GUNNER Macmac Cardona remains confident on Air21’s capacity to bounce back as the Express collide with struggling Barangay Ginebra Kings in the main game of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Express are coming off a stinging 109-98 loss to Meralco Bolts Sunday in a game that saw them blow an 18-point fourth-quarter lead.
But Cardona is convinced the team has already shrugged off the effects of the heartbreaking setback going to the 8 p.m. encounter especially with a new import in Wesley Witherspoon leading the way.
“Positive pa rin ang team kahit natalo kami,” said the player known as 'Captain Hook.’ “Sayang lang kasi amin na yung laro na yun.”
The loss sent Air21 reeling to a tie for fifth to seventh places with Ginebra and defending champion Alaska, all with similar 2-3 records.
Cardona however, believed Witherspoon has brought a new drive to the Express.
“Magaling `yung bagong import namin. Scorer eh, magaling mag-penetrate saka may three-point shooting pa,” Cardona told Spin.ph.
Witherspoon, a 6-8 forward out of Memphis, the same school that produced the likes of NBA MVP Derrick Rose, many-time PBA Best Import awardee Bobby Parks, and current Alaska import Robert Dozier, tossed in 44 points, spiked by a conference-high eight three-pointers during his debut on Sunday.
Unfortunately, he and the Express failed to sustain the run as their defense broke down in the final period that allowed Meralco import Brian Butch and Jared Dillinger to take over and complete the Bolts’ improbable comeback.
At the same time, Cardona took note of Ginebra’s struggles, especially its frontliners, which he said the Express will try to exploit.
“Excited kami makalaban ang Ginebra. Struggle din sila ngayon, especially yung mga big guys nila,” he added.
Ginebra rookie center Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar have had slow start in the mid-season conference as both big men averaged just 24 minutes in the team’s first five games.
Interestingly, Mark Caguioa, Ginebra’s superstar guard, is averaging more rebounds (7.4) compared to Aguilar (6.2) and the 6-11 Slaughter (7.0).
Ginebra import Leon Rodgers admitted the team is still trying to figure out the best way to address the team’s current struggle five games into the tournament.
“I think we’re trying to figure out whatever our biggest void is to fill. We’re still trying to crack at it and figuring things out before Wednesday,” Rodgers said, without elaborating further on what that “void” is.
But the 6-5 international journeyman said winning the Kings’ next two games could put the team back to a better playoff position, considering how tight the teams are bunched up in the standings.
“I think our next two games are very important, if we can get both of those wins because it puts us at 4-3,” said the 33-year-old former Northern Illinois standout.
“It will put us back right out the top since a lot of teams are kind of jumbled up. Except for Talk ‘N Text and San Miguel Beer, it’s gonna be interesting.”