SMART CLARK GIGA CITY – Raymond Almazan doesn’t see himself as a game changer for Meralco, but is ready to step up to the plate in the Bolts' first-ever appearance in a PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
The Bolts will face top seed and longtime nemesis Barangay Ginebra in a best-of-five series starting on Wednesday and the 6-foot-8 Almazan knows fully well what he’s exactly there for – try and hold his own against fellow Ginebra giant Japeth Aguilar.
“Alam naman natin na ganun ang mangyayari,” said Almazan of his looming match-up with the high-flying 6-foot-9 Aguilar.
“Lalo ngayon all-Filipino, walang (Justine) Brownlee, walang (Allen) Durham. So all the time makikita ninyo na ako talaga ang bumabantay kay Japeth.”
Almazan, 31, is taking on the challenge. That’s the reason why he’s been brought in to the Bolts, to man the frontcourt and be the team’s last line of defense.
Although he’s coming off a knee surgery and has yet to fully recover from the operation, the Letran alumnus is not backing down especially with what Meralco has accomplished so far in this unique season.
“Sa totoo lang medyo ilang pa ako kapag umi-screen ako sa left knee ko,” he said of the injured knee that was operated on during the off-season.
“Kaya siguro nung first game namin (against Ginebra) medyo nabigla yung tuhod ko kasi galing from injury. Hindi pa siya nababangga nang ganun.”
The Bolts lost in their first meeting with the Kings, 105-91, with Almazan finishing with six points and two rebounds in only his second game back from injury.
He has since settled down and is contributing 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds and playing a key role in the Bolts' run to a first-ever semifinal appearance in an all-Filipino conference.
Almazan said he’ll continue doing what he’s been told by coach Norman Black.
“Rebound and yung presence ko sa ilalim ang mahalaga,” the Gilas pool member said. “Thankful ako kay coach kasi alam niyang galing ako sa injury, pini-pace niya ako, alam niya kung kailan kailangan niya akong gamitin, alam niya kung kailan ako bibigyan ng kumpiyansa.
“Tsaka sa mga teammates ko, lagi nila akong ini-encourage. Hindi ko naman talaga kailangang maging bayani sa loob. Matulungan ko lang sila in a simple way, masaya na sila, so happy na rin ako dun.”