By Waylon Galvez
The future lies ahead for the NLEX Road Warriors in the post-JP Erram era. And their explosive backcourt is looking forward to the challenge.
No doubt NLEX’s campaign in the 45th PBA season beginning with the Philippine Cup will be tougher with its main man in the middle gone.
However, that doesn’t mean the Road Warriors can no longer compete, considering what they had accomplished in the PH Cup two years ago with rookie Kiefer Ravena and backcourt partner.
“We don’t have Poy [Erram] at that time,” said Alas, referring to the time they went toe-to-toe against Magnolia Hotshots in a seven-game semifinal series.
“Our frontcourt lineup was JR (Quiñahan), Mike (Miranda), Raul Soyoud and kuya Asi (Taulava), basically the frontline we have now, but we managed to make it to the semifinals.”
Alas went down with an ACL tear in Game 5, and the Road Warriors lost to the Hotshots in six games.
The team obtained the services of Erram in a trade with Blackwater prior to last season, but the Road Warriors struggled as Alas reinjured his knee while Ravena served a FIBA-sanctioned suspension.
NLEX topped the Governors’ Cup elims last season with Erram, Ravena and Alas – who had recovered from the injury – but the team lost to NorthPort in the quarterfinals despite carrying a twice-to-beat advantage.
The trio won’t see a reprise this season.
Last Thursday, the PBA approved a three-team deal that sent Erram to TNT, leaving Ravena crushed.
“Sayang talaga because Poy is an important piece for us. He’s our rim protector,” said Ravena.
Guiao, for his part, said they have to find ways to make sure the remaining players could fill the hole vacated by Erram – a Defensive Player of the PBA Press Corps last year.
“Hindi kaya totally takpan yung pagkawala ni Poy. How can you replace his size? His defensive prowess… only him can do those. The other guys have to make extra contributions now,” said Guiao.
“We also have to spread the points around – that’s about 16 point per game. The good thing for us is that Kevin is getting his game back, Kiefer is here plus the other guards,” added Guiao.
The two scoring guards – Ravena and Alas – agree.
“Of course, without Poy, kailangan talaga tulong-tulong kami. Just like before na noong nag-semifinals kami. We just have to double our effort, work hard and for me, I think we can still contend,” said Ravena.
“We’ve done that before, without Poy we made it to the semifinals. We still have pieces to make us a solid team. Our goal is to make it to the playoffs, which I think for me is a realistic goal,” said Alas.
The league formally opens shop for its 2020-21 season on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum; NLEX starts its campaign on March 11 against NorthPort at the same venue.