Poy Erram will finally make his NLEX debut while top overall pick CJ Perez and Terrence Romeo enter new chapter in their respectve careers when the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup resumes at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday.
Columbian, which made Perez as the top overall pick, wil clash with Romeo’s San Miguel Beer at 4:30 p.m. while NLEX battles Rain or Shine at 7 p.m. with attention trained on Eram and Raymond Almazan.
Eram, the 6-foot-7 center who plays for Team Pilipinas in the FIBA Word Cup Asian Qualifier, saw himself donning new jersey after Blackwater shipped him to the Road Warriors in the off-season, thanks to his strong ties with NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, who also call the shots for the national squad.
His arrival came with a hefty price.
To acquire him, the Road Warriors had to let go of Dave Marcelo, Alex Mallari and Mike Miranda together with their fourth and seventh pick in the recent draft, who happened to be Paul Desiderio and Abu Tratter.
Guiao said he expects the former Ateneo de Manila big man to go all out, knowing that it took the Road Warriors an arm and a leg just to secure his services.
“We had to pay a high price for him. We lost Mike, Dave, Alex and of course our two picks. Imagine all of those just for Poy? So he has to be really valuable,” Guiao said.
“But at the end of the day. We’re happy. We’re satisfied even if we gave a lot for Poy. And I’m sure that he will be a big impact right away.”
Aside from Erram, Guiao will also welcome the return of his prized point guard Kevin Alas who finally recovered from an anterior cruciate ligament tear he suffered during the Road Warriors’ historic semifinal run in the Philippine Cup.
With Erram and Alas at the helm together with veterans Asi Taulava, JR Quinahan and Larry Fonacier, Guiao is confident NLEX could match or even surpass its breakthrough feat last year.
“Last year, we made it to the semifinals. We’re hoping that we can at least duplicate that or surpass that. I think we have a realistic chance to make it,” said Guiao.
NLEX’s bid for a rousing debut win, however, will not be a walk in the park as the intact Rain or Shine squad will be welcoming the return of its top slotman Almazan.
The 6-foot-8 Almazan finally ironed out misunderstandings with the team after going AWOL in the middle of the Elasto Painters’ season-ending conference Governors’ Cup campaign last year.
“We’re positive. I feel that we have a good lineup. We just have to be focused this season,” said ROS mentor Caloy Garcia.
“We lost Raymond last season, especially the Governors’ Cup but we’re all positive heading into this season. We hope we can bring the positivity we had built in the offseason to our campaign this year.”
Almazan may have returned, but the Elasto Painters will definitely miss the presence of veteran gunner Chris Tiu, who decided to call it quits after a very colorful professional career.
Garcia admitted that he’s having difficulty to find Tiu’s replacement.
That’s why he will be banking on Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga to provide the spark and leadership for the Elasto Painters, who are eyeing a return flight tio the semifinals.