TNT fixes import issues as Miller stands in for RHJ after Converge
TNT has sorted out its import mess and the moment it tangles with Magnolia on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum, an unpredictable and wild-and-woolly season in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) will get going.
In the middle of all of that, Tony Bishop hopes to prove his worth as a replacement for a well-loved import who plays for the league’s most-loved squad.
Quincy Miller will take the place of an ailing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as the gravely short-handed Tropang Giga face the Hotshots in the lone game at 7 p.m., with both teams hoping to start the season on a winning note and prove their worth as among the preseason favorites.
Miller was tapped to reinforce TNT after his request for a release was granted by his ex-team Converge and met Saturday’s 12-noon deadline set by the league.
“It’s huge for us [having Miller] because he already has developed chemistry with the guys,” TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa said after the switch was made.
Miller has played two games for the Tropang Giga as their second import in the East Asia Super League and will bring his reinforcement role over to the PBA to fill in Hollis-Jefferson, who is suffering from gastroenteritis.
Bishop, the former Meralco import, will head over to Barangay Ginebra and sub for Justin Brownlee, the naturalized Filipino who will miss as many games as it will take to resolve a flunked drug test during the Asian Games (Asiad). Brownlee tested positive for a banned substance after leading the Philippines to its first Asiad basketball gold after six decades.
Bishop is more than ready to anchor the Kings and is aware of the expectations he will shoulder.
“Honestly, I don’t feel any pressure,” he said in a radio interview with Power and Play on Saturday. “I know that this is a historic club. Again, I know they have many championships like the Lakers. The standard is to win. I’ve won championships as well so I know what it takes to win a championship.”
“I don’t know the extent of the situation and how long it will be. But getting back to the Philippines is a blessing,” Bishop said. “Not many players get another call to come back to the Philippines to play. I was fortunate enough to come back to Meralco, but I’m excited to be here, now.”
Bishop and the Kings will have more time to get acquainted with each other—or reacquainted, considering the depth of the Ginebra-Meralco rivalry in the Governors’ Cup. Ginebra and San Miguel will have a late start to the season to allow their players to recover from their stints with the national team in the Asian Games.
TNT will have only one player who saw action with the Philippine team in Calvin Oftana and right away, Lastimosa and his wards will duel a Magnolia squad that is coming off an 11-game sweep of the PBA On Tour, a two-month exhibition series that filled vacated playdates in a lengthy offseason due to the country’s hosting of the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
“The On Tour is different from the regular season. We know that and they know that. This is where the real tournament begins,” said Lastimosa, who will be missing top gun Mikey Williams, who has yet to re-up with the Tropang Giga. TNT will also be without starters RR Pogoy and Poy Erram, who are out because of health concerns.
Still, TNT will enter the season looking to compete against heavyweight foes like the defending champion Gin Kings and the San Miguel Beermen.
Meralco also came close to the championship and hopes to finally cross the finish line this time, while NLEX hopes to get out of its usual middle-to-lower-tier billing.
Independent teams Converge and Rain or Shine are also looking at playing spoilers while Phoenix and NorthPort will bank on their young rosters in a bid to get themselves in playoff position.
And can Blackwater and Terrafirma, the former under a new coach and the latter stockpiling rookies including top pick Stephen Holt, get out of their dismal records the last two seasons?
Who will be last season’s Most Valuable Player during the Season 47 Leo Awards that will kick things off before all teams parade with their muses for the official opening of the new season? What will Bishop bring to the table for the Kings?
“My first time here was getting my feet wet, getting aggressive and learning from (then coach) Norman Black, Chris Newsome and Chris Banchero. I was just really trying to understand the PBA and the way games were played, what imports do in these games,” he said. “Now that I know everything about the league, its fans, and you know what I have to bring to the table each and every night, I am now more ready than the first year I was here.”