PJ Simon won’t have a choice but to continue to step up if Marc Pingris can’t return for Magnolia for the foreseeable future in its PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against NLEX.
The 37-year-old Simon flashed his vintage form in Game One, tallying 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including four triples, on top of five boards, one assist, and just one turnover in less than 21 minutes of play, although the Hotshots lost the series opener, 88-87.
“Yun naman talaga yung role from the start - coming off the bench,” Simon said. “Siguro hindi lang maganda yung start namin. Pero hindi pwedeng mangyari yun sa playoffs eh. Minsan mahirapan ka rin makabalik, so hopefully, maganda yung start namin, kami naman yung magandang start.”
But it was a double whammy for the Hotshots as Pingris had to leave late in the game due to a knee injury following a misstep on a drive.
“Medyo (naapektuhan kami), pero the best we can do sana is yung game ibigay namin sa kanya, and yung prayer namin na hopefully, nothing serious dun sa nangyari,” Simon said. “And I hope na…medyo namimilipit si kuya Ping eh, pero I hope na hindi naman ganun ka-sama, and kung ma-out of series siya, kailangan kami mag-adjust.
“Pero last time naman, naalala namin na wala si kuya Ping, umabot din naman kami ng semis, and hopefully other guys mag-step up naman,” he added.
And it’s just added motivation for the Hotshots, who are also eager to get over the hump after three straight conferences of falling short of the finals.
“Kahit anong motivation, lahat ng motivation siguro kailangan gamitin na namin kasi sobrang hungry na rin kami makarating ng finals ulit,” Simon said. “Credit din sa kabila, gusto rin nilang manalo. We'll see. Medyo mahaba haba pa naman yung series.”
“Ang problema lang is medyo undermanned kami ngayon and hopefully, maka-recover kaagad yung mga may injuries sa amin,” he added. “Hopefully, si Justin (Melton) din, napakalaking bagay kung mawala siya sa series, napakalaking bagay din so kailangan mag-step up yung mga other guys.”
And Simon is one of those expected to do so the rest of the way.
“Nasa kundisyon naman ako and ito naman yung trabaho ko,” the 14-year veteran said. “And sabi ko naman na minsan five minutes, 10 minutes lang playing time, but given a chance na ma-extend yung minutes ko, I will make sure na ready ako.”