ART dela Cruz stood behind MJ Rhett despite the import’s underwhelming performance in his last two games for Blackwater in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
After averaging 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 2.5 steals against GlobalPort and Ginebra, Rhett tallied just eight points, 10 boards, and one steal in their blowout loss to Meralco two weeks ago.
Then the 23-year-old American followed it up with just 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting, although he did have 18 boards and three assists against seven turnovers in 44 minutes in their 88-75 loss to the Road Warriors on Sunday.
“He's more of a weak-side player rather than a go-to guy,” Dela Cruz said. “He's more on offensive and defensive rebounds.”
“Mas effective siya sa amin na ganung klaseng player,” he added. “’Di siya pwede na one-on-one guy.”
Instead, Dela Cruz, the Elite’s top rookie pick in the last draft, has been forced to be more aggressive on offense and has repaid coach Leo Isaac’s faith by putting up a team-leading 16 points on 16 attempts and 12 boards in 27 minutes off the bench versus NLEX.
“As a rookie, malaki at mabigat na responsibility ito na binigay ni coach, but kinukuha ko lang, grab the opportunity,” Dela Cruz said.
“Kasi sayang eh,” the San Beda product was quick to add. “’Di naman sa lahat ng players, dumarating yung opportunities na malaking bagay. I'm just playing my role as a rookie.”
Still, Dela Cruz is hoping Rhett bounces back.
“Sabi lang namin na mag-move on na siya and kinausap na rin ng management na kailangan magbigay sya ng production,” Dela Cruz said of Rhett. “Buong game nasa loob sya kaya medyo napapagod din. Masaya s'ya na nabibigyan sya ng chances.”
Rhett and Isaac declined to grant an interview after the game.