WEDNESDAY would have marked the first time Denzel Bowles faced off against Magnolia, the very same franchise he led to a memorable 2012 PBA Commissioner's Cup title.
An untimely knee injury last Saturday prevented that from happening, reducing Bowles into a spectator on the Rain or Shine bench as late-replacement Carl Montgomery and Co. put away an 86-82 win over the Hotshots.
But for his former Magnolia teammates, Bowles will always be a brother.
"Di kami sanay," said Magnolia veteran Marc Pingris.
"Iba na yung situation ngayon," shared team manager Alvin Patrimonio, who shared a memorable hug with Bowles when the latter buried two pressure-packed free throws to force overtime in the Game Seven clash against Talk 'N Text.
Pingris and Patrimonio are among the few remnants of that championship team, together with Peter June Simon, Rafi Reavis, and assistant coach Johnny Abarrientos.
They may be on opposing sides now, but their bond will never be erased, no matter what jersey Bowles is wearing.
"Syempre, nandoon pa rin ang relationship namin with him and the memories. Nandoon yung respect at di mawawala yun. Pero pag kalaban na siya, you have to level up," said Patrimonio.
Pingris added: "Ganoon naman ang mga import. Ang importante dyan yung samahan. Kahit nasa ibang team na sila, nandoon pa rin yung samahan namin."
That's why Magnolia feels for Bowles suffering the unfortunate injury, especially seeing how good he has been performing this conference.
"Yung nangyari sa kanya, syempre nalulungkot din kami," said Patrimonio, who revealed that Bowles paid the Hotshots' dugout a visit before the game at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"Before the start of the game, dumaan siya sa side namin. May konting emotions kasi nakaka-miss din yung samahan namin with him."
Pingris, meanwhile, hopes that this won't be the last time he'll have the chance to take on Bowles as he wishes the former Best Import a quick recovery and a possible return to the country in the future.
"Sana," he said. "Malay mo magkita ulit kami. Pero ang importante dyan, yung samahan namin. Na-appreciate namin lahat ng import namin at nandoon talaga yung family kami."