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PBA: TnT vs Air21

RYAN Reyes and Calvin Abueva

by Waylon Galvez

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City)
3:30 p.m. – Globalport vs Alaska
5:45 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Air21

Manila, Philippines – Talk ’N Text and Air21, coming off impressive wins in the opener, dispute the early lead when they clash today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Denied of a record fourth straight Philippine Cup title after losing to eventual champion San Mig Super Coffee in the quarters, the Texters are hoping to make another run in their bid to return to the top.

Though the Texters have a plethora of stars, focus will be on veteran forward Rommel “KG” Cañaleta as he goes up against his former team.

The high-flying forward said his special friendship with some players of the Express will have to take a backseat when they tangle at 5:45, saying nothing is personal.

“Wala naman ako specific na kung kanino ako close, siguro masasabi ko na close naman ako sa lahat sa Air21, sa buong team. Pero pag dating sa game, wala munang kaibi-kaibigan. Trabaho lang muna. Siyempre, gusto ko din maka-tulong sa team ko ngayon para manalo,” added Canaleta.

TNT got Cañaleta from Air21 in exchange for Sean Anthony, rookie Eliud Poligrates and a 2016 first round pick just before the Texters opened their quarterfinal playoff against the Mixers last conference.

“I’m excited to face my former team,” said the 6-foot-5 Cañaleta, who also had stints with Purefoods (now San Mig Super Coffee) and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel so playing a former team for the first time isn’t new to the 33-year-old player.

Of the two, it was TNT which won impressively, blowing away defending champion Alaska, 85-72.

The Express, on the other hand, went to import Herve Laminaza in the final half to turn back Globalport, 83-78, in a win that spoiled the coaching debut of Pido Jarencio for the Batang Pier.

Globalport and Alaska, meantime, duel at 3:30 p.m. in a game expected to be intense as both teams are aching to bounce back.

Laminaza collected 22 points and 10 rebounds, while TNT import Richard Howell finished with 15 points and a season-high 30 rebounds.

In that game, Canaleta started at the small forward spot and finished with nine points and four boards.

While he has yet perfected coach Norman Black’s system, Cañaleta was thankful for his American coach for being patient to him.

“Medyo hirap, sa ngayon medyo nangangapa pa ng konti,” said Canaleta, a five-time champion in the Slam Dunk contest of the PBA All-Star and Most Improved Player of the PBA last Season.

“Ang maganda lang sa TNT is hindi naman ako pine-pressure ni coach Norman, hindi lang ako kasi ‘yung inaasahan sa team. So sabi ni coach, laruin ko lang usual game ko. Pero ang goal ko is maging consistent sa performance, ‘yun ang challenge ko sa sarili,” added Canaleta.

Knowing Cañaleta full well, Black is confident the former University of the East star will become one of the team’s go-to-guys.

“Canaleta will be one of our main scorers this conference,” said Black.

Black is not taking Air21 lightly despite having a superior lineup, saying they still need to play with the aggressiveness particularly on the defensive end to get a good result.

“Our defense is much better. We played good defense the entire game (opposite Alaska), which is what we need versus Air21,” said Black.