Beermen parade new import

With original choice Thomas Robinson injured, San Miguel Beer will be parading another powerhouse import when it opens its campaign in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The newly-crowned Beermen will be bannered by Diamond Stone when it faces Blackwater at 3 p.m. before the 5:45 p.m. encounter between TNT Tropang Giga and Magnolia.

The 6-foot-10 Stone will be coming in as replacement for Thomas, who was supposed to become the second highest National Basketball Association draft pick to see action in the PBA.

Stone is no stranger to local action.

He played for the United States with future NBA players like Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Josh Jackson in the FIBA U17 World Championships in Dubai in 2014, where they faced future PBA players Mike and Matt Nieto, Paul Desiderio and Jollo Go in the pool play.

Then, he was taken by the New Orleans Hornets with the 40th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft before suiting up with the Los Angeles Clippers.

He went on to see action for various NBA G League teams before playing for Taiwan Beer HeroBears in the T1 League, where he earned the reputation of being a prolific scorer.

Stone, who also suited up for Meralco in the FIBA Asia Champions Cup in 2018, was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, just in time for the Beermen’s game against Blackwater.

“He is the best available option in such a short period of time,” a source said, adding that the Beermen has the option to either continue rolling with Stone or field Robinson when they face Rain or Shine on Sunday and Bay Area a week later.

After that, they will embark on a grueling schedule in which they will be playing four games in eight days.

Also tipped to draw attention are the Tropang Giga, who will display their overhauled roster as well as the prowess of Oliver.

After going undrafted in the 2017 NBA Rookie Draft, Cameron Oliver worked his way up until landing a 10-day contract with the Houston Rockets in 2021 and the Atlanta Hawks early this year.

He will power a Tropang Giga side that is determined to bounce back and reclaim the title.

In fact, TNT parted ways with power forward Troy Rosario in exchange for Raul Soyud and rising star Calvin Oftana, who is still fresh from bannering Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Despite the presence of Oftana, Soyud and Oliver, who is being eyed to serve as the country’s naturalized player, odds are stacked against the Tropang Giga as key players Mikey Williams, Jayson Castro and Glenn Khobuntin will not be suiting up.

TNT team manager Jojo Lastimosa said Williams and Castro will be game-time decision as they are still nursing ankle sprain sustained during their title run in the previous conference.

Khobuntin, on the other hand, suffered a medial collateral ligament injury and missed the last two games of their titular showdown.

“But he is scheduled to be back first week of November,” Lastimosa told Daily Tribune in reference to Khobuntin’s health status.

Meantime, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel players infused energy and excitement when they attended the weekly practice of Gilas Pilipinas last Monday at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City.

Reigning Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo were in attendance barely 24 hours after facing Meralco in a grueling battle in the Commissioner’s Cup of the Philippine Basketball Association.

Bolts guard Chris Newsome also showed up but opted to join Kings import Justin Brownlee at the sidelines to rest his injured calf.

But the spotlight was focused on the Kings.

After sitting out the first session two weeks ago, Thompson is back in harness while Aguilar and Malonzo were eager to bring the same energetic performance they had against Meralco to Gilas practice.

Malonzo, for one, showed up despite nursing a banged-up body that saw him moving from NorthPort to Ginebra in a blockbuster deal that involved Jeff Chan, Arvin Tolentino, Prince Caperal and Kent Salado.

“My body is sore – that’s why I have ice packs on my legs,” said Malonzo, who was part of the squad that saw action in the fourth window last month.

“But for sure, as much as we can, we want to be all part of this. It’s always a process learning both systems, but you’ll never know because you want to be ready when these games come as well.”

Aguilar agrees, saying that playing for the country will be beneficial not only to the program but for his mother club in the PBA as well.

“This is also a good opportunity to fast track our condition during the PBA season,” Aguilar said.

“Our next game will be on Sunday, so we have nearly a week to manage our rest and recovery.”

Gilas coach Chot Reyes was very much pleased with the turnout as a total of 16 players showed up.

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