The opening week of each conference in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) always sees a ritual of renewal: Every team makes a fresh start, everyone plotting how to cash in on lessons learned from their previous campaign.
And that couldn’t be any more true for NLEX.
But despite a 2-0 start to their campaign, the Road Warriors are extra wary as they navigate the Governors’ Cup following a dismal outing in their first tournament under new coach Frankie Lim.
“We played horribly the last time,” Kevin Alas told the Inquirer. “We chalk it up as our adjustment phase. But right now, we no longer have any excuses not to do better than the last conference.”
NLEX, it could be recalled, also opened the Commissioner’s Cup on a high note, racking up two early wins. They went on to lose seven of their next eight meetings which doomed their campaign and sent them to the ninth seed—just a shade outside of the qualifying threshold for the playoffs.
And that’s where much of Alas’ outlook of equal parts optimism and dread springs—something that is also echoed by Lim.
“I keep telling them that it will take hard work in practice [to do better]. It’ll give good dividends come game time,” he said.
“The last conference, I had to settle for [the players] we had. At least at this conference, we had new guys coming in. The change is we’re a tough team now. There’s a lot of toughness in my players and that’s a good sign,” he went on, alluding to new pickups Sean Anthony, Jake Pascual and Hesed Gabo.
The Road Warriors, which reached the Final Four of the last Governors’ Cup, will have a chance to prove that they have indeed turned a corner when they battle corporate sibling TNT in Wednesday’s nightcap.
But that task—slated at 5:45 p.m. at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City—is shaping up as a tall one with the Tropang Giga also making a good account of themselves with team manager Jojo Lastimosa calling the shots in the interim.
The perennial contenders have also won two straight, playing splendidly despite missing defensive anchor Poy Erram.
NLEX is also coming into the duel on borrowed time with Jonathon Simmons, who has been huge in those two wins, approaching the final matches of his PBA stint before flying to China, where the NBA veteran signed a lucrative deal.
Lim previously said that he had an earlier agreement with Simmons to help NLEX to win its first four games. The latter, for his part, promised to mute the noise on his looming departure and just focus on honoring that pact.
Beermen battling Bossing
“Right now, I’m just worried about competing with the guys and with coach—and with what he’s asking us to do, and then just kind of go from there,” he said.
Also looking to sustain its winning ways under a new coach is San Miguel Beer which plays 1-1 Blackwater in the curtain-raiser set at 3 p.m.
The vaunted club, now mentored by Jorge Gallent, hopes to annex a second-straight victory following a 114-93 thrashing of Phoenix last Sunday.
“We’re trying to build on what we did last conference. We know we came up short, and we know the main goal is to get a championship, and we’re just trying to start off [on the] right foot,” said Simon Enciso, who was among the many stars for the Beermen in that contest. INQ
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