Ginebra looking for import replacement

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Ginebra looking for import replacement

By Nelson Beltran

Ginebra’s Rod Nealy slips past San Miguel Beer’s Mick Pennisi and Wesley Gonzales in this file photo in the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference encounter.

MANILA, Philippines - Ginebra coach Jong Uichico said they would evaluate the performance of Rod Nealy during the Lenten break and decide whether an import change is necessary to put the Gin Kings back in the hunt for a second straight PBA reinforced crown.

“Nealy’s contract isn’t guaranteed (of a stint throughout the tourney). We’ll assess his performance this week. But if ever we sign a new import, the main consideration is that we think that this new guy can bring us to the championship,” said Uichico.

Red Bull team manager Andy Jao said they would also use the league break to shop around for a better import.

“We have to look into it. If there’s available player good enough to compete with the big guys, this is a good time to make the move,” said Jao.

Barangay Ginebra (2-5) and Red Bull (2-5) are among the teams in the lower half of the chart as the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference takes a breather to give way to the staging of the RP-Australia Goodwill Series and the observance of the Lenten season.

Uichico, however, is optimistic they’re bound to improve with Sunday Salvacion and Eric Menk rejoining the team at the resumption of the tournament on April 12.

The amiable Ginebra mentor said there’s also the possibility that Mark Caguioa would be back in the country first week of April and plunge back in action in May.

“If his rehab works according to expectation, he’ll be 100 percent ready to go back to normal basketball activity by the first week of April. Assuming, he’s able to return in April, he may already be playing a few minutes by May,” said Uichico of Caguioa who’s undergoing sonocure procedure in California to rehab his patellar tendon tear.

Junthy Valenzuela, who underwent knee surgery, could be out for the rest of the tourney.

But Uichico is now a bit upbeat with the Kings improving in their last few games and with Salvacion and Menk about to rejoin the team.

“We’d lost the team chemistry. We didn’t look good on the court. But we improved at least in our last three games,” said Uichico.

“We could improve even more with Sunday and Eric returning. They could give us a big lift. We lost a lot on their absence. We missed at least 10 points a game from Sunday and the inside presence from Eric,” Uichico added.

At 2-5, Uichico said they hope to rally and finish within third to eighth places.

“Malabo na kami sa top two. We’ll just try to avoid ninth and 10th. We’ll be happy to finish within third to eighth,” said Uichico.

Tournament format calls for the top two after the elims to make it outright to the semifinals. The No. 3 and No. 4 teams will enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage in playing the No. 10 and No. 9 teams, respectively, in the wildcard round. The other wildcard pairings pit No. 5 against No. 8 and No. 6 versus No. 7 in a single knockout setto.

Meanwhile, the PBA board holds a two-day planning session in Cebu City beginning today to chart the course of the league next season.

Included in the board’s agenda for the March 30-31 meeting is the possible stint of the Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team as guest squad in the season-opening Philippine Cup.

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