Tim Cone coaches a PBA team not named Alaska for the first time in 22 years as the reinvigorated B-MEG squad opens its Philippine Cup campaign against a tough Petron side at the Astrodome.
The Llamados—already overflowing with talent following the return of big men Kerby Raymundo, Rico Maierhofer and Rafi Reavies and the acquisition of Smart Gilas-Pilipinas point guard Mark Barroca—have become even more lethal following their off-season acquisition of Cone from the Aces.
Cone, the coach with the most number of won games in the league, brings with him 13 championships including a Grand Slam in 1996, to a team that is also known for its winning tradition with eight titles tucked under its belt.
The return of the Llamados' three injured big men surely complements a frontline that is already fearsome enough with the presence of Joe Devance and Marc Pingris.
B-MEG's backcourt is just as potent behind the rotation of two-time MVP James Yap, Peter June Simon and Roger Yap.
Cone, however, sees his hands full against the Boosters in their 7:30 p.m. encounter.
Petron, still fresh from their upset of Talk 'N Text in the Governors Cup Finals that denied the Tropang Texters a rarr Grand Slam, have also boosted their roster by acquiring Filipino-American guard Chris Lutz from the PBA Annual Rookie Draft as the third overall pick and getting back veteran Dondon Hontiveros from Barako Bull (formerly Air21).
The team could have also obtained forward Mark Borboran after Alaska left him out of its roster, but was beaten to the draw by Meralco when the Bolts offered two second round picks for 2013 and 2014, respectively, to the Aces in exchange for the former University of the East stalwart.
League commissioner Chito Salud has already approved the trade and Meralco can formally acquire the soft-spoken player once it matched the P11.1 million, three-year deal Petron offered Borboran.
"I'm very curious to see how we stack up against them (Blaze Boosters) this early," said Cone. "Petron will have great confidence coming off their championship, so they will be formidable."
But Petron will continue to miss the services of injured players Jay Washington, Rabeh Al-Hussaini and Lordy Tugade.
Powerade and Shopinas.com will also be making their respective debuts when they clash in the 5:15 p.m. opener.
Franz Pumaran will be making his pro debut as coach of the Clickers, but all eyes are expected to be on the Tigers, who will miss the services of top rookie pick Jvee Casio.
Powerade will be parading fourth pick and former national team member Marcio Lassiter.
A stressed left knee sidelines Casio from playing his first PBA game and while his condition is day-to-day, coach Bo Perasol said the spitfire guard may not suit up for the team until the next three weeks.
The Tigers, nonetheless, still opens their campaign with high hopes as it also added to its lineup veteran big men Romel Adducul Alex Crisano and Doug Kramer.
"We are determined to change our fortune this time," said Perasol. "It's going to take some time to achieve cohesion with all our new acquisitions but we are going to take the right steps towards our goal." — JVP, GMA News