JUST three days after joining Baranga Ginebra in a trade, Sol Mercado admitted he didn't expect to play as long as he did against Alaska on Friday night.
“I’m just a little surprised," said the six-foot Fil-Am guard. "Just kinda went with the flow of the game, and just give my all every minute because coach puts a lot of trust in me."
The 35 minutes Mercado got in his debut against Alaska may have been forced upon Frankie Lim owing to a rotation depleted by injuries, but it may also be indicative of the plans the new Ginebra coach has for the bull-strong guard.
There were initial doubts when Ginebra gave up Joseph Yeo to get Mercado from Barako Bull in a one-on-one swap, which were understandable since both are guards with more or less the same games.
There was also the fact that Mercado has bounced around the league in his first eight seasons in the pro league, playing for five different teams and unable to keep away from being traded.
But judging from Mercado's debut, the 31-year-old guard looked a perfect fit for Ginebra and the kind of run-and-gun game Lim wants the league's most popular team to play under his reign.
Although he still looked tentative at times, Mercado still scored eight points, dished out eight assists and, more importantly, added a much-needed bounce to Ginebra's ageing backcourt.
The sight of Mercado pushing the ball downcourt at every opportunity and putting pressure on ball handlers should be a welcome sight for Lim, who demands exactly that from his guards.
There is also Mercado's deeper commitment to defense, which Lim earlier told Spin.ph convinced him to gamble on the PBA journeyman.
“We closed in at two points till they (Alaska Aces) got back-to-back shots, so now, we gotta focus on getting stops,” Mercado said. “Just little things that I’m sure coach pays attention to.”
“When we closed in at two (points), we didn’t get the stops we needed then we missed a a couple of free throws and a couple of offensive rebounds we gave up,” Mercado added.
“I think it’s just first game jitters. It’s a new system and we got a little tense, and they (Aces) just got off to a quick start,” he said. “Other than that, we showed we won’t give up and we won’t go down without a fight.”