TNT starts Commissioner's Cup title defense with depleted frontline against Blackwater
Jayson Castro is expected to take most of the load as TNT starts its PBA Commissioner's Cup title defense with a depleted lineup. Jaime Campos

TALK ‘N Text starts its PBA Commissioner’s Cup title-retention campaign with a depleted frontline on Wednesday when it takes on Blackwater in the opening game of the midseason tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Already missing Ranidel de Ocampo, who continues to recover from a back injury, the defending champion Tropang Texters are also without another injured big man in Troy Rosario as well as suspended import Ivan Johnson in the 4:15 encounter against the Elite.

Johnson was slapped a one-game suspension for his involvement in an altercation with JP Erram during a tune-up game last week, coincidentally versus Blackwater.

Rosario, on the other hand, hurt his left shoulder in the Texters’ last game of the Philippine Cup against Rain or Shine late December.

“He will hopefully be out just a few games,” Texters coach Jong Uichico said of Rosario in a text message to on Tuesday. “We’re just waiting for the go-signal of the doctor.

Top rookie pick Mo Tautuaa is expected to anchor the interior for TNT, which relies heavily once again on its backcourt led by Jayson Castro.

“We need to double our efforts,” Uichico said as his team faces a Blackwater frontcourt led by reinforcement MJ Rhett as well as Erram.

“They are a good, young team,” the champion coach added of the Elite, who made the playoffs for the first time in its young history in the all-Filipino conference.

Denzel Bowles makes his return as Star battles Orinze Onuaku and Meralco in the second game of the double-header at 7 o’clock.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos