Prolific Orlando Johnson brings hope to injury-hit Ginebra after opening loss
Ginebra import Orlando Johnson in a face-off with Alaska's Calvin Abueva. Jaime Campos

IF there’s a silver lining to its 108-99 loss to Alaska on Friday night, it’s that Barangay Ginebra seems to have found the right import for the PBA Governors’ Cup.

Orlando Johnson, the Gin Kings’ second choice after unimpressive Orien Greene, made a smashing league debut by exploding for 50 points — more than half of the Kings’ entire output — after shrugging off a sluggish start.

The NBA veteran made 17 of his 30 shots to score the highest output in a PBA debut since Darius Rice fired 56 markers for Purefoods in the 2008 Fiesta Conference game. He also had 10 boards, two assists, two steals, and one block in 41 minutes.

Breaching the 50-point barrier was a remarkable feat for Johnson, considering he missed his first three shots and two free throws, and committed three turnovers in the first six minutes of the game.

He wound up with just five points, before new Kings coach Frankie Lim sent him to the bench late in the period to give him time to regroup.

[See Bitter-sweet feeling for Lim after Ginebra coaching debut]

“(Coach) just said play my game,” Johnson said. “I definitely was nervous. I wanted to come out here and put on a show for the people … so I did have some nerves going in.”

“But once I sat down, calmed myself down, and got my second wind, I was ready to go,” the 26-year-old American wingman, who has only been in the country for a week, added on his way to scoring 18, 14, and 13 points in the last three quarters.

Prolific as he was, Johnson said he wants to spread the ball more.

“I’m a scorer, but I do like to set my teammates up,” he stressed. “I’d like to get them some better looks next game, so we can get everybody involved.”

“I know once everybody gets involved, we’re going to be a tough team.”

Lim hopes his local wards would reward Johnson’s passes with their own conversions.

“Nanghihinayang lang ako dahil magaling yung import namin,” the outspoken mentor said. “He just needs support from the locals in terms of scoring.”

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