WITH teams upgrading imports in time for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs, Magnolia is not about to be left out.
Although grateful for all the things James Farr did for the Hotshots, coach Chito Victolero and the rest of the team felt they have to make the a change now if they are to contend for the mid-season conference title.
With the Hotshots losing their last three outings and tumbling to the middle of the standings, Victolero decided to take a gamble by replacing Farr with former NBA player Rakeem Christmas going to the team’s clash with league-leader TnT Katropa at the end of the eliminations on Wednesday.
Christmas, 27, coming off a stint with the New Zealand Breakers in the National Basketball League (NBL) arrived on Monday, giving him just two days to get acclimatized and learn Magnolia’s system.
So far, so good.
“OK naman siya sa practice namin, pero sabi ko nga first niya will be tomorrow,” said the Magnolia coach of the team’s 7 p.m. encounter against Terrence Jones and the Katropa at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
More than the Hotshots’ current skid, Victolero felt Magnolia will have a better shot in the playoffs with a new import around.
“Siyempre hindi rin naman matatawaran yung ginawa ni James (Farr) sa team, nag-limang sunod nga (na panalo) kami sa kanya,” he said.
“But we feel lang [that] to go deep into the playoffs, we need to match up with the other imports. Kita mo naman ang lalakas nung mga import na dumating.”
One of Magnolia’s loss during that three-game skid was against defending champion Barangay Ginebra, 102-81, in which last year’s Best Import Justine Brownlee torched the Hotshots for a then career-best 49 points.
And based on the current standings, at least there’s a 75 percent chance the two rival ballclubs will face each other in a best-of-three quarterfinals match-up.
“So sabi ko nga if you want to go deep in the playoffs, I think mas may chance kami with a new import,” said Victolero.
Again, it’s a huge risk the Hotshots are taking considering the proximity of the playoffs which officially starts on Saturday.
“Siyempre marami ring adjustment na kailangang i-expect, like yung jetlag and kung gaano siya kabilis mag-a-adopt sa amin,” added Victolero.
“Ang maganda lang may one game pa siya sa eliminations para makasama namin going to the playoffs.”
There is still a possibility the Hotshots could go down to as low as the seventh seed and face either TnT or NorthPort while holding a twice-to-beat disadvantage in the quarterfinals.
“But 25 percent yun based sa scenario ngayon. Mas higher percentage talaga yung Ginebra,” said Victolero.