FORMER NBA veteran Al Thornton gets his baptism of fire in the PBA as NLEX makes its Commissioner’s Cup debut against Rain or Shine Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fresh from their stint in the Dubai Invitational International basketball tournament, the Road Warriors take on the Elasto Painters (0-1) at 4:15 p.m.
NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez admitted the team’s opening day game can already be considered an acid test for the Road Warriors, who finished sixth in the Dubai tilt.
“Medyo mabigat agad ang kalaban namin with Rain or Shine because we know they (Elasto Painters) will come out strong after that loss to Talk ‘N Text,” Fernandez said on the eve of the game.
Fernandez, who won a championship with the defunct Sta. Lucia franchise in 2007 as coach, explained Thornton will definitely be carrying a big responsibility on his shoulders.
“When we played in Dubai, Al was not yet in shape since galing nga sa long layoff. Kasi yung last tournament niya was August last year pa,” said Fernandez.
“But now, this is a big test for Al because we need him in terms of scoring and in terms of defense.”
Thornton, a member of the 2008 All-NBA Rookie First Team, averaged career-best numbers of 16.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 assists with the Los Angeles Clippers during his second season as a pro.
The 31-year-old Thornton will be tested by Rain or Shine’s phalanx of rugged defenders led by wide-bodied import Rick Jackson, along with local big men Beau Belga and JR Quinahan, and sophomore center Raymond Almazan.
Meantime, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is confident the Elasto Painters can bounce back strong after bowing to Talk ‘N Text last week, 89-86.
“I’m happy with our game against Talk ‘N Text kahit natalo kami, kasi now, we have a back-to-the-basket guy for our import, who gives us a legitimate inside threat,” said Guiao, referring to Jackson, who debuted for the team with 30 points and 10 rebounds.