(Mall of Asia Arena)
3 p.m. — Magnolia vs Terrafirma
5:45 p.m. — Ginebra vs Rain or Shine
Call it a blessing in disguise, super typhoon “Karding” gave Barangay Ginebra San Miguel an extra time to prepare for its first game in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.
But now that the clouds are gone and the sun is shining, the Kings are finally ready to march to battle to make their debut and test their new weapons against a Rain or Shine side that will be guided by the mentor responsible for their two PBA titles.
Game time is at 5:45 p.m. following the 3 p.m. encounter between Magnolia and Terrafirma at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Kings are coming in with high-powered arsenal.
Seasoned reinforcement Justin Brownlee will be back for his ninth conference with five titles and a pair of Best Import honors under his belt.
In fact, the 34-year-old former St. John’s University star has been in the country as early as three weeks ago when San Miguel Beer and TNT Tropang Giga were still slugging it out in the Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals showdown.
Brownlee, the second winningest import in league history, has been working double time as he attends the Kings’ practices while gracing the workouts of Gilas Pilipinas every Monday in preparation for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in November.
But Brownlee is not the lone weapon that the Kings will display.
New recruits Jamie Malonzo and Von Pessumal are also tipped to go all out as they were given extra days to get themselves integrated to the system of Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Malonzo and Pessumal, who were plucked in a blockbuster three-team deal that saw the league’s most popular team unload four players in Arvin Tolentino, Jeff Chan, Prince Caperal and Kent Salado, are expected to contribute as soon as they walk out of the tunnel.
Cone said he had already reserved a special role for Malonzo, an explosive Filipino-American swingman from De La Salle University.
“He’s gonna start, no doubt,” Cone said, adding that he had already defined the roles that his new recruits are going to play.
“Von, on the other hand, can provide us that extra firepower we need coming off the bench. So, to get these players, we need to unload four, including Jeff Chan, who was so valuable for us when we won the championship last season.”
With Brownlee and Malonzo at the frontcourt together with the solid cast of Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson, Ginebra will be a solid force to be reckoned with, giving the Elasto Painters a hard time picking their first win in Guiao’s second tour of duty.
Focus will also be on Ginebra’s sister team — Magnolia.
Bringing in an energy guy has been the trademark of Magnolia coach Chito Victolero and Nick Rakocevic, a 6-foot-9 United States-born Serbian, is another white import who could bring explosiveness and leadership on the floor.
Victolero sees Rakocevic as someone who could provide the added energy needed by the Hotshots.
He is tipped to join forces with Ian Sangalang, Jackson Corpuz, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon in generating activities on both ends that will be crucial in replicating the success they had in the Governors’ Cup four years ago.
Calvin Abueva, however, will be a game-time decision due to a low-grade muscle strain near the groin.
“He’s like a bigger version of Calvin Abueva. When it comes to providing energy, he’ll definitely give it to our team,” said Victolero, referring to the 24-year-old reinforcement, who suited up for Serbia in the 2017 FIBA Europe U20 Championship.
Rakocevic, a former University of Southern California star, first played in the Chinese Basketball Association where he averaged 13 points and 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.