Games Today (Binan, Laguna)
3 p.m. – Blackwater vs Talk ‘N Text
5:15 p.m. – Barangay Ginebra vs Barako Bull
BINAN, Laguna – Gilas Pilipinas center Marcus Douthit makes an impromptu return to the Philippine Basketball Association today even as Barako Bull, along with Talk Text, guns for a 3-team share of early leadership in the Commissioner’s Cup against enigmatic Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
The Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna will host the 3 p.m. curtainraiser between the Blackwater Elite – who tapped the 7-foot naturalized Philippine team player as a stand-in import – and, ironically, Talk ‘N Text, followed by the featured game pitting the Barako Bull Energy against the Barangay Ginebra Kings at 5:15 p.m.
TNT and Barako Bull are coming off debuting wins and can tie the hot-starting Meralco Bolts on top with follow-up victories. The Tropang Texters turned back Rain or Shine, 89-86, while the Energy overwhelmed the import-less Elite, 92-70.
The Tropang Texters will have to deal with a familiarly daunting figure, however, when they take on the Elite.
Its conference off to a bad start after 7-foot import Chris Charles was injured during a scrimmage with Globalport just before the opening and sat out the game against Barako Bull, Blackwater came knocking on Douthit’s door.
Surprised as he was by the unexpected call-up, the former Los Angeles Laker and longtime Gilas Pilipinas player felt intrigued enough to say yes and the Elite lost no time securing the approval of both the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
Things must be looking up for Blackwater since FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann was in the country for a couple of days at the close of the FIBA Evaluation Commission’s assessment of the country’s preparedness to host the 2019 World Cup, while SBP president Manny V. Pangilinan, who bankrolls the Gilas program, probably posed no objection.
Needless to say, Blackwater got the green light and immediately suited up Douthit, who saw action briefly with the Air21 Express in 2013 and for Gilas in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, for its next assignment – Talk ‘N Text, which, amusingly, Pangilinan owns.
Douthit told Spin.ph that he never expected to be playing in the PBA again, but added he hopes to whip himself up into competitive form as fast as he could.
“I am quite surprised, not very excited, to play in the PBA today. I had no intentions of playing in the PBA until 24 hours ago,” he said.
“But I’m used to it. That’s how my stint has been, being dumped into that kind of situation, so no surprise now. I haven’t played basketball for months, but I’ll try to bring back my old form. I am only 75 percent of my old self. But I’m trying to get it back.”
The current batch of imports, including comebacking TNT reinforcement Richard Howell, holds no fear for him, Douthit said.
“I’m not worried about nobody out there. I’ve played against the best in the world, so there’s nobody out there that surprises me,” he said.
Douthit could be around longer than he expects though if reports are true that Charles would need at least two more weeks of rest for his hamstring and ankle injuries.
Barangay Ginebra, on the other hand, may have some reason to worry when it faces Barako Bull and its Sol-mates, 7-foot Solomon Alabi and hard-driving guard Sol Mercado.
Not only did the Kings fell badly against the Meralco Bolts, 85-74, on opening day at the Mall of Asia Arena, they also gave future opponents confidence against Ginebra’s supposedly imposing frontline.
Meralco, whose tallest player is 6-foot-7 import Josh Davis, outrebounded the Kings, 57-48, and came out with a defensive effort that held three Ginebra starters to 5 points, with 6-foot-10 Japeth Aguilar, reportedly nursing a slight hamstring pull, scoreless in just 12 minutes.
The Bolts, as a consequence, outscored the Kings, 21-2, in second chance attempts.
LA Tenorio was 1 of 12 from the floor that evening while Joseph Yeo was 0 of 8, a most puzzling event for the Ginebra coaches.
Priding themselves as a run-and-gun team, one of the reasons perhaps why former mentor Ato Agustin was again tasked to call the shots and two-conference coach Jeff Cariaso, who preached the structured triangle offense, was let go, the Kings, astonishingly, compiled just 3 points (to Meralco’s 4) from fast breaks and gave up a 13-5 disadvantage in turnover points.
The Kings game, on one hand, should provide Barako Bull a true measure of the value of its top two players. Alabi had 21 points and 22 rebounds while Mercado had 20 on his first game with the Energy after getting traded by Globalport for Denok Miranda, but the high numbers were posted with Charles on the bench and before Douthit got the call.
A stirred-up Ginebra should provide an excellent acid test.