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    Black admits he didn't expect to get player of Chris Lutz caliber from unrestricted free agent market

    Jan 17, 2017
    Chris Lutz leads the prayers at the end of his first practice with Meralco. Karlo Sacamos

    HIS team wanting in certain key areas, Meralco coach Norman Black was thrilled to grab a player of Chris Lutz's caliber from the unrestricted free agent market.

    Black was even more surprised to get Lutz in exchange for nothing.

    "I know it's rare to get a player of his caliber from the unrestricted free agent list," said Black at the end of Meralco practice - a day after the team came to terms with the former San Miguel starter.

    "That's almost unheard of in the PBA, where the best players are always restricted with their mother teams."

    Black said they've known about Lutz's situation with San Miguel for a while, but only learned that he was dropped to the UFAR2S (unresricted free agent with right to salary) list by the Beermen when SPIN.ph came out with the news on Saturday.

    [See Lutz dropped to unrestricted free agent list by SMB, but can other teams get him?]

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    Meralco management wasted no time making a move, Black said.

    "We acted immediately," said the grand slam coach. "From there, we just contacted his agent and inquired about his availability. Guess we were the first one to act."

    Now Black can count on a player who, when healthy, is still one of the best forwards in the league. He envisions Lutz to fill the gaping hole in the Bolts lineup at small forward that has been left wanting by the injuries that sidelined JD Dillinger for much of the young season.

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    Black said he doesn't see Lutz crowding sophomore sensation Chris Newsome or Cliff Hodge for places in the Bolts rotation. He expects the former SMB star to be a mainstay at small forward with Dillinger, giving Hodge the opportunity to slide down to the four spot where he is more comfortable.

    "If you look back, Chris has been a small forward in his career (since he) always played with Marcio Lassiter, who's always been a two guard. Majority of the time, he played as a three, so we envision him to play that position for us," said Black.

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    "If you look at our team, I don't really have a three so with JD (Jared Dillinger) getting healthy and Lutz coming in, I think we're starting to turn that weakness into a strength."

    [See Unrestricted free agent Chris Lutz signs with Meralco]

    But first things first, Meralco will have to help Lutz get match fit. The Fil-American forward hasn't seen action since last season' Commissioner's Cup after battling a number of injuries.

    Lutz attended his first Meralco practice on Tuesday so he can be introduced to his new teammates, but Black said he won't start joining practices until the first week of March.

    If there are no more injury setbacks, Lutz will most likely make his debut for Meralco in the first few weeks of the mid-season Commissioner's Cup, Black said.

    As for the injuries, Black said Lutz recently underwent surgery on his foot and is in the process of recuperating. On how well he recovers from the injury will determine if this Meralco move will pay off.

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    Lutz is 31 and has a year left from his old SMB contract which Meralco assumed. He hasn't played in a while but Black knows what he can bring to the table when healthy.

    "We knew the risk," Black said, "but we also felt that it was a risk worth taking."

    [See Arwind happy to know Lutz will be playing again - even for another team]

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    Chris Lutz leads the prayers at the end of his first practice with Meralco. Karlo Sacamos
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