MERALCO is capitalizing on the situation where it has most of its players already back in training camp with a month before the PBA Governors’ Cup unfolds.
While seven other teams are shorthanded after lending their stars to Gilas Pilipinas, the Bolts are one of five teams with intact lineups, having no representatives in the national team that’s preparing for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next month.
NLEX, Phoenix, Blackwater, and Mahindra are the other teams without players in Gilas 4.0.
But the Bolts don’t mind, although they have one offering in head coach Norman Black.
“This is a time that we have an advantage,” said Bolts assistant coach Luigi Trillo, who has been overseeing practices with fellow deputies Ronnie Magsanoc and Jamike Jarin. “I think, because most of the other players are with Gilas, so this is a time where we can come in and really try to try new things.”
“I think the disadvantage we have is coach Norman is not here,” he was quick to add. “When he comes in and he wants to really focus on a certain thing, it’s different when he’s here … but we’re not in a rush where we’re trying to cram everything altogether.”
American import Allen Durham is also expected to arrive on Saturday, earlier than most imports who are slated to come in during the last week of the month.
“It’s always good to get an import in early,” Jimmy Alapag said. “We were just really fortunate with a guy like Arinze (Onukau) last conference who literally came in the day of our first game and immediately made his presence felt; I think those are rare cases.”
“So to have Durham come in early, I think it’s great,” he added. “It will allow him to really get adjusted to being back here in the Philippines, adjusted to the coaching staff, adjusted to coach Norman’s system, so that will be a big help, especially having everybody here and being one of the lucky teams that doesn’t have anybody playing for Gilas.”
The Bolts have at least eight tune-up games lined up in the next three weeks as part of their buildup for the season-ending conference.
“I think now is the chance that we can get a lot of tune-up games in and this is a time when everybody has a chance to show what they can contribute,” Trillo said. “In our last two conferences, the guys were playing well in the preseason, and he (Black) gives chances.”
“You look at Anjo Caram, Bryan Faundo, Ken Bono – these are the guys who were not even in the second unit of teams and then they prove themselves and they fit in, so for us in the preseason, the tune-up games are a gauge of who’s sharp, who can come in, and help the team,” he added.