IMPORT Marqus Blakely believes defending champion Purefoods remains in pretty good shape to contend for the top spot in the playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup despite being on a downswing prior to the All-Star break.
“There’s a lot of distractions, I guess, going on (in the team), and it’s hard enough in the season to start out strong like we did and continue it,” Blakely told Spin.ph on Thursday after the team’s practice at Ronac gym in San Juan.
“But there’s gonna be ups and downs, and, fortunately, it (three-game losing streak) happened early so that these next three games, we can focus on and be in a good place to get to the championship,” he added.
Blakely has been practicing with the Hotshots for the past week since returning from the US and serving as a practice player of the team.
Initially, he took the team to a 3-0 start as the Hotshots’ stand-in import before giving way to original choice Daniel Orton.
Although Orton won his first game with the team against NLEX, 87-62, the Hotshots dropped their next two games against Rain or Shine in Dipolog City (78-71), followed by a shocking 95-84 upset loss to expansion team KIA Motors.
The twin losses, coupled by Orton’s post-game tirade against league officiating and KIA playing-coach Manny Pacquiao’s foray into the PBA, prompted coach Tim Cone to replace Orton and bring back old hand Denzel Bowles.
So far, Purefoods Star is 1-1 under Bowles, losing to Barangay Ginebra, 96-87, before bouncing back with a 113-105 overtime win against San Miguel Beer to vault back to solo fourth spot with a 5-3 record.
Since the All-Star break, Blakely said the team has gone back to the basics, like concentrating on defense and giving Bowles a refresher course on the intricacies of the triangle offense.
“Just getting back to what we know on defense, defending, running and executing our triangle because the dynamics of the game changed when Orton or like a Denzel comes in,” explained Blakely, a former Best Import awardee.
Blakely also said his left shoulder is getting better since undergoing regular therapy in the US.
“Just getting strong as much as I can, and maybe try to deal with it (left shoulder dislocation) at the end of the third conference and see if we might or might not (have to undergo surgery),” said the former Vermont standout, who dislocated his left shoulder during the team's 83-70 win over GlobalPort over a month ago.
Meantime, Cone said Blakely’s new role as practice player has raised the team’s energy over the past few days.
“He’s (Blakely) just like Ping (Marc Pingris) because when he steps on the floor, he’ll go a hundred miles per hour. There’s no let-up for him,” beamed Cone.
“He’s created such a great habit for himself over the years because he doesn’t know how to play loose or soft or whatever, but he’s playing 100 percent all the time.”
Purefoods is set to leave for Davao on Friday morning, a day ahead of its crucial match against league-leader Talk ‘N Text on Saturday.