(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – TNT vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Star vs Meralco
Talk ’N Text will have to settle playing its first game to open its title retention campaign with an all-local crew as the Tropang Texters face the Blackwater Elite when action resumes for the second conference PBA Commissioner’s Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT’s temperamental import Ivan Johnson will serve a one-game suspension for punching Blackwater center JP Erram and shoving the former’s back up Frank Golla in a tune-up game last week.
The incident also fined the 6-foot-8 bruiser P50,000 from league Commissioner Chito Narvasa.
“Well ganun talaga, we just have to find ways to win without our import,” said Tropang Texters mentor Jong Uichico.
“We just have to give extra effort, play our usual game.”
The game between TNT and Blackwater is scheduled at 4:15 p.m., while also debuting in the opening day of the import-flavored conference are the Star Hotshots and the Meralco Bolts at 7 p.m.
Johnson helped TNT win the Commissioner’s Cup last season with a double OT victory against Rain or Shine (121-119).
The former Atlanta Hawk averaged nearly 27 points, 13 rebounds and two steals in his initial conference in Asia’s first professional league.
Aside from Johnson, TNT will also miss the services of 6-7 rookie forward Troy Rosario, who is recovering from a shoulder injury he sustained during the team’s last game in the Philippine Cup.
One positive thing going for the Tropang Texters is the return of veteran forward Ranidel de Ocampo, who missed all but one of the games in the elimination round of the all-Filipino conference due to a back injury.
The 6-foot-5 De Ocampo will join other TNT mainstays like Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Harvey Carey, Danny Seigle and top rookie pick Moala Tautuaa.
The Elite meantime will parade MJ Rhett, a former Mississippi stalwart who – at 6-9 – Blackwater coach Leo Isaac likens to Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh because of his ability to play inside and outside.
The 23-year-old Rhett recently played for the BK Barons KVartals Riga in the Latvian League where he posted averages of 10.6 points and 8.1 rebounds in almost 26 minutes of action.