DIAMON Simpson feels good to be back to a team he considers as ‘family.’
More so now that he’s surrounded with a roster which he thinks is pretty much ‘more talented’ than the one he played with the first time he was here.
“It’s good to be back, the PBA is one of my favorite places, especially with the Aces which is like a family organization,” said Simpson, back in the country eight years after guiding the Alaska franchise to the PBA Fiesta Conference championship at the expense of San Miguel.
“This team is really talented. I would say our team is better than when we won it a few years ago,” he added. “Talent-wise there’s a lot of players, like tonight, I didn’t work as hard because a lot of players are good.”
Veteran Sonny Thoss is the lone holdover from that successful 2010 team which won Alaska’s last championship under former coach Tim Cone.
Thoss only had seven points and seven rebounds in Alaska’s 114-91 beating of Phoenix Friday night at the Astrodome that clinched for the team the No. 2 seed in the Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
Yet despite the moderate output by the veteran big man, Simpson got plenty of help both offensively and defensively.
Vic Manuel again came through with 28 points and eight rebounds to complement the 18-point, 19-rebound effort of Simpson, while three other players led by Chris Banchero submitted double-figure output for the Aces.
The 30-year-old import, who took over the slot of NBA Summer League-bound Antonio Campbell, likes Alaska’s chances of having another shot at a championship, although he’s aware competition in the league has become tougher compared to eight years ago.
“If we win, that’s a plus. But I think we just have to focus on playing hard and playing as hard as we can,” he said. “There’s some really good teams (out here).”
“You know we’re in second place which is easier when I won the last time. So we’ll see," Simpson said.