Meralco enters the game with a slim lineup as it collide against Blackwater in the opener of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup today at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
The Bolts, back-to-back Governors’ Cup finalists, and the Elite, face off at 4:15 p.m. to be followed by the match between TNT KaTropa and Rain or Shine at 7 in the evening.
Meralco head coach Normal Black will be missing the services of big men Ranidel de Ocampo and Cliff Hodge as both are still nursing injuries when they take on the retooled Blackwater squad of mentor Leo Isaac.
“We will start the season a little undermanned because Ranidel (De Ocampo) and Cliff (Hodge) will be out because of injuries. But we are still excited about the start of the PBA season and we’re looking forward to being much more competitive this All-Filipino conference. And to be successful, we will continue to put a lot of emphasis on the defensive end of the court,” said Black, whose team finished 3-8 in last season’s Philippine Cup.
To make up for the absence of De Ocampo and Hodge, the Bolts signed up Nino Canaleta, Jason Ballesteros, Mac Baracael and Nico Salva as frontline reinforcement.
The Elite have an axe to grind against Meralco as they lost to the same team in the quarterfinal round of the Governors’ Cup last season.
“We want to have a good start in this conference and we are going all out for a win in our game against Meralco,” said Isaac, who will parade rookies Raymar Jose, the third overall pick, Renz Palma and Kyle Neypes.
Meanwhile, the Elasto Painters are facing the same predicament as the Bolts as the former won’t have Jericho Cruz and Anthony Washington against KaTropa.
“Only having Rey Nambatac as a new acquisition, we should be banking on familiarity and I expect other players to step up because the other players are nursing injuries,” said Garcia, noting that TNT is a huge test for the Elasto Painters since it is one of the teams to beat this season.
The KaTropa, who spent their off season preparation playing against Lithuanian teams early this month, see Ginebra and defending champion San Miguel Beer as teams to beat in the Philippine Cup.
But TNT coach Nash Racela disagreed.
“Rain or Shine is playing well based on its preseason preparations and we hope to counter that with a lot of effort and toughness,” said Racela, who will parade rookie Sidney Onwubere.