The Star will try to extend its unbeaten start to three games as it battles NLEX today in the Philip-pine Basketball Association Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots and the Road Warriors face off in the main game at 7 p.m. right after the opening-game between TNT KaTropa and Blackwater at 4:15 p.m.
The Star, of head coach Chito Victolero, has won its first two games with import Tony Mitchell displaying consistent performance. A win by the Hotshots will put them in a tie for second spot with Alaska behind the 4-0 Meralco.
But Victolero is wary of NLEX though the Road Warriors remain winless after three starts.
“NLEX is still a dangerous team. With a great coach, they can beat anybody. We just need to stay focused and be consistent on what we are doing on both ends we have a big chance of winning this game,” said Victolero.
Mitchell averaged 22.5 points and 16.5 rebounds in his first two games with the Star, which beat Phoenix (101-82) and GlobalPort (103-77) despite missing the services of veteran forward Marc Pingris.
Pingris remains doubtful against NLEX as he’s still nursing a bruised hip.
Rafi Reavis, Ian Sangalang and Aldrech Ramos will lead the help from the locals against the Road Warriors, who acquired a new player in Rabeh Al-Hussaini.
The 6’7 Hussaini has reunited with his former mentor NLEX coach Yeng Guiao after a three-team trade that involved Meralco and Blackwater. The former Ateneo center will bolster the ageing frontline of the Road Warriors.
Wayne Chism is averaging 24.3 points and 19.6 rebounds for NLEX but he needs consistent support from the locals to snap a three-game losing skid.
In the opener, the KaTropa parade a new import in former National Basketball Association (NBA) forward Donte Greene, who replaced Lou Amundson.
Amundson, also a former NBA player, gave TNT a 1-1 mark in his short PBA stint.
Greene played for the Sacramento Kings from 2008 to 2011 and had stints in China, Puerto Rico and the Middle East. Greene played for the juniors team of the US basketball team.
Greene will be pitted against another ex-NBA player in Greg Smith, who has yet to give the Elite a win after three games.
“We need to play good team defense to be able to contain Greg Smith. He is the focal point of their offense,” said KaTropa coach Racela, who drew 20 points, eight boards and two blocks from Amundson in their 134-109 win over Phoenix.
Blackwater is also parading new players in Nino Canaleta and Mark Cruz. Canaleta was acquired in a trade with Batang Pier for Dylan Ababou and James Forrester while Cruz was acquired via free agency pool.