WITH just half of its import woes solved, Rain or Shine's locals need to step up if it is to sustain its final drive for a playoffs berth in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
There's no perfect time for the Elasto Painters' locals to shift their plays into high gear now that a new import is coming late into the elimination phase of the mid-season tournament.
Carl Montgomery was tapped by the team at the last minute following the injury suffered by Denzel Bowles in Rain or Shine's last outing against Alaska.
The 30-year-old Montgomery is coming in with the Elasto Painters facing two top teams as their final assignment in Magnolia and San Miguel.
But Beau Belga has complete trust in his teammates especially after surviving the absence of Bowles in the entire second half of its game against the Aces to prevail,86-84.
"I think the locals are going to step up," said Belga. "Basta one game at a time lang kami."
Belga already saw a glimpse of how Montgomery played after the import attended his first practice with the team on Monday.
That he just came from nearby Singapore was one of the major considerations for his selection.
"Medyo maliit," he said of Montgomery, who is listed as 6-foot-8. "Pero naglaro lang siya sa Singapore, kaya mas madali yung availability niya."
Belga mentioned that Reggie Johnson, Rain or Shine's import in this same conference last year who steered them all the way to the semifinals, was likewise considered for a while, although his playing shape was definitely suspect.
"Out of shape, isang taon na hindi naglaro," he said of the burly import.
While Johnson no longer needs to adjust to the Elasto Painters' system unlike Montgomery, Belga said his fitness is the main concern of the coaching staff.
"Ang mahirap kasi doon, kung pumasok kami ng playoffs pero wala naman siya sa kundisyon, wala rin. Iba na labanan pag sa playoffs," he said.
At the moment, the Elasto Painters carry a 4-5 (win-loss) record, good enough for sixth place and still within the Magic Eight circle for a quarterfinals berth. (RG)