MARC Pingris took a major step forward on Wednesday when he returned to the Star lineup after a long layoff due to a hip injury, but he is taking baby steps from hereon so as not to disrupt his team’s chemistry in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Out for six months or since February 21 in Game Seven of the Philippine Cup semifinals against Ginebra, the Hotshots star finally saw action in the team’s 100-81 win over Phoenix.
Initially targeting next week for his comeback, Pingris’ return came earlier than expected after getting a call from coach Chito Victolero and team governor Rene Pardo with the game all but sealed with two minutes and 38 seconds left.
“Sinabi niya (Victolero) sa’kin, 'Gusto mo maglaro?' Tapos si sir Pardo, 'Gusto mo maglaro para sa fans?' Gumanon. 'O sige po, gusto ko rin maglaro,’” Pingris related after the game.
“Nangangapa, but kanina sobrang excited ako,” he added. “Sobrang na-appreciate ko yung ginawa ni (PT) Nick Ocampo sa akin, yung therapy namin. Kanina sobrang natutuwa rin ako sa mga fans na kahit two minutes lang yung nilaro ko, talagang pinapalakpakan ako. Sobrang miss na miss nila ako.”
Victolero is glad to have Pingris back in harness, but is also taking the return process of the veteran forward slowly.
“Very happy din kasi kahit papaano si Ping nakakasama na namin,” Victolero said. “We’ll try to work on his rhythm, kanina nga kausap ko siya sabi niya kinakabahan siya eh. Yun lang, medyo excited din siya and hopefully maging maganda pa yung mga susunod na laro.
“Gusto namin kahit papaano makuha niya yung timing, kasi yun lang problema eh, hindi na sumasakit yung injury niya,” he added. “Yung condition niya siguro 70-75 percent.”
Pingris is just careful not to disrupt the chemistry of the Hotshots, who have been unbeaten in the season-ending conference in four games.
“Maganda rin yung tinatakbo ng team,” Pingris said. “Sa practice inuunti-unti ako ni coach, so iniintindi ko yun. Kahit alam ko na yung depensa, iniintindi ko pa rin, kahit yung galaw nila, lalo na sa import – actually di pa nga kami naglalaro sa isa't-isa kasi two minutes lang nilaro ko.
“So more focus tsaka conditioning pa sa'kin,” he added.