Blackwater, NLEX open All-Filipino Cup campaign
Blackwater and NLEX, two teams which were among the busiest in the off-season, hope to start seeing the results of their efforts when they open up their 2015-2016 Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup campaign Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Apart from the win, each one needed in order to survive the 11-game elimination round, the match should also show how far the Elite and Road Warriors have come in instilling cohesion in their respective refurbished roster.
“Big test for our team. Blackwater is well-coached and they have a good buildup this pre-season,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
Since acquiring the old Air21 franchise before the start of last season the Road Warriors finished no higher than fifth and showed their determination to be more competitive by taking in seven newcomers acquired through trades and the rookie draft.
Guards Jonas Villanueva and Kevin Alas, forward Sean Anthony and center Rob Reyes are the new faces in NLEX along with rookies Simon Enciso, Glenn Khobuntin and Garvo Lanete.
Alas and Lanete are doubtful starters, however, since they still have to fully recuperate from injury.
Expected to still shine the most for the Road Warriors are team stalwarts Asi Taulava, Enrico Villanueva, Macmac Cardona, Mark Borboran and John Wilson, once the latter recovers from an injury.
For its part, Blackwater has at least an equal but tougher goal as it aims to clamber out of the cellar where it has been relegated into in its rookie season, when it won only four of 33 games.
“Napag-usapan namin ng team iyan, na hindi puwedeng competitive lang kami. Ang kailangan panalo,” said Elite coach Leo Isaac. “Kailangang tanggalin namin sa isipan namin na nakakasabay lang kami. Dapat pagdating sa dulo mas aggressive at decisive kami.
“We have to have that killer instinct, lalo na sa endgame.”
To bolster that bid, Blackwater has taken in eight newcomers, including first round pick Arthur dela Cruz, who still has to finish his commitments with the San Beda Red Lions.
Veteran guard Mike Cortez and center James Sena are now in the Elite mix along with third year pro Carlo Lastimosa and rookies Juami Tiongson, Almond Vosotros, Jason Melano and Keith Agovida.
Isaac’s fondest wish right now is how the team’s new faces jell with the holdovers led by Reil Cervantes, Gilbert Bulawan, Bambam Gamalinda, JP Erram and Jason Ballesteros. (NC)
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