LEON Rodgers may have missed the game-tying basket in Ginebra’s sorry loss to Air21 Wednesday night, but he expressed appreciation for the continued trust the team’s coaching staff had on him despite the current struggle of the Kings in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Despite riding the bench the entire fourth quarter, it was Rodgers who was still tasked to take the final attempt of the Kings in a game where they trailed, 97-95, in the final 4.8 seconds.
The import drove hard to the basket but failed to make the shot against Wesley Witherspoon's honest, straight-up defense.
Rodgers wasn’t surprised he was inserted in the lineup in the dying seconds after being benched for the entire final period, aware that active assistant coach Juno Sauler has complete trust in his ability, never mind that he ended up as the goat for the Kings.
“I know coach believes in me. I know up to that point, I know he believes in my scoring ability up until this game, where I’ve been getting 30-plus points a game,” he said. “We needed a basket, he called on me and I accepted the call because I wanted the ball.
"It’s just tough, I missed the shot.”
Rodgers finished with a PBA career-low of 18 points after taking just 16 shots in the loss, the Kings’ fourth in six outings for a tie with Barako Bull for eighth to ninth places.
“It’s just one of those things where you could have pulled a jump shot, but you’re coached to go in strong to the basket and we missed. But I wasn’t surprised he called on me.”
Just like in Ginebra’s loss to Talk 'N Text, Rodgers again took the blame for the setback, but likewise believed the Kings’ starting unit also failed to do its share.
“I don’t even know what to say. The first group out there, starting the first half, we just didn’t defend. We made a lot of mental mistakes to be such a veteran team,” rued the embattled import.
“I know I’m the import, and typically, I’m supposed to be in there (game), but I was involved in the first group and that’s the way it went,” he added.
The 33-year-old former Dutch League MVP actually rode the bench in the final period along with starters LA Tenorio, Mark Caguioa, and rookie center Greg Slaughter.
It was Ginebra’s second stringers of Josh Urbiztondo, Jayjay Helterbrand, Billy Mamaril who worked with Chris Ellis and Japeth Aguilar in helping the Kings fight back from as much as a 14-point deficit to move within 96-97 in the dying seconds.
“We’re down by 10 points or something, but our second group just played well. Josh, Jayjay, Billy, I don’t wanna exclude anybody. But they played with effort, they played with heart. Coach stuck with them because they deserve to win the game,” explained Rodgers.
With three games left in the team’s elimination round schedule, Rodgers said the Kings need to regroup for the next few days and try to start winning, hopefully a sweep of their remaining assignments.