By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FOLLOWING a successful run in the previous Philippine Basketball Association tournament where they finished runner-up, the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok make their Commissioner’s Cup debut, taking on the Alaska Aces in the scheduled double-header today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Set for 4:30 p.m., the Hotshots, bannered by returning PBA import John Fields in the reinforced tournament, look to get their campaign off to a good start against the Aces (2-2) who have it up and down so far.
Magnolia is back with the core that has led it to back-to-back finals appearances in the last two conferences.
Leading the way is Ian Sangalang, who was the team’s league scoring in the Philippine Cup where they finished runner-up to five-time champions San Miguel Beermen.
Also back are the crack backcourt trio of Paul Lee, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon.
Backstopping the Hotshots this time around is 31-year-old Fields, who suited up for Columbian Dyip last season.
In eight games for Columbian as a replacement import, Mr. Fields normed a solid double-double of 29.1 points and 19.1 rebounds while helping the team to a 4-7 record, 2-6 with him in tow.
He is coming off a stint in ASEAN Basketball League with the Singapore Slingers, which finished runner-up.
With the Hotshots, Mr. Fields is expected to shore up Magnolia’s front court as the team tries to make another run for a spot in the finals where it hopes to win a second PBA title in three conferences.
Out to derail Magnolia in its Commissioner’s Cup debut is Alaska, which is still finding consistency in winning after having played four games.
The Aces are coming off a 100-87 victory over the NLEX Road Warriors on May 29.
Alaska banked on a total effort to book the win with Jeron Teng top-scoring with 20 points to go along with 15 rebounds.
Import Chris Daniels had 17 points and 12 rebounds while Chris Banchero also had 17 markers.
JVee Casio, Simon Enciso and Carl Bryan Cruz each had 10 points for the Aces in the win.
BEERMEN ALSO DEBUT
Also making its Commissioner’s Cup debut today is San Miguel, which is to face the Northport Batang Pier (3-1) in the 7 p.m. main game.
As Philippine Cup champions, the Beermen have another shot at the rare PBA Grand Slam.
To help the team in its push, San Miguel has brought back import Charles Rhodes who helped the Beermen to the title two seasons ago.
Apart from leading the Beermen to the title, Mr. Rhodes, 33, was also named best import in said conference for his steady solid play on both ends of the court.
Mr. Rhodes is rejoining the San Miguel crew of June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos as well as Christian Standhardinger and Terrence Romeo.
Meeting the Beermen at the door are the Batang Pier, who absorbed their first defeat in the tournament in their last game.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters has made an import change after just two games in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup, dropping the injured Rob Dozier for Richard Howell.
Mr. Dozier is suffering from plantar fasciitis which has hampered mobility, and, hence, his effectivity on the court.
In two games this conference, Mr. Dozier averaged 17 points and 14 rebounds.
Mr. Howell is a former best import awardee who helped TNT reach the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup in 2014.