DUBAI - Japeth Aguilar joined Barangay Ginebra in practice on Thursday, raising hope that the big man could be healthy enough to make his PBA Governors Cup debut in an overseas game against Rain or Shine on Friday.
While frontline partner Greg Slaughter stayed behind in Manila to strengthen his sprained ankle, the 6-9 Aguilar tagged along for the trip to this Middle East oasis and joined the Kings in a 60-minute workout doing laterals, running sprints and shooting baskets.
“Meron pang sakit pag naglo-long strides ako,” said Aguilar, who wore an elastic band wrapped tightly around his right thigh to minimize muscle movement.
Aguilar’s return should be a major boost for Ginebra, which has lost three of its first four games while alternating reserves Dorian Pena, Dave Marcelo and Rodney Brondial at center spot.
They Said It!
“Mahirap mawalan na malaki." Ginebra coach Frankie Lim
Coach Frankie Lim is hoping to finally have an inside presence to ease the pressure on his shooters.
“Mahirap mawalan na malaki,” said Lim, who had to scramble after Slaughter twisted his ankle two days before the start of the third conference. “Nakaka-pressure ung defense sa mga tao sa labas dahil wala kaming inside presence. It will be a lot different pag andon si Japeth and Greg kasi meron na silang iniintindi sa ilalim.”
Yeng Guiao, whose Rain or Shine team is in a deeper bind than Ginebra after losing its first two games, is aware of what Aguilar's return can do for the Gin Kings ahead of their 8 p.m. game (12 midnight, Manila time) match-up.
“They are also feeling some sense of urgency and trying to secure their confidence,” he said. “They don’t have [Greg] Slaughter, but if Japeth [Aguilar] plays, we’ll have a problem because his presence alone can provide additional encouragement.”
Guiao has more problems in his hand.
The Ginebra match will be at the tailend of rare back-to-back games for Rain or Shine, which will play GlobalPort and new import Jarrid Famous on Thursday at the Al Shabab Al Arabi Club.
“Ours is a unique situation,” said Guiao. “Although we have accepted the arrangement and embraced it, playing two straight games under a different environment can be very taxing.”
ROS has had two practice sessions and one walk-through to prepare for the GlobalPort game. Against Ginebra, the E-Painters will have just one morning walk-through to prepare.
“That's all we had against them, the morning walk-through (on Friday) will be our actual preparation,” Guiao said.
On the other hand, Lim said Ginebra is still in a period of adjustment under his watch.
“Siyempre 'yung mga players naga-adjust pa sa ‘kin, pati ako naga-adjust din sa kanila; di madali e,” said Lim, who has calendared Slaughter’s return for May 31 in time for their game with San Miguel Beer. “But I expect some good things to happen sooner than later. Sana maumpisahan dito sa Dubai para maganda sa pag balik namin.”