PUREFOODS Star hopes the return of star forward Mark Pingris could inject life into its struggling campaign when it goes up against GlobalPort in the main game of the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-5 Pingris missed the team’s first two games to open the season after being given a two-week leave of absence to recuperate after his stint in the Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games with Gilas Pilipinas.
He has rejoined the team’s practice late last week, a few days earlier than scheduled when sophomore forward Ian Sangalang suffered a partial tear on his ACL and MCL.
Hotshots coach Tim Cone admitted the team missed Pingris’ energy in their first two games, losing badly to Alaska, 93-73, before falling short against San Miguel Beer, 87-80.
“We’re still trying to figure ourselves out at this point,” Cone said after the team’s practice on Friday at the Ronac gym.
“We still have to rediscover our desire and seriousness for the game. But we’re getting Ping back and he should infuse us with some much-needed energy,” added the American coach on the eve of the 7 p.m. game.
The team, however, could possibly miss James Yap for the second straight game due to a hamstring injury.
The 6-2, two-time league MVP, sat out the team’s game against the Beermen last week because of a suspected calf muscle pull which later turned out to be a hamstring injury after an MRI exam.
He remains day-to-day.
Nonetheless, Cone isn’t pressing the panic button yet, even if the Hotshots are facing a lethal Batang Pier backcourt that includes Alex Cabagnot, Terrence Romeo and top rookie pick Stanley Pringle.
“No need to panic yet, but obviously, we need to play better,” stressed Cone, the league’s all-time winning coach with 18 championships.
On the other hand, Cabagnot said persistent rumors about GlobalPort coach Pido Jarencio’s status aren't affecting the Batang Pier as they press their playoff aspirations.
“It’s a heavy backcourt rotation for us, but we just have to work hard in practice and try to contribute as much as possible for the team,” said Cabagnot, who averaged 22 points in the team’s first two games this season.
“Ang end goal naman talaga is to win, so I hope the guys won’t pay attention to social media that much but we’ll just try to do what we could do.”