4:15 p.m. – Star vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Tropang TNT vs Alaska
The pursuit of that ice-breaking first win continues for the Star Hotshots and the Alaska Aces today even as defending champion Tropang TNT puts behind the forgettable saga of Ivan Johnson in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Star, winless in three starts, takes on the breakout Blackwater Elite at 4:15 p.m., while Alaska, 0-1, faces Tropang TNT at 7 p.m., with the Elite looking to grab solo second place from a four-way tie with the Globalport Batang Pier, NLEX Road Warriors and Mahindra Enforcers behind the unbeaten Meralco Bolts (4-0).
Johnson was suspended for the rest of the season by PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa, a downgrade of sanction from an earlier lifetime ban, after a flare-up in the TNT-Meralco game where the hot-tempered former Atlanta Hawks player paved the way for his early departure by hitting Kelly Nabong and Bryan Faundo and then badmouthing Narvasa.
As a consequence, the PBA hit Johnson, who served a one-game suspension in TNT’s opening loss to Blackwater for punching two Elite players in a tuneup game, with a lifetime ban and fined him P250,000, both reduced since to a yearlong sentence and P150,000 after Johnson sought an audience with Narvasa and apologized.
TNT can bring back Johnson next season if it so chooses.
Without a reinforcement to match explosiveness with Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle, the Tropa fell to the Batang Pier last Friday, 108-101, dropping TNT in a three-way tie at 1-2 win-loss with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Rain or Shine at seventh place.
Pressed for time, TNT, after a hasty search, is reportedly flying in David Simon, a 6-foot-9, 260-lb., 33-year-old player with no NBA pedigree and was undrafted when he became eligible in 2005.
Simon played for little known Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne University, a non-NCAA Division 1 school, and will be coming off a stint with the SK Knights in Seoul, South Korea, averaging 20.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
On his shoulders will rest TNT’s bid to defend the only championship that has eluded San Miguel Beer in the last four conferences, with frontline support coming from rookies Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo.
The Aces won’t be accommodating though.
With import Rob Dozier, who missed Alaska’s first game against Blackwater with a foot injury, expected to be back, the Aces will be at full strength as they await to check out TNT’s untested import.
In the first game, Star seeks to end a string of heartbreaking defeats, none worse than the last one against NLEX at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna where Hotshots import Denzel Bowles committed an errant pass late in the game that sealed their doom.
Loaded with confidence as a result of their good start and powered by a young but blossoming import in MJ Rhett, Blackwater will not be a pushover, with the tandem of Carlo Lastimosa and Reil Cervantes tormenting Star’s perimeter defense as the Elite gun for their third win in four games.