GLOBALPORT coach Franz Pumaren shot down the notion that his affinity with Mac Cardona played a role in the acquisition of the controversial guard at GlobalPort.
Pumaren, who handled Cardona at La Salle with coach and player winning two championships together, insisted that he signed his former player based on merits alone.
“Basketball fans might think that it’s more on accommodation on my part, signing him up, but he proved himself that he deserves to be in the PBA; he deserves to be part of Global,” Pumaren said on Sunday after the team’s 109-99 loss to NLEX in a game where Cardona made his return.
Pumaren took a chance on the 35-year-old Cardona, who was struggled with family problems that led to a suicide attempt last year.
“You know, in life, if you can give an opportunity to other people, there's always room for people to change,” Pumaren said. “If he stumbles, if there's a chance for you to pick him up, why not? And this one, this is not a political accommodation, this is not because he played for me or he's my godson, or whatever.
“We feel that he can help us,” he added of Cardona, who tried out for GlobalPort for almost a month before finally signing a one-conference contract despite still recovering from a strained calf muscle he suffered during the tryouts.
“We were just rushing to sign him up because he was still doing his rehab, but with Stanley (Pringle) out because of his dad, we have no choice but to sign him up,” Pumaren said. “And we know he's a veteran, so down the road, he'll be helping us.”
Cardona gave a good account of himself as he tallied four points on 2-of-4 shooting, two boards against one turnover in eight minutes and five seconds on the court.
“If you can see, he just played a couple of minutes, and he contributed four points right away,” Pumaren said. “And prior to that, he was injured for the longest time, so the rhythm, timing, I don’t think it was there already yet, but as you can see, I think down the road, he can help us.”
Still, Pumaren stressed that Cardona still has to earn his minutes – that could eventually lead to a longer contract.
“He has to prove himself and he has to work hard and gain the trust of the coaches and management,” Pumaren said. “Kasi people, probably they’re thinking na he was my former player, but, you know, it’s not all about accommodation; this is not politics and it’s not a political consideration. No. it’s a results-oriented league. If the guy can help, why not?”
“Just like Rico (Maierhofer), James, they didn’t give me any problem,” he added. “Rico is my godson, but we feel that we can find other options, so we released him.”
Pumaren gave an advice to Cardona in his road to redemption.
“(You) just have to veer away from other extra-curricular activities, just concentrate,” Pumaren said. “This is his opportunity.”
“In fact, he was telling me, all he wants is just to play in the PBA again even without any salary. That’s why I told him, ‘Oh sige, laro lang pala gusto mo eh, so wala ka ng sweldo, pagkain ka na lang,’” he added in jest.
But seriously, Pumaren is well aware it won’t take much to motivate Cardona this time.
“He knows what he’s supposed to do,” Pumaren said. “He has to give a spark, energy, and a few points that we’ll need.”