BARAKO Bull gets its first chance to somehow justify its shocking player transfers as it debuts in the new season against Air21 on Wednesday in PBA’s PLDT myDSL-Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Controversial draft-day trades left the Energy Cola with an ageing roster instead of a youthful promising squad, and the lineup of role players will be put to the test by the Express in the 5:45 p.m. match.
Barako Bull, which traded away three first-round draft picks for several players including Willy Wilson and Dennis Miranda, is now also without consultant Rajko Toroman.
Head coach Bong Ramos will instead call the shots for the Energy Cola, hopeful that his two-conference stint as Toroman's understudy will bear fruit this season.
Ramos said the team’s mixture of veterans and rookies will give him various looks on offense and defense.
“I think I will have a group na pang full-court, pang mabilis at pang set up,” Ramos said.
Koy Banal, who spent one conference as one of Petron coach Gee Abanilla’s assistants, has been acquired by Barako Bull management in the offseason to help Ramos prepare the team’s game plan.
“I think we have the players who have the experience and who have something to prove,” Banal said, whose long stint as an assistant coach in San Mig/Purefoods franchise, netted him three PBA titles, before being moved by management to Petron in last season’s Governors Cup.
Air21’s newly-acquired scoring guard Mark Cardona will be out for at least a month due to sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain on his left knee he suffered last Monday during practice.
The Express though remain solid with veteran center Asi Taulava, a one-time PBA MVP, as well as Joseph Yeo leading the team’s campaign for the league’s 39th season.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said with a solid big man in Taulava, he expects the Express to fight for a playoff berth in the season-opening Philippine Cup.
"Asi has showed he's still one of the best big men in the league," Pumaren said.
"His conditioning and his preparation this offseason has been great."