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PBA: Kings battle Painters today

GINEBRA coach Frankie Lim (center) talks with his players during practice ahead of their match against Rain or Shine Friday in Dubai. (Tito S. Talao)

DUBAI – Whether Rain or Shine has enough left to rise to the challenge of back-to-back midnight games gets put to the test Friday when the Elasto Painters take on the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings 24 hours after going up against the Globalport Batang Pier at the Al Shabab Al Arabi Club here.

The Elasto Painters put their floundering start in the PBA Governors’ Cup in harm’s way when they agreed to play consecutive games in this scorching, sand-swept United Arab Emirates metropolis, taking a huge gamble in a bid to turn their fortune around after a 0-2 start.

At presstime Thursday, it remains unknown whether ROS has emerged triumphant in half of the gambit since its scheduled game with Globalport won’t be on until 8 p.m. here (12 midnight in Manila). Now the E-Painters, banged-up most likely from the clash with the Batang Pier, drag themselves back to the playing court to face a shorthanded but rested opponent led by a prodigious import and one of its famed Twin Towers.

And again battle will be waged in earnest until close to the witching hour of the following day (12 midnight to 2 a.m. Manila time).

“Ours is a unique situation,” said ROS coach Yeng Guiao, who is banking on winning both games to avoid getting buried by the field. “Although we have accepted the arrangement and embraced it, playing two straight games under a different environment can be very taxing.”

The E-Painters had two practice sessions and one walk-through in preparation for the Globalport game. Against Barangay Ginebra, a sleepwalk scrimmage on the day of the match will have to do.

“The morning walk-through (on Friday) will be our actual preparation for Ginebra,” Guiao said.

Increasing the odds against them, the ROS mentor believes, is having to share the same boat with the Kings.

“Ginebra (at 1-3) is also feeling some sense of urgency and trying to secure their confidence,” he said. “They don’t have [Greg] Slaughter, but if Japeth [Aguilar] plays, we’ll have a problem because his presence alone can provide additional encouragement.”

All four games the Kings have played so far saw the 7-foot Slaughter (ankle sprain) and the 6-foot-10 Aguilar (pulled hamstring) as highly-paid cheer leaders behind the bench. Slaughter skipped Ginebra’s Dubai rematch with Rain or Shine, but coach Frankie Lim brought along Aguilar to give them something to look up to other than the 829.8-meter high Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world.

“I think he can play,” said Lim on the bus ride to practice Wednesday afternoon. “Pero we’ll see pa rin kasi matagal din siyang di nakapag-ensayo e.”

With a protective elastic band wrapped tightly around his right thigh to minimize muscle contraction, Aguilar joined the Kings in a 60-minute workout, running sprints, doing laterals and shooting baskets. He underwent extensive leg stretching exercises afterward, every once in a while massaging his hamstrings and shaking his right leg.

“Meron pang sakit pag naglo-long strides ako,” he said when asked about any existing pain.

Even on limited minutes, Aguilar’s presence should be a huge lift for the Kings’ frontline, which has been alternating Dorian Peña, Dave Marcelo and Rodney Brondial at center spot. Still, Lim longs for the man who is the key to unleashing import Orlando Johnson’s full potential.

“Mahirap mawalan na malaki,” said Lim, who had to scramble after Slaughter twisted his ankle two days before the start of the third conference. “Nakaka-pressure ung defense sa mga tao sa labas dahil wala kaming inside presence. It will be a lot different pag andon si Japeth and Greg kasi meron na silang iniintindi sa ilalim.”

Like his Rain or Shine counterpart, Lim, who took over from Ato Agustin after the second conference Commissioner’s Cup, looks to get something started in this oil-rich Middle East desert oasis.

“Siempre yung mga players naga-adjust pa sa ‘kin, pati ako naga-adjust din sa kanila; di madali e,” said Lim, who has calendared Slaughter’s return for May 31 in time for their game with San Miguel Beer. “But I expect some good things to happen sooner than later. Sana maumpisahan dito sa Dubai para maganda sa pag balik namin.”

Meanwhile, PBA operations chief Rickie Santos said the proposed three-team trade involving Globalport (Kelly Nabong) Meralco (John Wilson) and NLEX has been put on hold pending resolution of certain questions regarding the Road Warriors’ capability to offer draft picks in exchange for Wilson.