Where would the Meralco Bolts be without the “Rock ‘N Roll”? The potential absence of Bolts’ big man Raymond Almazan in the remainder of the playoff would be a severe blow to their hopes of beating the Gin Kings in the 2019 PBA Governor’s Cup Finals.
“Rock ‘N Roll,” as Almazan is fondly called by PBA fans, has reportedly been diagnosed with lateral meniscal tear on his left knee, following a bad fall middle of the first quarter in Game 3 after colliding with Ginebra point-guard LA Tenorio in an undergoal play.
With his absence, Barangay Ginebra, who beat Meralco, 94-92, in Game 3 of their on-going best-of-five title series on Sunday, bolstered its chances of stashing away its third Governors’ Cup diadem in four years and 12th overall in 41 years since joining the PBA in 1979.
Dave Coros, head of the league’s media bureau, on Tuesday confirmed that barring any untoward incidents the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas may bring about, today’s Game 4 is pushing through at the Big Dome.
Coach Tim Cone and his Kings are eyeing their second straight Finals victory and a commanding 3-1 series lead in today’s 7 p.m. encounter.
The potential loss of the Meralco recruit from Rain or Shine would be an awful loss for the Bolts campaign of revenge from the twin setbacks they suffered at the hands of the Kings in the 2016 and 2017 championship playoff of this same season-ending tournament.
A lateral meniscus tear is an injury to the semi-cirular cartilage on the outside of the knee joint that occurs suddenly from twisting or a traumatic injury that may develop gradually through wear and tear, which Meralco coach Norman Black earlier feared.
“When I talked to him at halftime, he told me he couldn’t move his leg,” Black told this writer on the morning after his team’s loss.
“As a player myself, it’s not a good sign. But I’ll try to be positive as possible and hope he’ll be okay,” Black said.
“Having a swollen knee in the middle of the championship is not something you could bounce back that easy,” he added.
Bolts’ team manager Paolo Trillo, meanwhile, was quoted as saying the team would still talk to Almazan to assess whether he is capable of playing in Game 4 and the rest of the series.
Black himself had said he was readying to prepare for the possibility of playing the remainder of the playoff without Almazan, who, prior to his injury had been the cog of Meralco’s Goverenors’ Cup campaign, averaging 17.5 points, 11 rebounds and 1.5 block shots.
Almazan went down with 5 minutes and 55 seconds left in the opening quarter in that crucial Game 3 and was bodily carried out of the playing court to the team dugout not to return the rest of the game.
In yesterday’s practice session at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City, Black looked for the possibility of increasing substitutes Bryan Faundo’s and veteran Reynel Hugnatan’s playing time to make up for Almazan’s potential absence.
Faundo had a decent contribution of 10 points manning the slots in lieu of Almazan on Sunday, while Hugnatan has been sparingly utilized since the arrival of the former Elasto Painters’ inside operator.