SAN Mig Coffee and Barako Bull, two teams which figured prominently in a five-team, 10-player blockbuster deal on Tuesday, will face off in one of two games kicking off hostilities in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on February 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Mixers, the reigning Commissioner’s Cup champions, and the Energy Cola get to try out the new pieces in their respective lineups following Tuesday's trade when they collide in the 7:30 p.m. main game, following the 5:15 p.m. opening match between Petron and Globalport.
After a disappointing 2-4 loss to a smaller Rain or Shine side in the recent Philippine Cup semifinal series, San Mig traded playmaker Jonas Villanueva, swingman JC Intal, and rookie forward Aldrech Ramos while taking in Fil-Am rookie guard Alex Mallari, bruiser Leo Najorda, freshman point guard Lester Alvarez, and a 2014 first round pick.
Cone said Najorda’s addition to the team gives the Mixers an additional physical player, something they sorely lacked in their semifinal series against the Elasto Painters, who are noted for their rugged plays.
On the other hand, the third overall rookie pick Mallari, who was used sparingly while with Petron, is expected to have a bigger role to play at San Mig where his size and versatility can be put to good use.
While last year’s best import Denzel Bowles is still unavailable for another tour of duty with San Mig, Cone is confident Matt Rogers can get the job done and work with his core of veterans led by two-time MVP James Yap, Marc Pingris, Joe Devance, and sophomore lead guard Mark Barroca.
Meantime, Barako Bull, one of the oldest teams in the pro league, got the much needed shot in the arm with the entry of Villanueva, Intal, high-leaping Allein Maliksi, and Jojo Duncil.
Maliksi, a former PBA D-League MVP, landed on Barako Bull’s lap from Barangay Ginebra.
“He’s a very good player and adds athleticism to the team,” said Barako Bull’s incoming coach Rajko Toroman of Maliksi, a former University of Santo Tomas gunner.
Even Toroman said his initial goal is to help his players fit into his system, which is characterized by a lot of ball movement and perimeter shooting.