Coach Yeng Guiao will make his debut as head coach of Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) when the Road Warriors face the Alaska Aces at 7 p.m. tonight in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Meanwhile, the Mahindra Floodbuster will battle the GlobalPort Batang Pier in the opening game at 4:15 p.m.
Guiao, who led Rain or Shine to two titles in six years, replaced Boyet Fernandez who was relegated to consultant role.
“It is a new beginning for the team,” Guiao told The Manila Times via text message on Thursday. “The challenge for us is to take this team to the next level. The signs have been promising. But the real test is the actual game, more so versus Alaska.”
“We must have the ability to play under pressure and translate our success in the off-season to the real world,” he added.
The Road Warriors beefed up its firepower by acquiring prolific scorer Carlo Lastimosa, former San Sebastián College big man Bradwyn Guinto and Gilas rookie Alfonso Gotladera.
The new members will provide support to veteran center Paul Asi Taulava, Enrico Villanueva, Jonas Villanueva, Mac Baracael, forward Sean Anthony, guard Kevin Alas, Eric Camson, Glenn Khobuntin and Garvo Lanete.
The Aces, under coach Alex Compton, are expected to rely on their mainly intact core players composed of Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, Sonny Thoss, Chris Banchero, Dondon Hontiveros, RJ Jazul, Nonoy Baclao and Kevin Racal.
Alaska is last year’s first runner-up behind defending champion San Miguel Beer.
Meanwhile, Mahindra and GlobalPort are both on a hunt for first wins.
The Floodbuster, under deputy coach Chris Gavina, will rely on new recruits Alex Mallari, Ryan Arana, Russel Escoto and Joseph Eriobu. It is yet to be determined if Manny Pacquiao will show up to play.
“We’re itching to get back at Araneta and start our all Filipino campaign,” said Gavina via text message. “All of our guys have been putting in all the extra work to get themselves hardwired and ready to go.”
“We have been working all- week long on getting our rotations familiar with one another and making sure we address all of our defensive schemes and principles with all of our new players. I’m excited and my players are excited to get this season going and on the right note,” he added.
Also expected to step up for Mahindra are Mark Yee, LA Revilla, Josan Nimes, Mike DiGregorio and Jason Ballesteros.
GlobalPort, on the other hand, will parade new players Mike Cortez, rookie Von Pessumal, JR Quinahan and Mick Pennisi with veterans Terrence Romeo, Stanley Pringle, Anthony Semerad and Karl Dehesa.
The Batang Pier under coach John Cardel are aiming to enter the finals this year and surpass their semifinals appearance last year.
Defending champion San Miguel Beer, Blackwater and Rain or Shine are the teams that have so far entered the winning column.