MERALCO welcomes the new year by parading right away new acquisition Danny Ildefonso in its Saturday match against Air21, with the hopes of turning around its fortune in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup.
Game time is at 5:45 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bolts’ (3-7) campaign suddenly took a nosedive after losing their last four games to end the year 2013.
But with the entry of the 37-year-old Ildefonso, the two-time league MVP signed to a one-conference contract by the team on Friday, the Bolts suddenly found a reliable big man off-the-bench, who can provide the poise and the experience they need towards its last four outings in the eliminations.
“He (Ildefonso) adds ceiling and awareness and basketball intelligence,” said coach Ryan Gregorio.
“I think those things you can’t teach but you learn through experience. He can knock down shots, and I hope he can share that to young guys,” he added.
Gregorio also said he hopes Ildefonso could get the “graceful exit” he deserves for being one of the pro league’s greatest big men to ever play the game
“Why do I get players like him (Ildefonso)? Because he doesn’t have something tucked under his belt. And for Danny I., it’s graceful exit. He really believes he’s not done yet, and I’m giving him the opportunity and the stage to do it. Hopefully he can be of help for us,” he said.
The Meralco coach also mentioned the team’s 82-83 defeat to league-leader Barangay Ginebra a week ago definitely left a bitter taste in the mouth.
But he remains hopeful the turn of the new year would mean new hope and a new beginning for the banged-up Bolts.
Meralco won’t be playing without starting playmaker Mike Cortez, who’ll be out for the remainder of the conference due to a torn meniscus on his right knee.
The Bolts scored an easy 112-79 demolition of the Express during their first round meeting.
But Gregorio isn’t expecting an easy win in their rematch.
“They (Express) are very much different because they are coming off a win,” said Gregorio.
“They are also fighting for survival. Probably in terms of confidence boost, they are better than us. And with Macmac (Cardona) in tow, a scorer who can really shoot the lights out, it will be a lot different.”
The 6-foot-1 Cardona sat out Air21’s 33-point blowout loss to his former team last November 27 due to an MCL sprain on his knee.
But since his return, Cardona has added scoring punch for Air21 by averaging 14.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 steals.