Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa will collide today in an important duel minus their key players in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo will sit out in their 7 p.m. encounter with KaTropa, who will also be missing the services of Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy.
The four cagers were pulled out of their respective teams to join the Gilas Pilipinas’ preparation for next week’s Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Men’s Championship.
Phoenix will face GlobalPort in the 4:15 p.m. opening game.
San Miguel head coach Leo Austria admitted that the absence of Fajardo would make it hard for them to extend their unbeaten start to six games although TNT has more players loaned to the Gilas 5.
“I do not know which team is affected by the Gilas call out. We are going to miss June Mar while the other team will be playing without three key players,” said Austria.
“But as far as I know, our team and TNT play all-out game every time they face each other in the court and whatever is at stake,” added Austria, who expects more from the 6’8 import Charles Rhodes in the absence of Fajardo.
Rhodes, who is averaging 23.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, has to double his effort as the Beermen will miss the 14 points and 7.8 rebounds average output of the three-time MVP.
The KaTropa, who are holding a 5-2 win-loss record, are also aiming for a quarterfinals seat but they have to do it minus their three key players.
“It’s going to be the first time that we’re going to play without our starters because of Gilas,” said TNT coach Nash Racela.
“It gives other players a chance also to take charge. I think it’s going to be tough for our part since we’re going to miss three players but we’ll take the challenge,” added Racela, who will bank on import Donte Greene and former Gilas standouts Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams and Larry Fonacier.
Only Meralco that is leading with a 7-1 slate is assured of a spot in the quarterfinals so far.
Meanwhile, the Fuel Masters will try to bounce back from a 66-81 loss to the Bolts last Wednesday as they battle Batang Pier in a must-win game for both teams.
Phoenix is currently No.8 with a 3-5 mark while GlobalPort is No. 9 with a 2-5 mark. Only the top eight teams will advance to the next round.
Fuel Masters’ top rookie Matthew Wright and Batang Pier’s scoring dynamo Terrence Romeo will also miss the game due to Gilas duties.