RAIN or Shine starts its new campaign without two key players, but coach Yeng Guiao is positive the Painters have enough firepower to overcome an Air21 side oozing confidence as they begin their campaigns in the PBA Governors Cup on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jervy Cruz and Chris Tiu are out with knee injuries, but the Elasto Painters enter the 5:45 p.m. match with former Best Import Arizona Reid leading the way.
The hardworking Reid averaged 30.4 points, 14.0 rebounds on 4.1 assists in last season’s Governors Cup, although Rain or Shine failed to retain its crown and bowed to Petron in the semifinals.
Reid worked out with the Elasto Painters last week and Guiao said the American remains a solid go-to-guy and is close to top form.
“AZ is in shape. I think he’s about 95 percent in shape. He can score, defend and is familiar with the team,” Guiao said.
The short-handed Elasto Painters, however, face a tough task against the confident Express, who are coming off a franchise-best fourth place finish in the second conference.
Man-mountain center Asi Taulava remains a force to reckon with, averaging 17.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in the team’s semifinal series against eventual Commissioner’s Cup champion San Mig.
Air21 will be reinforced by Dominique Sutton, who played for Kansas State and later on for North Carolina Central in college.
Express coach Franz Pumaren describes Sutton as a high-energy player who can complement Taulava on the frontline.
“He’s different compared to Wes Witherspoon (Air21’s import in the second conference). He’s known for his physicality and energy and that’s what he’ll provide for the team,” said Pumaren.
Sean Anthony, one of the key players in the Express’ run in the Commissioner’s Cup before going down with an Achilles strain in the semifinals, remains out and is expected to miss at least the first three games of the Governors Cup.