The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters is scheduled for a head-to-head game against the Meralco Bolts at 4:30 PM on January 22, 2023 live from the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City, Metro Manila.
The 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup is now in the league’s history back and it’s the start of the third conference. To grace the opening of this year’s Governor’s Cup, the Bolts will start their campaign going back to the biggest stage of the season-ender conference of the PBA. At the same time, the Elasto Painters will try to surpass their achievement during the Commissioner’s Cup under the Yeng Guiao-era.
Meralco is expecting the return of Chris Newsome who got sidelined the entire second conference due to a calf strain injury. Without the former Ateneo guard standout the Bolts had a hard time logging more wins in their win-loss record.
Likewise, the squad led by head coach Norman Black who calls shots from the bench will continue to have KJ McDaniels as their import who came as their foreign reinforcement player in the later stage of the eliminations round of the just concluded Commissioner’s Cup. One of the highlights of McDaniels early career with Meralco was that he helped lead the team to beat the Bay Area Dragons. The Bolts and the eventual last conference champion, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel are the only two local teams that gave the Hong Kong-based squad their two losses.
“KJ is in much better shape now than in the last conference, that’s gonna help us a lot. The guys are ready to play. We’d like to think that with New (Newsome) coming back our team will be a lot stronger this conference and give us a chance to win more games,” said Black.
Speaking of McDaniels, he is one of the two coaches under the MVP umbrella who previously coached the former Philadelphia 76ers player. It is obvious that part of his plan to take home today’s victory is to slow down his former import while they were with the NLEX Road Warriors.
“He’s had more time to prepare. I know what he can do when he’s in top shape. We’re actually concerned about how KJ will play so we have to plan something for him,” said Guiao. “Babalik na rin sa kanila si Newsome. They should be getting to their maximum potential when Newsome is playing,” he added.
Another part of the Rain or Shine plan that could surprise both their opponent and their fans is the activation of the league’s former Most Valuable Player and currently serving as a councilor at the San Juan City government office, none other than the man who got a thousand moves, James Yap.
“I would not say he’s in full game-shape… around 90 percent siguro,” noted Guiao. “He needs a few games to get himself back into his rhythm. But he’s practicing well, he’s in good shape physically. Pero siyempre kailangan pa niyang ibalik ‘yung competitive toughness niya. We’re not expecting a lot out of him, but gradually I think he can make some contributions to the team.”
The Elasto Painters will feature Michael Qualls as their import who previously played with the NorthPort Batang Pier where he logged monstrous stats with 33.6 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. With Qualls in tow, apart from scoring, some of the weak spots of the squad he can potentially address.
“A lot of our deficiencies, shortcomings, are going to be, hopefully, addressed by the type of import we have,” said Guiao.