For starters, Magnolia focusing on health
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero has been in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) for quite some time now to know just how crucial it is to start a campaign with a victory.
But that has become the least of his worries.
Magnolia opens its Commissioner’s Cup against Terrafirma this Wednesday, with the Hotshots mentor making the team’s fitness his foremost concern.
“Us being healthy—I think that’s what we’re trying to push this time,” Victolero told the Inquirer in Filipino on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the clash against the 0-1 Dyip set 3 p.m. at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Our last three conferences have been plagued with injuries. Mike Harris was also injured [during the last Governors’ Cup]. Not a good enough excuse, but we really hope to be a complete team during the playoffs. And of course, during eliminations, which pretty much determines the path of our conference,” he added.
Injuries have truly hurt Magnolia’s search for another PBA crown. It could be recalled that Paul Lee missed a number of games early into the previous Philippine Cup, where the club finished with an 8-3 win-loss record, narrowly falling short of a twice-to-beat incentive.
Before that, Calvin Abueva also sat out a handful of matches during last season’s import conference due to a calf problem. Harris, the Hotshots’ reinforcement, suffered a bad fall in the deciding Game 5 of the semifinal series against Meralco.
“I know we have plenty to work on our X and Os, but we can only do that when we’re healthy the entire conference,” Victolero said.
“That’s why I told our physical therapists and trainers to focus on conditioning, especially with Calvin, and we really don’t want to rush him and risk a longer problem,” he went on.
Abueva, still nursing a groin issue, remains a game-time decision according to Victolero.
“If he doesn’t make it tomorrow, then he’ll likely suit up on Saturday [against Converge],” the champion coach said.
Magnolia will be a man short when it takes on Terrafirma, but Victolero is confident that his crew of veterans and Serbian import Nick Rakocevic could hold the fort in the meantime.
“I know we still need to see our import playing a few games if he’s really compatible with the team. But based on our tuneup games, practices, whatever we saw in him prior to recruitment, we were able to get them all,” Victolero said of his latest pickup.
“He may not be the best-scoring import you can rely on all the time, but I think he really fits our system,” he went on. “And his chemistry with our locals is nice.”
Victolero said the 6-foot-11 reinforcement has some decent skill set to go with his frame. But more importantly, Rakocevic can keep up with the club’s cutthroat style on defense.