Powerhouse Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and retooled TNT KaTropa clash in the opening day of Season 44 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup tonight at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Prior to the lone 6:30 p.m. game, Pinoy hoops fans are expecting June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer to bag his fifth straight Season MVP trophy in the Leo Prieto Season 43 Awards at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, Ginebra Grand slam coach Tim Cone said that TNT KaTropa is eager to prove that it is still formidable even without three-time scoring champion Terrence Romeo.
“I think they are going to be really a motivated team,” Cone told reporters. “They moved Terrence Romeo to San Miguel and I think it was an addition by subtraction move.”
“You want to prove anybody that it was a right move, that they can thrive without him and they can be a team without him. What better stage than the opening game against the crowd darlings to make their statement. We feel that they are going to be motivated in the first game to show how good they can be,” he said.
TNT must deal more than the absence of Romeo, as it must start the season without two more players namely Troy Rosario and Yousef Taha. Rosario and Taha are still nursing a broken nose and a forehead cut, respectively.
“Good luck to us. We’re up against Barangay Ginebra and a massive crowd. So we just have to be ready and hopefully we come up strong. We will be the underdog in this game,” TNT coach Bong Ravena told The Manila Times.
TNT will field in new players David Semerad and Brian Heruela. The two were acquired in exchange of Romeo on December 22. Another recent addition, Michael Miranda, will be manning the paint for the KaTropa.
Jayson Castro, RR Garcia and Jericho Cruz are expected to lead TNT’s charge.
The Gin Kingswill rely on Japeth Aguilar and the 7-footer Greg Slaughter to patrol the shaded lane while LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, Sol Mercado and Kevin Ferrer will fortify Ginebra’s backcourt.
JOSEF T. RAMOS