Hollis-Jefferson validates TNT decision to fix what wasn’t broken
TNT validated what coach Jojo Lastimosa described as a “tough decision” to switch imports despite being on top midway into the PBA Governors’ Cup eliminations.
At least for one game.
“People don’t understand us, and now you probably see why we changed [imports],” Lastimosa said after the Tropang Giga’s 138-116 win over the Blackwater Bossing which saw new import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson produce 37 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks at Mall of Asia Arena.
Hollis-Jefferson, a former NBA starter with the Brooklyn Nets who provided “a little bit of everything” for the TNT, was signed as a replacement even after original import Jalen Hudson led the Tropang Giga to five wins out of six games.
Hudson was terrific on the offensive end, averaging 33.8 points per game, but TNT management felt Hollis-Jefferson would give the Tropang Giga a better chance in their title aspirations this conference.
“I like to look at myself and say I’m a poor man’s LeBron [James], where it’s about making your teammates better, making the game flow,” he said. “And then when the team needs me to score, being able to do that as well. That’s something I try to focus on.”
Hollis-Jefferson acquitted himself well thus far, but his true worth will be tested as TNT prepares for a tough week with Meralco up on Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum and San Miguel Beer slated Sunday at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Hollis-Jefferson’s output in his TNT debut was actually just second in the team scoring honors behind RR Pogoy, who finished with 40 points to fall five shy of tying his career high which was set in the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble in Pampanga.
Pogoy had some glowing words about Hollis-Jefferson, whose unselfishness helped TNT drain 16 triples on the way to blasting the Bossing. Pogoy hit seven triples while Mikey Williams nailed four.
“He really likes to look for his teammates,” Pogoy said in Filipino. “He set up a lot of assists for us and I believe it’s one of the reasons why we shot well from the field.”
Hollis-Jefferson fell three points short of teaming up with Pogoy to become the first teammates to score 40 each in a game. The last time that happened was when Presto teammates Terrance Bailey and Allan Caidic had 47 and 42 respectively against San Miguel Beer in 1992.
Williams had 14 points, Glenn Khobuntin made 13 and Calvin Oftana added 11 for TNT, which sunk Blackwater to a fifth straight defeat for a 1-6 record.
Import Troy Williams, who Hollis-Jefferson knew even before their NBA stints, scored 22 in the Bossing’s latest setback.