May 18, 2019

Parks debuts for Elite; Almazan's on hold

RAYMOND Almazan's debut for Meralco has to wait, but the Bolts still can't wait to get their PBA Commissioner's Cup going.

Main reason for such optimism is import Gani Lawal, who should offer a glimpse of his true worth when Meralco plays Blackwater Sunday in the kickoff game of the mid-season tourney at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Bolts and Elite are both looking to get off on the right foot after finishing at 11th and 12th, respectively, in the season-opening Philippine Cup.

Bobby Parks Jr. is also set to play his first game for Blackwater, adding to the spice of what should be a thrilling tussle.

Parks, tabbed at No. 2 overall in last December's draft, .delayed his PBA debut until his commitments to the Alab Pilipinas squad in the ABL were done with.
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Aris Dimaunahan is also set to coach his first-ever PBA game for Blackwater after being tapped to replace Bong Ramos, who resigned in April after the Elite wound up with just two wins in 11 games.

The case of Almazan, acquired from Rain or Shine in a trade approved just last Tuesday, is different.

No less than Meralco coach Norman Black bared that the No. 3 pick overall in the 2013 draft has to continue sitting it out due to a recurring calf injury.

"Almazan will not play because of his old calf injury. He will return to action in two to three weeks,"said Black.

Still, we are ready to go and looking forward to our first game versus Blackwater,"added Black.
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Lawal is main reason why the Bolts have high expectations.

The American-Nigerian, a product of Georgia Tech, has been impressive in Meralco's won tune-up games against Alaska and TNT, norming more than 30 points and almost 14 rebounds.

"He may not be as tall or as heavy as the other imports, but he's very strong inside the paint and he's a very good defensive player," said Black of Lawal.

Such performance is to be expected. The 30-year-old has strutted his game all over the world after being picked at 46th overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2010 NBA draft.

He has had stops in Poland, China, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Iran, and Argentina. and is coming off a stint with the Shiga Lakestars in the Japanese B.League, averaging 21.0 points and 12.2 rebounds in 42 games.

Adapting to the PBA's style of play, particularly Meralco's, should pose no problem for Blackwater's own reinforcement, Alex Stepheson.

The burly Stepheson has seen action for the Bolts during the 2017 edition of the same tournament, powering them to a fifth place finish. (NC)