by Jonas Terrado
ILOILO CITY – Action in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup makes its return on Wednesday with plenty of question surrounding the consistency of the league’s top teams and the chance for redemption for two popular squads which tapped a pair of returning imports coming off a title run in a regional league.
Rain or Shine was the surprise leader before the league held the All-Star Week in Digos, Batangas City and in this city with four wins and one defeats and, barring late hitches, is on pace to go on a deep run for the first time in the post-Yeng Guiao era.
Not far behind is Alaska and TNT KaTropa with identical 4-1 slates. The Aces may have fielded the most inexperienced import of the tournament in Antonio Campbell but he and the local players led by an inspired Vic Manuel have found success in the early goings.
TNT, one of eight teams to change imports after bringing back Joshua Smith in lieu of Jeremy Tyler, is getting vital contributions from its talent-laden locals despite new acquisition Terrence Romeo enduring an early shooting slump.
While these three sides are worrying on maintaining their place in the standings, defending champion San Miguel and Ginebra are looking to find themselves back in the hunt after unusual struggles.
San Miguel lost its first three games despite coming off a Philippine Cup title triumph and the arrival of top rookie Christian Standhardinger. The Beermen have also hired recently-reinstated Renaldo Balkman but his stellar debut was spoiled with an out-of-town defeat to the Aces in Dumaguete City.
Ginebra resumes its campaign on Friday with Justin Brownlee being eyed to resurrect the team from a 1-3 start.
Balkman and Brownlee were mainly responsible for helping Alab Pilipinas capture the ASEAN Basketball League earlier this month. San Miguel and Ginebra can only hope the two Americans can bring their ABL success to the PBA.
Middle of the pack teams like Magnolia (3-1), Meralco (3-2), GlobalPort (3-2) and Phoenix (3-2) try to get themselves in contention even as Columbian (3-3) looks to finally end a rollercoaster run and finally make the playoffs after a combined 1-21 record in the past two conferences.
NLEX (1-4) is desperate to regain the form that led to a surprise semifinal finish in the Philippine Cup and Blackwater seeks a last-ditch attempt to catch the quarterfinal bus despite joining San Miguel as the only winless teams this conference with its 0-6 slate.