Phoenix and Alaska go for 2-0 starts as they battle separate foes on Wednesday in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Fuel Masters parade a new import in Jameel McKay when they face Star in the main game at 7 p.m. while the Aces square off with Blackwater in the opener at 4:15 p.m.
McKay replaced Eugene Phelps, who exploded for 53 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks in Phoenix’s 118-116 double-overtime victory over the Elite.
But Phelps was here as a standby import as he needed to leave the country to finish his commitment with Brujos de Guayama in a Puerto Rican league.
Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia requested the 27-year-old Phelps to play for one or two games in the Commissioner’s Cup after playing in Taiwan.
“Phelps will be back in the third conference,” Vanguardia said in a text message.
Vanguardia hopes the 6’9 McKay can provide the defensive stance against the Hotshots.
“We always had match up problems with the Star in the past. Hopefully, Jameel can patch up some holes in our defense,” he added.
McKay was Phoenix’s second choice after Jarrid Famous but the latter’s rights were not released by GlobalPort.
Known as a two-way player, McKay led the Perth Wildcats to a crown in the Australian National Basketball League in this season.
The Star will be lead by 6’8 Tony Mitchell as the Hotshots try to bounce back froma painful semifinal loss to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Philippine Cup.
“We are very excited for our first game. We just try to have that proper mindset in our preparation against Phoenix,” said Star Hotshots coach Chito Victolero. “They have the tools to beat any team, so we need to prepare hard for this game.”
Alaska, meanwhile, is coming off a 107-79 win over a Terrence Romeo-less Batang Pier last Saturday and hopes make it two in a row against Blackwater.
Aces coach Alex Compton said he won’t take the Elite lightly.
“Blackwater is no longer an expansion franchise, they are a legitimate team. Coach Leo (Isaac) has done a great job in building the team, and now they have a powerhouse import,” said Compton.
“They beat us last conference and we know we need to play exceptionally sharp.”
Compton added that Blackwater’s import Greg Smith, who finished with 37 points and 30 rebounds in their loss to Phoenix, will not be the only concern of his team in the game.
“Hopefully we can contain him (Smith) a little and still limit their local guys somehow,” he said. “On the other side, we have to take care of the basketball and really execute as a team.”
Aces import Corey Jefferson had 28 points and 14 rebounds in his PBA debut and will lead his team anew.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac hopes Smith will deliver the same intensity as they try to enter the win column.
“We will give our very best to get a win in our game tomorrow (Wednesday) versus Alaska,” said Isaac. “Having seen our import perform last Saturday, we expect improved plays from him and from our locals as well.”