Rain or Shine is ready to defend its Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup crown but this time, without its fiery mentor and top gunner.
The Elasto Painters lost Yeng Guiao (who moved to NLEX) and Paul Lee (traded to Star for James Yap) prior the start of the season and now will try to keep the mid-season conference title with Caloy Garcia at the helm.
Garcia said health will be a key factor in their title-retention bid in the Commissioner’s Cup, which starts on March 17.
“We have to be healthy this time. Last conference, we lost Raymund (Almazan) and that was crucial for us,” said Garcia.
The 6-foot-7 Almazan suffered a calf injury during their quarterfinal series against San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Cup.
And with Almazan out, Rain or Shine had no answer to June Mar Fajardo and the Beermen to bow out of the competition.
In the coming Commissioner’s Cup, the Elasto Painters tapped the services of former GlobalPort import Shawn Taggart.
The 6-foot-9 Taggart averaged 34.4 points, 14.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.6 blocks in five games with Batang Pier and Garcia hopes he can deliver those numbers again.
“Taggart is doing pretty well with his teammates during practices since he arrived last week. It is nice to see that he’s getting back to his game shape,” he said.
With Almazan back and Taggart expected to lead the team’s offense, Garcia is optimistic that his team can surpass its quarterfinal finish in the last conference.
But he knew they need to play better as team in order to go far in the tournament.
“It is always difficult to defend the title,” said Garcia, who was Guiao’s assistant when the Elasto Painters and import Pierre Henderson-Niles beat Alaska in the finals in six games.
“If we show better chemistry and the players are healthy, I think we have a good chance of defending our title,” he added.
Curiously, Rain or Shine opens its title-retention campaign against Guiao and the Elasto Painters on March 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. NLEX will be beefed up by former Elasto Painter import Wayne Chism.