Bolts hope to go all the way this time, not with Durham in tow but an experienced NBA vet who could be better
Allen Durham has anchored the Meralco system in the PBA Governors’ Cup the last four years, and the workmanlike import not coming over and the team having another guy this season will undoubtedly make the Bolts a very different—maybe even uncomfortable—team when the tournament opens late this month.
Coach Norman Black believes that this could be so, but it won’t last for long.
With NBA veteran Shabazz Muhammad set to come in within the next few days, Black feels that the 6-foot-6 former Minnesota Timberwolf has the experience to mesh well with his local crew and make the Bolts a formidable force in the tournament where Durham led them to three second-place finishes.
“I’m expecting because of [Shabazz’s] experience, we should be able to adjust immediately,” Black told the Inquirer as the Bolts await for the league’s go-signal to proceed with their preparations for the season-ending conference, along with their new import’s arrival from the United States which is tentatively set on Nov. 18.
Much of Black’s optimism is rooted in the fact that Shabazz is just as good—if not better—than Durham. At least on paper.
The 28-year-old last played in China, reinforcing two pro clubs there. Before his international career, Muhammad was picked 14th overall by Utah before being traded on Draft night to Minnesota where he stayed for five years as a solid piece of the rotation.
His last NBA stint was with Milwaukee in 2018 and he has career averages of 8.5 points and 2.8 rebounds.
While being better than Durham remains to be seen, Black believes that Muhammad’s caliber should be enough to smoothen any hurdles that could stand in the way of his integration into the Meralco system.
“I don’t see any major concern and I’m sure practices will go smoothly once he arrives,” said Black, whose side is shooting for another deep run after those three bridesmaid finishes.
Healthy local core
There’s no stopping the Bolts from doing so, as its local cast—forged in the crucible of two deep All-Filipino campaigns—are back at full health once again, according to Black.
“Everyone is healthy at this time,” he said. “We are just waiting to get back to regular practices so the guys can get back in shape and get their rhythm back.”
The PBA is looking to make the most out of Metro Manila’s easing to the more relaxed alert level 2, which permits indoor contact sports.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial told the Inquirer on Friday that teams could start practicing at their home turfs as early as Friday this week, pending, of course, their local government unit’s approval.
The Governors’ Cup, where Barangay Ginebra is the defending champion, is slated to open tentatively on Nov. 28 at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. INQ