By Jerome Lagunzad
Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia believes the Elasto Painters can make a deeper playoff run in the 2018 Honda Commissioner’s Cup as long as they can keep themselves healthy and injury-free.
“I think as long as we’re healthy, may chance kami (to make it back to the semifinals),” he told Tempo-Bulletin in a phone interview yesterday. “Lahat naman sila alam namin na makakapag-contribute. We just want them to give their best once they’re inside the court to give ourselves a better chance of winning.”
The Elasto Painters can help Garcia realize those in earnest if they can make sure that they are in their best shape possible ahead of their opening assignment against the Alaska Aces on April 27 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
So far, former two-time league MVP James Yap is still recuperating from a calf muscle tear while playmaker Chris Tiu is making sustained recovery from a hamstring injury and new addition Norbert Torres is still trying to get his usual conditioning back after going under the knife to remove bone spurs on his right foot.
Even wide-bodied American reinforcement Reggie Johnson, whom Garcia feels can give the Elasto Painters the imposing inside presence that they’ve been lacking, is still doing his best to put himself in his best fighting form.
“Medyo kulang pa siya sa laro,” said Garcia of the burly 6-foot-10 Johnson, a one-time World Best Import in the ASEAN Basketball League after leading the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the 2016 title alongside Fil-Canadian sniper Matthew Wright.
That’s why Garcia is hoping Johnson can make the most of their hectic stretch in tune-up matches starting today against Blackwater. Then Rain or Shine will take on Phoenix tomorrow and wraps it up against Meralco on Friday.
“We just want him to get used to the officiating and at the same time sa physicality para pagdating sa opening (game), gamay na niya. He’s still not 100 percent but once we get him into shape, mukhang maganda naman ‘yung ipapakita niya,” he said.
Garcia also expressed high hopes on the addition of the 6-foot-6 Torres, whom they acquired last month in a straight swap with the rebuilding TNT Katropa in exchange for vastly-improving wingman Don Trollano.
“Alam niyo naman na mahilig kami sa big man who can shoot from the outside and Norbert can do that,” he said. “Hopefully he comes out hard and ready to play consistently. At least in our practices, we keep on telling him just to shoot it whenever he’s open kasi maganda rin naman ‘yung kamay niya.”
Torres, who has yet to find his niche since being drafted eighth overall by Magnolia (then known as the Star Hotshots) in the 2015 rookie draft, could benefit the most if Johnson can attract the defense from their rivals.
“He’s a good post player. He’s not just big but he uses his weight to his advantage. At sa laki, you really have to double him so sabi ko nga sa mga players, be ready to shoot kasi nga mag-a-attract siya ng depensa,” said Garcia.