NLEX, Big Chill see tough PBA D-League seasonBy Mark Giongco
Not with a retooled Big Chill side and newcomer Fruitas among the teams primed to foil the Road Warriors’ bid for a fourth straight crown.
“Mababaliktad na siguro this season, kami naman ang underdog (It will be the opposite this season, we’re now the underdog),” said NLEX assistant coach Adonis Tierra in a press conference held at Gerry’s Grill Ali Mall in Cubao Monday afternoon.
The Road Warriors lost much of their core with big names Calvin Abueva and Fil-Americans Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis making their mark with their respective teams in the PBA.
“Nawala mga energetic players namin like Abueva and Hodge (We lost energetic players like Abueva and Hodge),” said Tierra.
Same goes with the Superchargers, whose key cogs Alex Mallari and Keith Jensen got drafted in the PBA.
NLEX though, remains as the team to beat led by its returning players headed by Far Eastern U star RR Garcia and former San Beda standout Garvo Lanete teaming up with new additions in Letran’s Kevin Alas, Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva, who led Ateneo to its fifth consecutive UAAP championship recently, to form a fancied lineup.
“Very competitive na lahat ng teams, with the departure of our nine players, the problem is our chemistry since some of our players are still in the NC finals and some just came back,” said NLEX team manager Ronald Dulatre.
Not to be outdone, Big Chill tapped FEU’s Terrence Romeo and Adamson’s Alex Nuyles to lead its squad. Though Nuyles, who hardly played in the UAAP due to a shoulder injury, won’t be back until December.
“[We are] very excited with the players we signed up, I think they can fill the void,” said Big Chill head coach Robert Sison, who doesn’t think his team will deal with chemistry issues. “Before we signed them we told them what their roles are and they’re committed to that.”
NLEX and Big Chill may get all the preseason buzz but other teams like Fruitas, Blackwater and Cebuana Lhuillier are no pushovers.
“This is a group of young energetic and promising players, we’ll just try to be competitive as we can para makasabay kami (so we can catch up),” said Fruitas mentor Nash Racela, whose team could be this season’s sleeper.
The Shakers will be led by St. Benilde guard Carlo Lastimosa, former Adamson big man Jan Colina and San Beda center Ola Adeogun.
“Yung team namin, a group of young guys raring to go, raring to play. We can’t promise anything, right now we’re a work in progress,” added Racela.
“This isn’t going to be just NLEX and Big Chill,” said Sison, seeing a balanced field.
The third season of the PBA D-League starts Tuesday with Informatics pitted against Cagayan in the opener while Boracay Rum tangles with Cebuana Lhuillier in the main game at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.