NLEX got off to a strong start in 2018 only to find itself struggling in the final two conferences of the 43rd season of the PBA following losses to key players during the season. The Road Warriors though also made news in 2018 in the international scene as their head coach made his return to the national team after a decade.
Best finish in franchise history
With top rookie Kiefer Ravena on board, NLEX achieved its best finish in franchise history when the Road Warriors reached the semifinals of the Philippine Cup. After taking the sixth seed in the quarterfinals, NLEX upset third-ranked Alaska before bowing to Magnolia in six games during the semifinals. Still, it was an auspicious start to the Ravena era for NLEX.
Kevin Alas suffers ACL injury
Bad news came for NLEX last March when Alas suffered an ACL injury during the semifinals of the Philippine Cup, forcing him to miss the entire season. Alas was coming off an elimination round where he averaged 11.5 points.
Kiefer Ravena banned by Fiba
Already missing a key player due to injury, NLEX lost another one this time in prized rookie Ravena. Last May, Fiba suspended Ravena for 18 months after injecting a banned performance-enhancing substance during the Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers. The PBA followed suit as Ravena was forced to miss the All-Star Game leg in, of all places, his hometown of Iloilo City.
Yeng Guiao named Team Pilipinas coach
Following the controversy of the brawl during the Fiba Basketball World Cup Asian qualifiers last July between Gilas Pilipinas and Australia, Guiao was appointed as interim coach for the national squad in the Asian Games after Chot Reyes was suspended by Fiba for one game for his role in that infamous incident. Guiao, who last coached the national squad in 2008, later became the permanent coach after leading Team Pilipinas to a fifth-place finish in the Asiad.
NLEX obtains JP Erram in trade
The Road Warriors finally got the big man it needed. After a dismal performance in the last two conferences of the season, the Road Warriors made the move, acquiring rising star Poy Erram from Blackwater in a three-team trade that also involved rookies Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter.
The suspension of Ravena and the injury of Alas were definitely a big letdown to the Road Warriors’ strong start to the 2018 season. After collecting 17 wins in 2018, NLEX can, however, look ahead to a better 2019 with the return of Alas and Ravena next year.