IS Leon Rodgers as good as advertised?
That question lingered in minds of Barangay Ginebra fans after the highly touted import's PBA Commissioner's Cup debut on Friday night - a 108-104 overtime win over Barako Bull at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rodgers, of course, had raised fans' expectations owing to his glowing credentials, being a three-time Dutch League MVP and a go-to-guy for the Jilin Northeast Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association with his 29.1 points per game average prior to coming over.
The basketball globetrotter also wasted no time turning heads with a seemingly effortless 39-point effort in a practice game just days after coming over.
However, Rodgers fell short of convincing doubters after his debut. He did score 31 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists, but at times looked sluggish and was unable to dominate as he was left in the shade by Barako Bull counterpart Joshua Dollard who had 45 for the night.
Still, the 33-year-old import was quick to point out that he came to the Philippines not just to showcase his scoring prowess but to make the “best basketball decisions” for Ginebra, a team that is aching to end its six-year PBA title drought.
“When it came down to the last shot, my job is to make the best basketball decision,” Rodgers told Spin.ph.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the final play of regulation when faced with a double-team, Rodgers elected to pass off to Chris Ellis who buried the three-pointer that sent the game into overtime.
With 12 years of professional basketball experience that has brought him to countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and China, Rodgers now likens his job as an import to superstar Lebron James' job with the Miami Heat.
“It was almost like a play Lebron has to make. Everybody wants him to shoot it. But the best way (in the regulation play) was to pass it to Chris (Ellis),” said the former Northern Illinois standout.
“And Chris was able to knock down the three. Chris had the confidence to take it and send it to overtime.”
As for the other facets of his game, Rodgers said he’s adjusting to his long playing time considering that he averaged no more than 36.5 minutes a game with the Tigers in the CBA. He played for 45 minutes for the Gin Kings in his debut.
Rodgers assured he'll be a better player once he gets his legs back.
“It’s getting there (conditioning). That (long playing time) definitely has affected my shot a little bit, but my legs are starting to settle in, but no excuses,” he said.
Rodgers, however, will have little time to rest and recover as Ginebra plunges back into action on Sunday in a highly awaited clash with San Miguel Beer in the main game, also at the Big Dome.