TNT has embraced the challenge of vying in the PBA Season 48 Commissioner’s Cup with diminished firepower in the absence of its premier riflemen Mikey Williams and RR Pogoy.

Mr. Williams, the Tropang Giga’s top local scorer last season with 18.4 points a game, has yet to report to camp pending agreement with the team on terms of his contract while Mr. Pogoy, who was good for 18.3 markers, is sidelined by heart ailment.

“We have to be a better defensive team than last year because right now, we can’t outscore teams without our two leading scorers, Mikey and Roger. That’s (almost) 40 points a game so I don’t know how we’re going to compensate that,”  manager and coach Jojo Lastimosa said on PilipinasLive during yesterday’s PBA Media Day.

Prolific import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who averaged 30 in TNT’s Governors’ Cup championship run, is a given, of course. But the rest of locals like Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Calvin Oftana, vastly-improved Glen Khobuntin and veterans Jayson Castro, Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes will have to chip in to lessen Mr. Jefferson’s load.

“Hopefully, we get some guys into their roles and get more shots. Calvin will have a bigger role in terms of scoring, Glen probably after gaining a lot of confidence in the On Tour, and the rest of the guys will have to give us points,” said Mr. Lastimosa.

Now more than ever, Mr. Lastimosa is counting on TNT’s veteran brigade as the team faces adversity ahead of the new season.

“I rely on my veterans in the same way that when I was playing (in the 1990s for Alaska). I was one of the veterans coach Tim (Cone) relied upon to set the tone for the rest of the team,” he said.

“And that’s what I expect from Kelly, Ryan and Jayson and now Matt (Rosser) and Glen are getting into that kind of role…I think we’re fortunate we have solid veterans, high-character guys we can rely on, not necessarily in scoring, but providing leadership.”

TNT features in the lone matchup in the Nov. 5 opening at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, facing a Magnolia team fresh from its 11-game sweep of the PBA on Tour. — Olmin Leyba