RAKEEM Christmas is delivering what Magnolia needs from him that another loss in the opener of its PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals series against Barangay Ginebra was not enough for the Hotshots to regret bringing him over.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero insisted they have no regrets replacing the steady James Farr with Christmas entering the playoffs.
It was a risk, Victolero admitted, but it was a move the franchise had to take.
“I know it’s a big risk, but kailangan naming gawin in order for us na magkaroon ng chance dito sa quarterfinals. Kung makalusot man kami sa semis,” he said. “It was a risk, but worth it naman.”
Christmas finished with 18 points and 14 rebounds in the 85-79 loss to Ginebra on Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Counting the lone game he played in the eliminations, a 98-83 loss to TnT Katropa, Christmas has yet to register a win this conference.
The loss also stretched the Hotshots’ skid to five overall dating back to the eliminations, leaving them on the verge of being booted out in the playoffs.
Still, Victolero likes the effort he’s been seeing from the 27-year-old Christmas, a former Indiana Pacer who's the current partner of the daughter of the great Michael Jordan.
“He helped us a lot in rebounding and inside the paint, yung presence niya laging nandoon. So malaking tulong sa amin yun,” said the Magnolia mentor.
“Habang tumatagal nakaka-adjust na siya sa weather, sa team, sa sistema.”
If only he had arrived a little bit earlier for the Hotshots’ campaign.
“Sana nga lang napaaga siya ng dating. But you know, that’s life. Yun ang ibinigay sa amin,” said Victolero.
Besides, the Hotshots were able to follow their game plan to the letter until the final two minutes when the Kings executed better than them, Victolero admitted.
“Yun naman ang goal namin so we will have a chance sa dulo. Pero naging maganda lang yung execution ng Ginebra (in the end),” he said.
Game 2 of the series is set Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.