PROLIFIC import Gabe Freeman has come in, and Rodney White was no longer around, when the Petron Blaze Boosters returned to practice on Sunday morning.
Freeman is set to play as a stand-in import for the Boosters until the team has brought in former Georgetown Hoya Henry Sims, bringing fresh hope to a team that had lost two games in the PBA Commissioner's Cup with the ineffective White as import.
Petron veteran guard Denok Miranda is elated to again work with Freeman, who he said is showing more maturity and range in his game since the last time he played for the Boosters in the 2010 Fiesta Cup Finals where they lost to the Diamon Simpson-led Alaska Aces.
“OK naman siya, maganda nga yung energy na binibigay niya eh. Parang (Renaldo) Balkman din yung binibigay niyang hustle plays sa amin,” said Miranda.
“Nag mature talaga yung laro ni Gabe,” added Miranda.
Under the plan, sources said Freeman is set to reinforce the Boosters in games against the Meralco Bolts (Friday) and Barako Bull (Sunday), by which time Petron hopes it has already brought in Sims to suit up in the team's final four assignments in the eliminations.
Freeman's stint with Petron, however, still needs a clearance from Barako Bull, which owns the rights to the hard-slashing 6-6 wingman.
The set-up is ideal for Freeman, who, if and when he plays two games for Petron, will still be eligible to return to the San Miguel Beermen lineup in the Asean Basketball League in time for the playoffs.
The ABL has set an April 7 deadline for the submission of final lineups for the playoffs - the same day Freeman is supposed to play his last game with Petron.
“OK naman yun, pwede namang mangyari yun,” said Beermen coach Leo Austria of his import who recently was sidelined by a sprained MCL he sustained four weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Petron management is now giving the coaching staff the latitude to decide on the import change.
“Bahala na sila Olsen dun, level na ng coaching staff iyan. We are giving them full authority to choose what will be good for the team,” said Robert Non, head of San Miguel Corporation’s basketball operations.