ANTIPOLO CITY – It was a risk NLEX has to take if it is to crowd the likes of San Miguel, TnT Katropa, and Barangay Ginebra for the PBA Governors Cup championship.
That, in essence, was the reason behind the Road Warriors' gamble to replace old-hand Olu Ashaolu with highly-touted Manny Harris despite carrying a winning record halfway through the team’s elimination-round campaign.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said Olu is not really doing bad, having steered the team to a 4-1 record before management decided to let him go in favor of the 30-year-old Harris.
“Although Olu was an offensive threat inside, we felt that the other imports playing outside, being quicker, being able to shoot the outside shots, we felt that we have to find somebody who can match up with that,” said Guiao after the Road Warriors' 117-111 win over Columbian Dyip in Harris’ league debut at the Ynares Center.
“We took a gamble actually. Olu was really doing well for us, he brought us to where we are right now. Pero yun sumugal kami.”
Guiao didn’t specifically mention any names, although he was obviously referring to the likes of KJ McDaniels of TnT Katropa, San Miguel’s Dezmine Wells, Barangay Ginebra’s old reliable Justine Brownlee, Meralco’s two-time Best Import Allen Durham, and Romeo Travis of defending champion Magnolia.
The NLEX coach admitted Harris, who previously played with Cleveland, LA Lakers, and Dallas in the NBA, has been on the team’s radar for a long time now.
“Ni-recommend ito (Harris) ni Kiefer (Ravena). Matagal na niyang binabanggit ito, pero hindi siya available,” disclosed Guiao.
“Pero nung kinontact namin, available siya so we felt this was the right time already even if Olu is doing well. If we had waited longer, he might have been somewhere else.”
Despite having not played in the last six months, Harris still didn’t disappoint, contributing 45 points, five rebounds, and four assists while shooting 15-of-28 from the field in the win over Columbian.
Guiao was pleased to see the gamble payoff, at least for now.
“So this is a big risk but it seems to me that after one game, it’s worth the risk. The gamble we took was worth it,” he stressed.