SAN Miguel Beer and Talk ‘N Text – two teams that battled in the finals last conference – return to action today, looking good to contend again in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
That’s because the Beermen and the KaTropa are still fresh from stint in the East Asia League Terrific 12, a tough annual club tournament in Macau, where they played against top ballclubs from the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Korean Basketball League (KBL), and the J League of Japan.
Although neither the Beermen nor the KaTropa failed to bring home the title, the protagonists of the last Commissioner’s Cup gained something valuable in the weeklong tournament.
SMB coach Leo Austria said his Beermen indeed ‘gained a lot of knowledge and experience,’ in the tournament. “It was a great opportunity for us to learn,” said Austria of the Beermen’s first ever stint in the Terrific 12.
The Beermen reached the semifinals in Macau but were beaten by Liaoning, and Zhejiang Guangsha in the battle for bronze, but those games certainly primed them up for their PBA Governors’ Cup campaign which they will launch today against Phoenix.
The Beermen and the Fuel Masters collide in the main tussle at 7 p.m. after the 4:30 p.m. game between the KaTropa and Blackwater at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It is likely that the Beermen might start their campaign for the only missing jewel in their Grand slam bid on the wrong foot since June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger are doubtful starters in the game against the Fuel Masters due to minor injuries.
But the Beermen have an import in Dezmine Wells who could provide the sparks for them to gain a headstart in the season-ending conference.
Wells showed a sampling of his high-octane performance when he cut loose with 33 points, five rebounds and four assists in SMB’s loss to Zhejiang Guangsha.
The Fuel Masters are looking to bounce back from a 123-116 loss they suffered at the hands of NLEX last Saturday. Their import, Eugene Phelps, finished with 38 points and 10 rebounds but the rest couldn’t add sparks to the Fuel Masters, with Matthew Wright becoming the only consistent among the locals after chipping in 24 points.
As for the Elite, their overwhelming concern this early is how to tackle the KaTropa, especially TNT’s import in in KJ Daniels whom Blackwater coach Aris Dimaunahan described as ‘prolific.’
Dimaunahan, whose Elite also took part in Macau tournament, has good reason to be wary of Daniels, a former NBA campaigner, who averaged 39.5 points in TNT’s two games last week in that Terrific 12 Invitationals in Macau.
“Susubukan naming depensahan nang mahusay bukas (today),” said Dimaunahan, referring to the TNT import. “Hindi ng iisang tao... ng lahat para malimitahan at para magkaroon kami ng mas malaking chance na manalo.”
TNT coach Bong Ravena though is expecting a tough game against the Elite, more so since some of TNT players are either still nursing injuries or — in the case of national players who are taking a rest.
“We have players who are coming off injuries, Gilas players who need rest,” said Ravena, mainly referring to the likes of Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes, as well as national team members Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy.
“It’s going to be tough for us tomorrow,” he said. “We just hope we can come out strong and play better.”
Blackwater was actually also in Macau, but lost both of its games due to injuries or illness to Bobby Ray Parks, Mike Digregorio, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Mike Cortez.
The Elite have opted to select Marqus Blakely as their import following his performance in Macao, according to team governor Silliman Sy.
Sy said Blakely, who was initially tapped to replace the injured Aaron Fuller for the Macao stint, blends well with the team, can deliver the points when urgently needed, while making the team’s game faster.