Daniels in their bid to rebound from a disappointing finish in the first conference where they advanced to the quarters as 8th-ranked only to be clobbered by top seed Phoenix.

A quick look at the credentials of Daniels would be enough and convincing the Aces have what it takes to take on the league’s heavyweights, including San Miguel Beer, Magnolia, Rain or Shine and Barangay Ginebra among others.

Daniels won championships in the Korean Basketball League after serving as an import to Jeonju KCC Egis and Anyang KGC in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He also won an NBA G-League championship with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the 2013 season where he averaged 13.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists. His third overseas title came with Al Riyadi in the Lebanese pro league in 2016.

The Dyip finished with a dismal 4-7 record in the first conference and are dying to improve their status in the league to become real contenders in their sixth season in the league.

The Dyip will be beefed up by former ASEAN Basketball League import Kyle Barone, whose inside scoring and excellent rebounding would make them a team that cannot be taken for granted.

All teams have their respective imports already, including the Magnolia and Talk ‘N Text. The Hotshots will have John Fields and the Texters Terrence Jones as imports.

The Hotshots and the Beermen (with Charles Rhodes as import) will have their first assignments on June 5, taking on Alaska and NorthPort, respectively. The two teams will then meet for the first time after their Philippine Cup finals on June 26.