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Returning McDaniels faces major test

Games Friday

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

3 p.m. — Bay Area vs Meralco

5:45 p.m. — NorthPort vs Rain or Shine

Returning KJ McDaniels faces an early test when he reinforces Meralco against leader Bay Area in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

McDaniels, a former National Basketball Association campaigner, returns to action for the first time since powering NLEX in the season-ending Governors’ Cup last year when he leads the Bolts in their 3 p.m. battle against the Dragons.

With a 1-5 win-loss card, things are looking bleak for the Bolts to make the playoffs unless they put together a string of victories and it must start against the visiting squad, which had won six of its first seven matches to virtually secure a spot in the quarterfinals.

McDaniels could be the answer to Meralco’s woes.

He first saw action in 2019 and nearly led TNT Tropang Giga to the championship round until falling prey to Allen Durham and Meralco in the semifinals.
He made a return last year to play for the Road Warriors, leading them to a second-best record in the eliminations. Unfortunately for NLEX, he had to cut short his mission as he returned to the United States midway into the tournament to attend to an urgent family matter.

McDaniels will not only play the role as the last action hero for the Bolts, but he will use this as an early test to potentially lock his spot as their reinforcement for the Governors’ Cup.

For Bay Area, it’s going to be business as usual as the two-week break had somehow allowed it to recharge and refocus on achieving its mission of becoming the latest visiting team to win a PBA title.

No other visiting squad since Nicholas Stoodley, which bagged the title in 1980, had won a PBA championship and the Dragons are hoping to join that exclusive company.

The Northern Consolidated team, which represented our Philippine men’s basketball team in major international competition before the core of the team joined the PBA, was the last guest squad to win a title in Asia’s pioneering professional basketball league.

Meanwhile, Rain or Shine and NorthPort try to wriggle free from a three-way logjam from eighth to 10th spots as they shoot for a win at each other’s expense in the main game at 5:45 p.m.

The Elasto Painters and the Batang Pier carry the same record of 3-4 alongside idle TNT, making this game as a crucial encounter.

For the Elasto Painters, they are going to need a more consistent performance from Steve Taylor Jr., who remains to be under fire from team management and coaching staff.

Taylor has been averaging only 20 points on top of 16.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.3 steals, but his ability to take over when needed remains to be a suspect and head coach Yeng Guiao had certainly made it clear that he has such a high expectation on the reinforcement.

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