SAN Mig rookie guard Alex Mallari is in his first PBA Finals and, ironically, will be playing against the very same team that made him the No.3 overall pick in last year’s Draft.
The big San Mig Coffee guard said he harbors no ill feelings toward Petron ahead of the two teams' showdown in the PBA Governors' Cup Finals starting on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mallari was picked by the Boosters as the third pick overall in the 2012 Draft, but he had a rough start with the team that eventually led to his trade to the Mixers in a five-team, 10-player deal.
He has since saw his career shift to high gear while playing as backup point guard for coach Tim Cone at San Mig.
And by destiny, he’ll now go up against the Boosters as he guns for his first-ever league championship.
“I hate everyone of them,” he said with a poker face before breaking into a loud laugh during the press conference for the PBA Finals on Wednesday.
“No hard feelings at all. I was with them for about a conference, and I really thank them for drafting me. But honestly, there’s really no rivalry. I think they’re probably the best team, skills-wise, from top to bottom,” he said.
The 6-foot-4 Mallari will be going to the Finals fresh from a career-game that saw him score 23 points in a 94-74 San Mig win over Meralco in Game Three of their semifinals series.
The Mixers eventually ousted the Bolts in four games.
“It feels good to get one out of there (Finals appearance) in my rookie year,” Mallari told Spin.ph later.
“Winning (the Governors' Cup title) in my rookie year would feel even better and against the team that drafted me would be even sweeter,” he added.
Mallari had high hopes when Petron selected him third in the rookie draft after top pick June Mar Fajardo (Petron) and Calvin Abueva (Alaska).
But after playing through a coaching transition at Petron, which saw active consultant Rajko Toroman leave the team early in the first conference and hand the head coaching duties full-time to Olsen Racela, things went from bad to worse for the left-handed playmaker.
Playing just nine games during the season-opening Philippine Cup, Mallari struggled to average 4.73 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.1 assist in 15.7 minutes as he had to compete for playing minutes with veteran playmakers Alex Cabagnot, Dennis Miranda, and Chico Lanete in a crowded point guard spot.
But his fortunes eventually changed when he transferred to San Mig.
He has since learned the ropes of the triangle offense under Cone, and gets regular point guard tips from assistant coaches Johnny Abarrientos, Jeff Cariaso and Racela, his former coach at Petron, who has since joined San Mig before the start of the season-ending conference.
“Coach (Cone) tells me pretty much to just play your game, let the game come to you, and don’t try to do too much because we got all these veterans in the team,” Mallari added, referring to former two-time league MVP James Yap, Peter June Simon, and Joe Devance, among others.
Mallari said he’s also happy to get a much-needed confidence boost from the San Mig assistant coaches as he tries to absorb things as much as he can.
“They (Abarrientos, Cariaso) put so much confidence in me. It’s the whole coaching staff helping me out,” he said.