KIA players may have lost their last five matches by an average of 18.2 points, but a handsome incentive awaits them courtesy of playing-coach Manny Pacquiao.
According to team manager Eric Pineda, Pacquiao has promised to take the entire team to Macau to watch his fight against Chris Algieri next weekend - regardless the result of the Sorento's 'championship match' against winless Barako Bull in the PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday.
“Win or lose (against Barako Bull), pupunta na sila (players),” said Pineda, who broke the good news to the players at the end of practice.
KIA currently owns a 1-5 win-loss record, its lone victory courtesy of its 80-66 triumph against fellow expansion team Blackwater in the season-opening match last month at the brand new Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
But Pineda said Pacquiao is happy with the 'courageous performance' of the players, especially in a recent match against powerhouse Talk 'N Text.
“Happy naman si coach Manny, kahit na natatalo kami. Eh yung sa Talk ‘N Text lamang pa nga kami nung first half, talagang kinulang lang uli kami sa second half,” he added.
Pineda explained that talent-wise, it is already a given that KIA can't hold a candle to elite squads like reigning champion Purefoods Star, San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra or Talk ‘N Text.
But what the Filipino ring icon constantly reminds his players is to compete for 48 minutes, Pineda added.
“Siyempre, paghahandaan din namin yung 'championship' bukas,” he said in jest, referring to their battle against the Energy who have yet to win in five games under new coach Koy Banal.
“Hopefully, we can pull that one off para masaya naman si Manny bago yung laban niya sa Macau,” he added.
Pineda said the team’s Macau itinerary will be brief. The players and coaches will leave Manila next Saturday and watched Pacquiao defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against American challenger Chris Algieri the next day.
But by Sunday afternoon, the entire KIA squad will take a ferry to Hong Kong before taking the next available flight back to Manila.
“Kailangan din kasing bumalik agad dahil may laban kami sa Wednesday,’ said Pineda, referring to the Sorento's match against the San Miguel Beermen.