RAIN or Shine seeks to regain the burning desire for sustained success as it begins its PBA Commissioner’s Cup title defense on Friday night against NLEX at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After ruling the last midseason tournament that capped nine straight seasons where they reached the semifinals, the Elasto Painters went through two early exits – barely missing the postseason in the 2016 Governors’ Cup, before getting eliminated in the quarterfinals of the last Philippine Cup at the expense of eventual champion San Miguel Beer.
E-Painters coach Caloy Garcia is hoping his team goes deeper this time around.
“They just have to find back the fire on how winning is,” Garcia, entering his second conference at the helm, said ahead of the main game of the opening-day doubleheader at 7 p.m.
Meralco, bannered by hulking Alex Stepheson, takes on James White and Mahindra in the curtain-raiser at 4:15 p.m.
Ironically, the E-Painters are facing a Road Warriors team under a coach who last brought them to the Promised Land in Yeng Guiao and a former ROS import in Wayne Chism.
The E-Painters parade former GlobalPort reinforcement Shawn Taggart, who should still get plenty of firepower from the locals, led by Jericho Cruz, Maverick Ahanmisi, Jay Washington, Beau Belga, and James Yap, among others.
Raymond Almazan and Mike Tolomia are also expected to suit up after joining Gilas Pilipinas in its Tagaytay camp.
“Hopefully, healthy naman kami this conference,” Garcia said.
Cruz, though, suffered a minor foot injury in its tune-up game against Mahindra last week, but is expected to play for a team that went 2-1-1 (win-loss-draw) in their exhibitions in the offseason.
“Everybody’s ready to go, kasi everybody’s been playing good in the tune-up games and practices as well,” Cruz said. “Coach Caloy’s getting to our heads that we got to get this Game One and everything will follow after that.”