MAGNOLIA Pambansang Manok hopes to sustain the gains of its first finals stint in the last four years when it makes its PBA Commissioner’s Cup debut against Phoenix on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Hotshots parade returning import Vernon Macklin in their 4:30 encounter with the Fuel Masters (1-1), seeing action for the first time after losing to the San Miguel Beermen in Game 5 of the Philippine Cup Finals a month ago.
Coach Chito Victolero admitted the team is yet in top condition after just resuming practice two weeks ago.
“We’ll just try to bring back the rhythm and timing of our players,” he said as the Hotshots went on a two-week break following the title series loss to the Beermen, 4-1, in their first finals apeparance since the grand slam season in 2014.
“And also the chemistry of our locals with (import) Vernon Macklin.”
The 31-year-old Macklin, who previously suited up for Barangay Ginebra, however, was among the first imports who arrived in the country early for the mid-season conference. He was already in town during the the All-Filipino finals.
In contrast, the Fuel Masters had already been off and running for two weeks now along with import James White that saw them split their first two games.
After beating Blackwater, 107-102, Phoenix dropped a 98-106 decision to TnT Katropa in a pair of games where the Fuel Masters both struggled playing in the third quarter.
Coach Louie Alas said the team can’t afford to do the same mistake against a talent-laden squad like Magnolia.
“Siguro kasama rin ako, marami pa kaming immaturities. Kailangan mabawasan namin yan,” he said.
“Doable naman,” added the Phoenix coach of his team’s prospect opposite the Hotshots. “We just have to play 48 minutes kung ano yung nilalaro namin in the first half, kailangan ganun kami hanggang dulo.”