By JONAS TERRADO
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Blackwater vs TNT KaTropa
7 p.m. – Meralco vs Magnolia
TNT KaTropa was mum on reports that it is set to bring in Joshua Smith back in time for today’s match against winless Blackwater in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Attempts to confirm TNT’s decision to hand Jeremy Tyler the pink slip to make room for Smith’s arrival proved futile at presstime, leaving a big question mark as to which import will the KaTropa parade in the 4:30 p.m. opener.
Smith, listed at 330 lbs, is remembered for helping TNT reach last season’s Commissioner’s Cup finals, losing in six games to the San Miguel Beermen behind his imposing presence. The 6-foot-10 from Seattle is coming off a stint in Japan where he led his team Kyoto to the playoffs.
Agent Sheryl Reyes tweeted late Thursday that the KaTropa had replaced Tyler, who struggled in Sunday’s 110-100 loss to the Alaska Aces last Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
It was TNT’s first defeat of the conference after starting the conference with three straight wins.
Regardless of the import situation, the KaTropa seek to get their fourth win in five matches before the All-Star break behind top locals Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario and Jericho Cruz.
Blackwater is in dire need to finally enter the win column after five straight losses to start the conference prompted management to sack coach Leo Isaac and replace him with Bong Ramos.
Meanwhile, Vernon Macklin looks to go out in style when Magnolia battles Meralco in the other game at 7 p.m.
Macklin dons the Hotshots jersey for the final time before heading to China to play in the National Basketball League, facing former college rival Arinze Onuaku and the Bolts.
Macklin is coming off a 19 points and eight rebounds two nights ago when Magnolia ripped Columbian, 126-101.
The Hotshots are eyeing their third straight win after starting the conference with an 89-87 defeat to the Phoenix Fuel Masters last May 6.