Talk ‘N Text will be without its four national team stars today—and for its next two games—when the Tropang Texters open their PBA Governors’ Cup campaign against Barako Bull at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Jimmy Alapag, Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo and Jason Castro have been given by management a three-game leave to rest up. In the meantime, the Texters will rely on import Tony Mitchell and Ryan Reyes in the 5:15 p.m. contest against the dangerous Energy.
The Texters will definitely be the weakest team in the field in the next three games because Talk ‘N Text has already traded Jared Dillinger to Meralco and Kelly Williams remained in sick bay.
Meanwhile, the Bolts test powerhouse Petron Blaze and new coach Gee Abanilla in the 7:30 p.m. game, with the returning Mario West leading Meralco against Elijah Millsap and the re-tooled Boosters.
Dillinger, though, will still not play as he is still recovering from injuries he sustained in a vehicular accident more than two months ago.
“Management has given (Alapag, Fonacier, De Ocampo and Castro) time off to let them recover from the grind of the (recent) Fiba Asia,” coach Norman Black said in a text message. “We will just do the best we can with our remaining players.
“Things will be a little difficult because of the sacrifice we made for the PH team. But at least, the country is headed for (the World Championship in) Spain.”
Alapag, the former MVP, is actually in the injured list of the lineups released by the PBA on Wednesday night, when defending champion Rain or Shine nipped San Mig Coffee, 79-75, and Globalport downed Air21, 101-94.
Aside from Reyes, the other notable names left in the TNT roster are Ali Peek, Harvey Carey and Rabeh Al-Hussaini, the former UAAP MVP whom Black lobbied hard to trade for earlier in the season.
Barako Bull remains one of the oldest teams in the field and will be led by the veterans Danny Seigle and Mick Pennisi. Bong Ramos is still listed as the head coach with Rajko Toroman as his assistant.
Mitchell is not a stranger to the PBA brand of play, having seen action for the Texters in the latter stages of their Final Four playoff with Barangay Ginebra in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Though he is a lethal scorer, the absence of his star teammates can give Barako Bull—and the Texters’ next two foes—the luxury of ganging up on him on defense without sacrificing a lot.
The absence of De Ocampo can also work well for Al-Hussaini, Black’s former dominating center at Ateneo in the UAAP who has never really lived up to his potential in two years in the league.