TNT scampers for RHJ stand-in as Converge nixes Miller release
As if having three top players decommissioned wasn’t enough, TNT now has to race against time to find a temporary replacement for import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
The Tropang Giga are set for an opening-day clash with Magnolia on Sunday, when the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) Commissioner’s Cup gets going, but they have yet to sign up an interim reinforcement after Quincy Miller, the team’s other import in the East Asia Super League, wasn’t granted a release by Converge.
“Converge won’t release me,” Miller, who scored 22 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a 75-66 loss to the Chiba Jets at City of Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex on Wednesday night, said. “I don’t know why.”
Miller would have been a worthy stand-in for Hollis-Jefferson, who has been dealing with gastroenteritis since joining the team camp at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
The 6-foot-8 American is an inside-outside threat and had the FiberXers on top of the last Commissioner’s Cup standings at one point. But one unpublicized misconduct prompted coach Aldin Ayo to sit him out in an elimination round game that eventually started a late swoon that ended with Converge eventually getting swept by the San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals.
Miller averaged 29.9 points, 15.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.9 blocks in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup for the FiberXers.
The Inquirer tried to get the side of a Converge team official, but there was no response as of press time.
Interestingly, Converge is fielding in New Zealand-born Tom Vodanovich for the opening conference of Season 48. Vodanovich had a one-game stint for the FiberXers in last season’s Governors’ Cup. With opening day just a few days away, the Tropang Giga have no updates yet, adding to the manpower woes the team is currently facing. TNT will be without top local Mikey Williams, who hasn’t agreed to a contract yet, RR Pogoy, who will sit out due to a heart ailment and Poy Erram, who is recuperating from a surgery.
“Nothing yet,” Lastimosa said when the Inquirer asked for any new developments on their import situation.
“Quincy was supposed to be our No. 1 option to be the replacement guy, but apparently his rights are still with Converge,” said Lastimosa.
The Tropang Giga were left with just one import in Miller when they fell to the Japan B.League side, going 0-2 in the international tournament counting a 93-75 loss in Japan almost a month back.
Regardless of which import shows up on Sunday, TNT wants to make sure that Hollis-Jefferson’s condition is a priority.
“We’re gonna wait for Rondae to get better and we don’t want to put him on the floor not close to 100 percent because it might harm him in the long run,” said Lastimosa. “So we’re doing it conservatively, bringing in another guy so we can have an import on Sunday.”
Lastimosa lamented on TNT’s flat start that played a major difference in falling short of avenging its loss on the road, as a Miller-led fightback in the second half that saw the Tropang Giga cut the lead to five twice never gathered enough steam.
TNT’s local players did have some moments, with Jaydee Tungcab, usually being tasked with the role of a second- or third-string guard in the PBA, as the only player outside of Miller in double figures with 10.
Calvin Oftana played his first game since winning the Asian Games gold for Gilas Pilipinas and put up eight points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals but committed six turnovers. But Lastimosa insists that Oftana is far from his maximum form and will need to pick up his rhythm.