The Star guns for a share of the lead as it battles Mahindra in the opener of the Philippine Basket-ball Association Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Hotshots square off with the Floodbuster at 4:15 p.m. with the latter parading its new import Keith Wright. In the main game, GlobalPort and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel collide at 7 p.m.
The Star started the tournament with three straight wins and a victory over the 1-3 Mahindra team will put them in a tie for the top spot with Alaska (4-0).
Head coach Chito Victolero hopes his wards can sustain the intensity and energy especially that the Floodbuster will be reinforced by Wright.
“We need to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. We have to match up or surpass the intensity and energy of Mahindra in order for us to win this game,” said Victolero, who will rely on the versatility of 6’8 import Tony Mitchell.
Mitchell is averaging 23 points, 16 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 blocks in the conference and was a vital cog in their first three wins against Phoenix (101-82), GlobalPort (103-77) and NLEX (105-103).
“We don’t know what kind of import we will be playing for tomorrow for Mahindra so we have a hard time preparing for them but my players are ready and we know that we need to play hard to get the victory,” Victolero added.
Hotshots’ guard Allein Maliksi is leading the local charge for the Hotshots as the former University of Santo Tomas forward is averaging 15.3 points per game.
Mahindra assistant coach Chris Gavina decided to part ways with White and brought in Wright, a National Basketball Association (NBA) Developmental League veteran.
White averaged 30.5 points, 18.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in four games but Gavina said they need an inside presence to survive in the tournament.
“It was a decision based on the necessity of a low post presence especially in this conference, where all the imports are all capable of dominating in the low post area,” said Gavina.
The 6’8 Wright played for the Westchester Knicks in the D-League last season, averaging 6.4 points and 6.0 rebounds in 47 games.
Meanwhile, the Gin Kings hope to bounce back from a tough 91-94 loss to the Fuel Masters last Saturday with import Justine Brownlee held down to just 12 markers and did not finish the game in Davao City.
“It’s been awhile since we lost that out of town game, so we’re very disappointed,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “But we don’t want to make too much of the first game. We know Justin will get his bearings and put up big performances.”
“In the meantime, we have to look for as many early wins as we can and not fall too far behind the leaders.”
GlobalPort, which is holding a 0-2 win-loss record, is banking on 6’8 import Sean Williams, Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle as it tries to enter the win column.
Tubid suspended for 2 games
Veteran guard Ronald Tubid of San Miguel Beer was slapped with two-game suspension and was fined P30,000 for hitting Meralco’s Chris Newsome during their game last Sunday.
PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial said the Beermen guard was penalized for his flagrant foul penalty 2 on the Bolts’ sophomore guard.
Tubid hit the right side of the face of Newsome with a close fist at 9:12 mark of the fourth period. It bloodied the right eye of the Meralco guard.
Game officials initially called a flagrant foul 1 but after the review, it was upgraded to flagrant foul penalty 2 that cost him the ejection in the game. San Miguel won the game, 99-92.
The 35-year old Tubid was summoned by PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa on Tuesday and apologized for his actions. He will miss the Beermen’s match against Phoenix this Friday and Star on April 16.