BINAN, Laguna - In his PBA preseason debut, Manny Pacquiao showed good form although clearly not the kind you'd expected from a professional basketball player.
Suiting up for the first time for expansion team Kia Motors where he is playing coach, the world boxing champion showed he had the quickness and the stamina to stay with pro players and delighted the crowd inside the Binan Sports Complex with his behind-the-back dribbles.
But the jury is still out on whether Pacquiao has what it takes to compete at this level, especially since he struggled to score against a Blackwater Elite team that - from the start - made it clear it won't be giving the global boxing icon any special treatment.
“Wala eh. Inutusan ako na bantayan ko nang maigi. Kaya ginawa ko lang role ko,” said Blackwater veteran Sunday Salvacion, who thrice denied Pacquiao a good look at the basket.
“Sabi kasi ni coach (Leo Isaac), huwag ko papa-shutin. Naisip ko rin, ako nakakahiya pag naka shoot ito sa akin,” he added.
The veteran guard, however, bared that he did not get really physical on Pacquiao on defense, for fear that he might hurt the 35-year-old boxer just months into his world title fight against Chris Algieri in Macau.
“Hindi ko rin siya masyado dinidikitan. Inaasawa ko lang sa depensa. Pero yung pisikalan o talagang press… hindi. Baka mainjure ko pa nakakahiya kay Manny,” he said.
Pacquiao, however, said he’d rather see opponents push hard, saying he joined the PBA to compete and not to get any special treatment.
He was also quick to ease fears of an injury.
“OK lang naman ako. Alam ko rin naman kung paano pag-ingatan sa sarili ko. Tagal na rin tayo nagbabaksetbol,” said Pacquiao with a smile during halftime of the tune-up game.
Asked how he feels playing his first game as a PBA player, the 11th pick overall of the 2014 PBA rookie draft said, "Ayos naman ako. Kayang kaya naman."
In 10 minutes he spent on the floor, Pacquiao failed to connect on any shots and went 1-of-2 from the free throw line after being fouled by Jason Ballesteros while attempting a drive to the basket.
Blackwater won, 88-77.