FRANKIE Lim's much-awaited return to active coaching finally gets going Saturday when his NLEX crew guns for a share of the lead when it takes on struggling Phoenix Super LPG in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Philsports Arena in Pasig.
"We know that this conference for us is going to be hard because we lost Matt, and then Perk all of a sudden cannot play," added Robinson. "Like I told them, it is never going to be easy."
No little thanks to deputy Adonis Tierra handling the head coaching chores while Lim serves out a one-game suspension he incurred in his last coaching stint in 2015 and, at the same time, getting to know his players better, the Road Warriors managed to rack up initial wins over Rain or Shine and Blackwater.
A third win in as many games is a distinct possibility for NLEX in their 4:30 p.m. considering that Phoenix has so far failed to adjust quickly to a couple of key absences and some off-court uncertainties, disruptions which are chiefly blamed for the latter dropping its first three games in the mid-season conference.
But should the Fuel Masters do get their acts together, dispel the unverified reports and fully overcome the loss of top gunner Matthew Wright to free agency and Jason Perkins to a pre-conference knee surgery then expect Lim and the rest of NLEX to find the going extra tough.
Phoenix coach Topex Robinson has even said there should be no excuses for his remaining players, and that they should all face the challenge head-on. "We knew that it is going to be hard," he reiterated following a 91-101 loss to Bay Area last Saturday.
The Fuel Masters have already shown they have what it takes to go back to their winning ways, jumping the gun on the Dragons and even leading by as many as 16 points early on.
It's just that Phoenix started floundering while the power-laden guest team gathered its bearings and outscored the Fuel Masters, 58-32, in the two middle quarters to pave the cruising victory.
In contrast, NLEX showed uncanny poise in a 105-102 victory over Blackwater two Fridays ago, with the Road Warriors highlighting their fightback from a 16-point third quarter deficit with a scorching 19-2 closing run that gave them the thrilling follow-up to their 96-90 win over Rain or Shine.
The duel between the protagonists' imports should be interesting with NLEX's Earl Clark, usually good for 32 points, 16 rebounds and 4.5 blocks a game, pitted against Phoenix's Kaleb Wesson and the latter's averages of 16.6 points and 16 rebounds laced by some defensive highlights of his own. (NC)