Needing big man, NLEX goes for McDaniels over former import Harris
Getting an import right the first time would be so much more urgent now than at any time ever in the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) history, given the current global health climate.
That’s why NLEX coach and general manager Yeng Guiao needed an extra pondering for the right person to lead NLEX in the season-ending Governors’ Cup being eyed to kick off later this month. And after weighing options, Guiao decided that plugging holes at the low blocks was more important than plain scoring prowess.
That’s why he’s bringing in former TNT import KJ McDaniels after scrubbing plans to rehire scoring dynamo Manny Harris, their reinforcement two years ago.
“We were looking for a player who can play both the small forward and power forward spots. Manny Harris is OK for us, but we need a big guy more,” he said in an interview with the team’s official website.
And McDaniels certainly knows how to play big.
The 6-foot-6 import averaged 37 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks for the Tropang Giga (then known as the KaTropa) two years ago.
“He was impressive the last time he was here,” Guiao said.McDaniels helped the Tropang Giga to an 8-3 record in the elimination phase. He provided TNT with huge numbers in scoring and rebounding before the team eventually lost to an Allen Durham-powered Meralco side in a best-of-five semifinals that went the full distance.
“What’s more impressive about KJ is his attitude. We heard a lot of good things about him,” Guiao said.
McDaniels, who had multiple stops in the NBA, also served TNT in its campaign in the East Asia League’s Terrific 12 tournament. There, he played alongside McKenzie Moore, who is set to bolster the Tropang Giga, the newly minted all-Filipino champions.
“We certainly feel that he is the right import for us [to be able to reach] the playoffs again,” said Guiao.
And with McDaniels a returning import, there are fewer chances of a wrong fit between player and team, a crucial factor during the pandemic.
“It’s difficult to find a replacement because of our situation now, so we have to make sure we’re bringing in the right guy,” he added.
Hiring a mismatched reinforcement would certainly weight heavily on a team.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines still requires foreigners to undergo quarantine and monitoring regardless of their vaccination status, which should prove truly costly for teams that would want to replace their imports.