WITH new import Daniel Orton still in a period of adjustment, Purefoods coach Tim Cone has decided to give Marqus Blakely another run when the Hotshots play Blackwater in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Orton, who flew in late Tuesday afternoon, has been joining the team’s practice since Wednesday, but will only be a spectator when the Hotshots gun for a share of the lead in the 7 p.m. match against the winless Elite.
“We’ve decided to sit Daniel Orton one more time to give him a little time to get accustomed to his teammates so Marqus will play tomorrow,” Cone said.
Orton also arrived with a swollen shooting hand which the former kentucky Wildcat said he hurt in his final game with the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA).
Orton passed the height limit after being officially measured at exactly 6-feet-9-inches on Thursday afternoon at the PBA office.
On the other hand, despite being the shortest import in the tournament at 6-4, Blakely has been a bundle of energy for Purefoods, averaging 21.5 points, 15.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 3.5 blocks and 3.0 steals in the team’s strong 2-0 (win-loss) start.
Cone said the Hotshots are focusing their attention on Blackwater import Marcus Douthit, who was taken in by the Elite as a stand-in replacement for the injured seven-footer Chris Charles.
“We’re hoping to continue our hot start, but this will be our first test against a team with a big import,” explained the pro league’s only two-time grand slam champion coach.
“Marcus Douthit plays with such veteran smarts. He makes the players around him better so controlling him will be a big challenge,” he added.
Meantime, Blackwater is set to activate free agent pickup Jerick Canada against Purefoods in a bid to add speed and veteran presence at the backcourt.
Canada, the ABL’s 2014 Finals MVP, is coming off a solid stint with the Hi-Tech Bangkok, which he led to the regional basketball championship.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac explained that Canada’s presence will be crucial in trying to limit Purefoods Star’s fastbreak opportunities, something the Hotshots have done very well in their first two games with Blakely.
“Pinakita namin sa team 'yung strong points nila (Hotshots) kasi they like to run dahil nga maliit ang import nila,” said Isaac.
The Elite head coach also hopes that Douthit would be in much better shape after getting five extra days to get accustomed with the team’s system since coming in as a late replacement for Charles.
“We feel by tomorrow (Friday), mas magi-improve na ang kundisyon ni Marcus, since nung last game namin, halos nagka-cramps na siya,” he added.
The Elite have yet to win a single game this season.
Blackwater closed the Philippine Cup with a 0-11 record, before opening the import-spiced conference with back-to-back losses to Barako Bull and Talk ‘N Text.