DEFENDING champion Alaska is just a shadow of its old self, so admits coach Luigi Trillo.
“We’re struggling for sure. We’re a shadow of what we were last year,” said Trillo as the Aces opened their title retention bid in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a 1-3 record.
The Aces have lost their last two games against Meralco and Rain or Shine respectively, and hope to arrest the skid when they play the Air21 Express in the lone match on a rare Monday schedule at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite the slow start, Trillo believes the team is capable of bouncing back, having gone through situations like these before their title conquest last season.
“It’s part of basketball. We want them to come out believing in themselves,” said Trillo.
“They got to compete and fight.”
Besides, Trillo has former mentor Tim Cone and San Mig Coffee for an inspiration.
“San Mig has been in this way before but they found ways to win (the Philippine Cup championship),” Trillo said, pointing to the Mixers’ slow 1-5 start before kicking up the intensity in the playoffs on the way to winning the All-Filipino crown.
On the other hand, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren has reasons to believe the Express can readily compete with the defending champions, especially with defensive import Herve Lamizana around.
“With Herve, he gives us additional dimension. I think we played terrific defense, not only on one-on-one basis but team defense as well,” said Pumaren.
“The chemistry is great so far because that rubs off from player no. 1 to player no. 15 in the team,” he added.
“Of course, the bench players also gave us a lift offensively and defensively.”
The Express (2-1) are coming off a 103-85 ripping of Barako Bull last Friday behind their game-long defensive brilliance.