JAMES Yap formally suits up in a new PBA uniform outside of Star as he is poised to see action for Rain or Shine in a game against Mahindra on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The two-time league MVP said he’s currently '80 percent' in game shape after undergoing arthroscopic surgery during the off-season, and is on call if and when coach Caloy Garcia will tap him for the 4:30 p.m. encounter.
“Hangin na lang talaga,” said Yap on the eve of the match with the Floodbuster. “Wala naman na din ako nararamdaman sa tuhod ko. So ready to play na ako. Excited na din ako to play for my new team.”
Garcia said he’s more than willing to give the 34-year-old Yap, acquired by the franchise in a blockbuster trade involving guard Paul Lee, the playing time if the native of Escalante, Negros Occidental, feels he’s already competitive enough.
Yap sat out the Elasto Painters’s opening game against TNT Katropa, which they easily won, 101-87.
“I told him that if he feels he wants to suit up, he can. And if he’s ready to play, we’ll give him playing time,” said Garcia, who took over the coaching chores from multi-titled Yeng Guiao. “At least makapa niya as a player yung sistema ng team. Mahirap yung nangangapa siya e.”
The Rain or Shine mentor disclosed that after two weeks of practice, Yap has started joining the team’s 5-on-5 drills.
“We can try him out in limited minutes, para pa-konti-konti lang,” he said. “In the four days na nag-ensayo siya, maganda naman ang ipinakita niya. In our last practice session, he played 5-on-5 for the first time.”
Yap averaged 16.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in his 12 seasons with Star, the same team which tabbed him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 Rookie Draft.
Even for just limited minutes, the presence of Yap meant added trouble to a Mahindra side that absorbed a 97-75 rout at the hands of Globalport during its opening game.
The Floodbuster immediately sought help following the 22-point debacle as they acquired Gary David and slamdunk champion Rey Guevarra from the unrestricted free agent list.
But Garcia said Rain or Shine is not taking chances against Mahindra.
“We cannot take any team lightly. After their first game, they probably saw what they can correct. Based on their lineup, marami silang scorers. Probably nobody’s expecting them to win, but we won’t take them for granted. We beat TNT, but we still have to improve on every game,” said the Elasto Painters mentor.