DJ Mbenga is one of the most sought-after imports in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup.
Now he has finally arrived.
The former Los Angeles Laker who was the target of at least three teams in the mid-season tournament quietly slipped into town on Tuesday afternoon to suit up for Barako Bull.
Mbenga's arrival is a coup of sorts for Barako Bull, which landed a hulking player Barangay Ginebra, Alaska, and Globalport had tried, but failed, to sign in the early stages of the tournament.
The eight-year NBA veteran now comes in to replace Evan Brock in the final stretch of the eliminations and his presence alone makes Barako Bull a darkhorse in the run-up to the playoffs.
Barako sources said the Mbenga, a teammate of Kobe Bryant in the star-studded Lakers teams that won back-to-back NBA titles from 2009, was directly recruited through his US agent and arrived on a direct flight from Los Angeles at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
He will have his first practice with the George Chua-owned franchise at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
The Congo native who also suited up for the Belgian national team also had stints with the Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Hornets, and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA.
Barako Bull is coming off a 105-100 win over San Mig Coffee on Sunday night which halted a run of six straight defeats and put the team back on track for a quarterfinal berth.