MANAGING minutes will be a major concern for Tim Cone as weary San Mig Coffee returns to action less than a week after winning the Commissioner’s Cup, opening its Governors’ Cup campaign against Barako Bull on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Returning import Marqus Blakely is the one with the freshest legs and is expected to carry much of the scoring and rebounding load, while Cone hopes to see rookies Ian Sangalang and Justin Melton as well as Alex Mallari and comebacking Allein Maliksi deliver and hold the fort for the veterans.
“We have a hard time choosing between wearing guys out and getting guys sharp, so it’s kind of a balance we try to keep. It’s a difficult balance,” said Cone.
The Mixers won the title series, 3-1, over Talk N Text on Thursday and went back to practice Monday, giving Cone only two days to prepare.
Blakely, playing with the Mixers for the third time, takes over from James Mays, and focus will be on him as SMC’s top locals James Yap, Mark Pingris, PJ Simon Mark Barroca hope to get a little more rest before the playoffs.
Gametime is at 8 p.m.
“I don’t want to write anything in stone, but we’re gonna try to limit them (starters) as much as we can without losing their shape, sharpness and losing games,” explained Cone, who will be shooting for his 18th league title as a coach, and possibly become the first-ever PBA coach to win a grand slam twice in league history.
“We want to continue to win. We will monitor their minutes and we will expect bigger production from Ian, Justin and Alex, and hopefully, Allein while Marqus will probably have to play 48 minutes per game,” added the 56-year-old Cone, who pulled off the hat-trick in 1996 while handling the Alaska Aces.
Meantime, Barako Bull hopes to score a follow-up to its 95-94 win over Meralco on Sunday.
New Barako Bull coach Siot Tanquingcen said he is not making wholesale changes, though he expects his team to fight on every ball possession.
“The first thing we talked about is taking care of the little things. We can’t make wholesale change eh,” said Tanquingcen, who succeeded erstwhile coach Bong Ramos last month.
“Eventually, when we take care of one small thing here and one small thing there, it could help us.”
Import Eric Wise debuted on Sunday with 33 points, 16 rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes, becoming just the second second-generation PBA import in league history.