Action in the midseason tournament Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup is now in full swing with all competing teams having taken the hardwood.
And since it is an import-laden tournament, attention has been channelled to the reinforcements seeing action, which this space finds to be a solid bunch.
The Blackwater Elite are currently on top of the standings with a 5-1 record and a big part of it is having a fitting import in Alex Stepheson.
Stepheson, who is in his second tour of duty in the PBA, has been a double-double machine for the Elite with numbers of 22.2 points and 22 rebounds per game to go along with 2.2 blocks in six games to date.
He has a firm grasp of his role and what is needed from him by the team, allowing for a seamless dynamic with the locals which, in turn, is producing favorable results.
Second-running are the TNT KaTropa and Northport Batang Pier with identical records of 4-1.
They have opposing kinds of imports in Terrence Jones and Prince Ibeh but both are proving to be steady catalysts that help their teams make things happen.
Carrying the most impressive credentials among the current imports, having played and had solid years in the National Basketball Association, Jones is certainly living up to the hype with impressive numbers of 34.2 points (first in the league), 15.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.8 steals.
His on-court temper is a concern every now and then but he has been focused for the most part and the rest of the KaTropa are following his lead.
Ibeh scores the least points among the imports with at least two games but he is making up for it in other ways.
He has been good for 15.6 points per game but averages 17.4 rebounds and 3.6 blocks, which is turning out to what the doctor prescribed for the Batang Pier which has seen offense from the locals humming with at least four players averaging 12 points or more.
The Alaska Aces are in fourth spot with a 4-2 card and they are going about it their methodical way, enhanced by import Chris Daniels.
Compared to other imports Daniels is not athletic or overpowering but has a good understanding of the game and the Alaska system.
It remains to be seen if his numbers of 20.2 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.2 apg and 2 bpg are enough to carry the Aces over the hump. But the team is winning — three in a row right now — so maybe it is.
The Meralco Bolts (3-3) have had it roller-coaster so far but constant is reinforcement Gani Lawal Jr.
Lawal has shown go-to qualities in six games and producing the numbers — 28.5 points and 22 rebounds — but may need to involve his teammates more if they are to go places.
Defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (2-2) and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (2-2) have decided to go for the tried-and-tested and brought in former best import awardees Justin Brownlee and Denzel Bowles, respectively.
And the two teams have seen their decision pay off, never mind if they are currently experiencing a slow start.
Despite being among the smaller imports, Brownlee has been producing all-around numbers as expected with 33.3 points, 11.8 rebounds, six assists, 2.8 steals and 2.3 blocks per contest.
He has his teammates believing in him, rightly so, and it is not really a question of will the Kings pick things up but more of when.
Bowles, meanwhile, has been good for 27.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.8 blocks per.
The Elasto Painters opened their campaign with two straight losses but has won back-to-back since with Bowles having a hand in them which bodes well for the team moving forward.
The Columbian Dyip (1-3) and Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters (1-3) were forced to reconsider their original choices for imports for varying reasons and they are hopeful they finally got the person they need.
Columbian had a steady import in Kyle Barone (27 ppg, 15 rpg, 3 apg, 1.5 bpg and 1.3 spg) but just could not catch a break the way they wanted to and is now turning to Lester Prosper for answer.
Rob Dozier got injured after just two games with Phoenix which now has Richard Howell (17.5 ppg, 10 rpg and 2 apg) in tow. It seemingly is still in feeling-it-out mode with its new import so it is still wait-and-see.
The San Miguel Beermen (0-2) and NLEX Road Warriors (0-5) have yet to barge into the win column but have imports in Charles Rhodes (23.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg. 2.5 bpg and 2 spg) and Tony Mitchell (31 ppg, 11.7 rpg), respectively, who can crank it up once in the groove.
John Fields of the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok (0-1) struggled to just 12 points and six rebounds in his debut but the team remains hopefully he can bounce back; and rightfully so considering how solid he was with Columbian in his first tour of duty in the PBA.
An import-laden tournament and the Commissioner’s Cup has a solid bunch of them. And the good thing about it is that it is just start and we could well expect more from these players as things progress.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.