WHEN DJ Mbenga makes his debut for the Barako Bull Energy on Sunday, the former Los Angeles Laker will have his Philippine version of Pau Gasol with him on the floor.
Or so claimed Barako Bull funnyman Mick Pennisi.
“Definitely, I can be his Pau Gasol any day. Pau has a beard too, right?” said Pennisi, tongue in cheek. “I’ll be hooking him up, that’s what we’ve been working on in the last two days."
“Just give us a couple of days and we’ll have the chance to iron out a few kinks," he added.
The witty Pennisi is a big man who plays the 4-spot and has a wide range on his jump shot just like Gasol, the seven-foot Spaniard who was Mbenga's teammate in the Lakers teams that won back-to-back NBA championships from 2009.
Asked who will be Barako Bull’s Kobe Bryant, Pennisi paused then laughed: “Kobe, hmmm … maybe Deni (Danny Seigle) or Maleksi (Allein Maliksi)."
Turning serious, Pennisi welcomed the arrival of Mbenga who he said will provide the much-needed muscle underneath the board for the George Chua-owned franchise.
“We've set a few plays for him, he’s still learning the ropes. We will feed him the ball under the basket - where he is gonna be a big help,” said Pennisi, who described the seven-footer as a "big boy who can get the ball in the right place and give us points."
The 38-year-old, last week's Accel PBA Press Corps Player of the Week, believes Mbenga will be an intimidating presence inside the paint on defense.
“He can get those shotblocks and haul down those rebounds for us,” he said.
The sweet-shooting Fil-Aussie said the eight-year NBA veteran performed better in his second day of practice with the team on Thursday morning at the Ronac Gym.
“He’s giving our big men sore bodies,” Pennisi said.