Chito Victolero says PJ Simon nearing return but Star in no rush as Hotshots sustain fiery form
Allein Maliksi has stepped up his play that Star has barely skipped a beat even in the absence of PJ Simon. Jaime Campos

STAR has been dominating its opponents lately that you will hardly notice that the team’s longest-tenured player has been missing.

The Hotshots overwhelmed Phoenix, 114-83, on Saturday in their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal matchup despite the absence of PJ Simon, who missed his third straight game due to a flu this time.

Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said Simon, who was present but in street clothes, could  return to practice on Sunday.

“I hope PJ recovers right away,” Victolero said in the post-game conference. “Yung kanyang rhythm yung kanyang condition, (sana bumalik agad).”

“We will wait for him, kasi malaking tulong din siya,” he added of the 13-year Hotshots veteran, who is averaging 8.5 points on 53.7-percent shooting, 2.1 boards, and 0.9 assist in 15.3 minutes this conference. “Yung pagiging smart niya at yung pagiging veteran niya.”

“(But) we will not force PJ also, baka mabinat," he added ahead of Game Two on Monday at the Big Dome.

[See Star asserts mastery over Phoenix to close in on semis]

In his absence, Allein Maliksi has been stepping up, although he was limited to 11 points on 2-of-9 shooting against the Fuel Masters after averaging over 26 points in the last three games.

And Victolero is confident that there won’t be any playing time conflicts when Simon returns.

“Si PJ naman, very smart yan. At the same time, he knows his role,” Victolero said. “Sabi niya, kung kailangan mo ako, andito lang ako. Wala akong masasabi kay PJ." 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos