Retooled E-Painters take litmus test

August 13, 2017

RAIN or Shine's re-tooled lineup goes through its first test when it clashes Sunday with a Kia side going through its own struggles in the PBA Governors Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Elasto Painters are looking to snap out of a two-game slide while the Picanto's desire burns even brighter, having not won once despite five starts.

How Rain or Shine new import J'Nathan Bullock performs and the team as a whole bucks the absence of Gilas players Gabe Norwood and Raymond Almazan would be of close scrutiny.

"It's gonna be a test for us having a new import and missing two defensive players," said E-Painters coach Caloy Garcia, whose team will also be playing for the first time since 2009 without Jeff Chan.

"But at the same time this is an opportunity for other players to show what they can do," added Garcia.

In a move that caught many by surprise, Chan was traded to Phoenix for Mark Borboran and a future second round pick last week. In another deal, Mike Tolomia was also dealt to Meralco for fellow rookie Ed Daquioag.

As Garcia has explained, the Chan trade was made to partly offset the absence of Norwood and Almazan and the season-ending knee injury to Jay Washington.

"I think it was more of a need right now," said Garcia. "We were looking for other options pero Borboran came into mind because they can both shoot from the outside. Iyun ang nakita naming advantage. We felt meron naman talagang laro si Borboran. We were looking for a stretch-4 and he can play the 4."

The Tolomia-Daquioag trade was also an off-shoot of the Chan trade, added Garcia. "We were releasing Jeff so future din ang tinitingnan namin when we decided on trading for Daquioag," he said.

Bullock, on the other hand, was tapped after original import JD Weatherspoon failed to provide the leadership spark for the E-Painters, who won their initial assignment against GlobalPort but have lost back-to-back games to NLEX and Meralco.

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"The problem with our first import, he's athletic but ... hindi siya nagsasalita sa mga locals," related Garcia. "It is an import conference. Locals will play hard if they see the import playing hard for them. That's one thing that caused the change."

Since a 97-112 loss to Meralco last Aug. 6 Kia has made no move to do an import switch although chief shotcaller Chris Gavina has tried to set Markeith Cummings' mindset right following two sub-par games by the latter.

“He’s coming in with a group of young players who don’t know how to get the job done right now," said Gavina of Cummings who averaged 29.3 points and 10.7 rebounds in the Picanto's first three outings but has dipped to 17 and 7 in their last two.

“He’s just overanalyzing things he can’t control, so I told him, 'Let’s watch video and see where he can get easier baskets,'” added Gavina. “He’s just going to have to put his mind into it, so we’ll go back to the drawing board and see how we can maximize Markeith.”

For sure, Rain or Shine has its own plans on not only stifling Cummings but also the likes of Kia's other threats, mainly LA Revilla, Reden Celda and Glenn Khobuntin.

"I just challenged my players to be more aggressive on defense," said Garcia, who, in turn, will rely mostly on Jericho Cruz, James Yap, Beau Belga and Maverick Ahanmisi.