NOT taking chances, the Star Hotshots have decided to stay overnight in Angeles City ahead of a PBA Governors Cup road game against KIA Carnival on Saturday.
Angeles City is just 83 kilometers away and about an hour's drive from Manila, and teams normally make the travel to the Northern Luzon city before and after games.
But not the Hotshots, who are reeling from four successive losses and are in danger of losing the only jewel remaining from their historic grand slam last season.
According to team governor Rene Pardo, coach Tim Cone has ordered the players to leave their cars in Manila as the entire team made the trip to Angeles City in a single bus.
Pardo said the Hotshots will spend the time to polish their plays and at the same time bond. At the same time, the bus trip and overnight stay will ensure everyone stays focused before the game.
Cone has in fact held practice at the Angeles University Foundation gym ahead of the Saturday game against KIA.
“Desisyon ni coach Tim, normally ginagawa niya 'yan. At the same time, bonding time with their players, we did not require them to bring their cars,” said Pardo.
“Though we are not yet pressing the panic button, we see to it na lahat ng game importante sa amin. 'Pag 1-4 (win-loss) ang standing mo, wala ka nang leeway para mag relax,” he said.
Asked what seems to be bothering the once-dominant team, Pardo enumerated a litany of woes.
“Walang actual na nagba-bother sa team. The shooters are not clicking, both James (Yap) and Nonoy (Peter June) Simon have been checked by our opponents. 'Pag tinignan mo field goal percentage ng dalawa, hindi maganda,” said Pardo.
“Saka ang daming may injuries sa amin. Nabawasan ang rotation ni coach Tim. Si (Yousef) Taha, si (Allein) Maliksi, they’re injured,” he said.
Pardo bared that power forward Marc Pingris is also playing through pain from a swollen hand.
“Si Maliksi kakabalik lang sa laro last game. Si Taha, injured pa rin. Si Ian Sangalang, hindi pa rin available to play. Tapos Pingris has a swollen hand. He’s playing hurt,” he said.
“Si Ping nga hindi mahawakan ang bola. But he has recovered,” he added.
Still, Pardo said he is happy with the performance of Star in its last two games despite the losses.
“Ito to be honest, I am happy with what I saw in my team the last two games. Andun na ulit ang aggressiveness at effort,” he said.
“Pero we really have to play it one game at a time. Same way we did when we fell 1-5 (win-loss) in the Philippine Cup last year, which we ruled,” he said.
Star has all the reasons to be wary of KIA, which is currently in second place in the standings and has beaten Star in the past.
The Carnival, too, will be spending the night in Angeles City.
“Ayaw namin mag-relax. We decided to stay here para masiguro na hindi pagod ang players when we play tomorrow,” said Kia assistant team manager Jo Ramos, who bared the team also practiced at the AUF gym on Friday afternoon.