BOCAUE,Bulacan - Will Sol Mercado do a Willis Reed for Barangay Ginebra in the PBA Governors Cup?
The Kings are keeping Mercado's availability under wraps hours before Game Seven of the season-ending championships series against the Meralco Bolts at the spanking Philippine Arena here.
Coach Tim Cone said Mercado, who sprained his ankle in Game 4 last week, is a game time decision, although he has spent the team's last two practices - including Thursday - on his feet and shooting basketball at the Upper Deck Lifestyle Center in Ortigas.
"We shall see," was the curt reply of the 33-year-old Fil-Am from California when SPIN.ph asked about his status for the league's 7 p.m. season finale.
Mercado suiting up for the reigning champion Kings brings to mind the heroic feat made by the legendary Reed, who made a surprise stint with the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Reed, a Hall of Famer and voted one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players of all time, went down with a thigh injury during the course of the series that kept him out for Game 6, and unlikely to play in the decisive Game 7.
But before a stunned and excited crowd at the Madison Square Garden, a limping Reed walked into the court and join the Knicks. He went on to start the game, scoring the team's first two baskets - his only points for the match - to help the Knicks take control and eventually, win the title.
Mercado's condition the past one week has gotten well. He's no longer in crutches although he still wears an immobilzer.
"But that's more of a precaution," said Cone of Mercado walking with a protective boot. "I wouldn't say he's a lock to play, but I can't say he's 100 percent sure he won't play. Most likely, he'll be a game time decision."
Cone did admit the team missed Mercado in the 98-91 Ginebra loss in Game Six that paved the way for the league's first finals Game 7 since San Miguel pulled off a 'Beer-acle' in the 2016 Philippine Cup.
"Obviously, we missed him," said Cone of the player who he has a love-hate history with.