THIS early, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao has Gabe Freeman on his mind as he looks ahead to an Easter Sunday showdown with Ginebra that would decide the two teams' positions entering the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs.
Freeman is set to arrive on Wednesday morning to take the place of NBA veteran Josh Powell, who sought out of his Ginebra contract after getting an offer to join the Houston Rockets in time for the playoffs.
The 6-6 Freeman, of course, needs no introduction to Guiao or the fans, having won a pair of Best Import awards during his stints with the San Miguel Beermen in 2009 and 2010.
Guiao said he is familiar with the import.
"We'll be ready for them. We still don't know how Gabe will mix up with the team but knowing his talent from his previous stints in the league, we know what he can bring to the table," said Guiao.
"Sa ngayon kasi huhulaan pa natin kung ano magiging laro niya with Ginebra, and we will not allow him to have a breakthrough game against us," added the six-time PBA champion coach.
But this early, Guiao expects the shift from a frontliner like Powell to a wingman in Freeman to once again bring about changes for a Ginebra team that went 2-4 with Leon Rodgers and 1-1 with Powell.
He is also wary of the energy Freeman can bring to the team - that is, if he arrives in top shape.
"Ang success kasi sa pagkuha ng import dedepende sa kung anong energy ang kaya niyang ibigay sa team. Siguro may nakita ang Ginebra rito na kayang ibigay ni Freeman, kaya kahit maliit sa import height limit, 'yun ang kinuha nila," said Guiao.
Freeman's arrival, Guiao said, will enable Ginebra to maximize the strength of its Twin Towers of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar as well as Jay-R Reyes and Billy Mamaril, who all had to compete for minutes with Powell.
"Saka sa pagpasok ni Freeman who plays three and four, pwedeng i-maximize ngayon ng Ginebra yung Twin Towers nila. Kung tutuusin nga na-maintain nila 'yung strength sa frontline, lumakas pa ang wing nila," said the Rain or Shine coach.
Asked about his own import Wayne Chism who has come in for criticism for his sloppy play and limited offensive skills, Guiao said he finds no need for a replacement at this point.
"We're still winning, so wala akong nakikitang pangangailangan for that (import change)," said the fiery mentor.
Can Chism lead Rain or Shine deep in the playoffs?
"Siguro. Wayne is doing his role naman. He's been aggressive on defense and he's helping our big guys haul down those rebounds. So tingin ko, OK pa naman," he said.