O’Bryant fate hangs in limbo

Meralco import Johnny O’Bryant has to play with more sense of urgency if he wants to stay in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.

Bolts mentor Norman Black said something needs to be done after the former National Basketball Association standout scored a forgettable seven points in their 82-89 loss to Phoenix late Wednesday.

“Obviously, we won’t have a chance if he will score only seven points. There’s almost no chance of winning,” said Black, a two-time Best Import awardee and member of the PBA Hall of Fame.

Black has been known for recruiting imports who were responsible for their successful runs in the past six years.

Their most notable reinforcement is Allen Durham, a three-time Best Import awardee who also led them to three final appearances in his four-conference stint, as well as Tony Bishop who led them to a finals run in the previous Governors’ Cup.

O’Bryant is one of the most high-profile imports who came to play in the ongoing Commissioner’s Cup.

He played for three NBA teams — the Milwaukee Bucks, the Denver Nuggets and the Charlotte Hornets — and made quite a reputation as a winner, having played for champion teams in Israel and Serbia.

But his good credentials have yet to show up after five games in the PBA.

“I have to sit down with Johnny and convince him to raise the level of his performance,” Black added.

“A lot more is expected from an import.”

A few days ago, Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo told Daily Tribune that O’Bryant tested positive for Covid-19 and since then, he had never the same again.

Black is having reservations whether the virus was an effect in his sub-par showing.

“That was probably three weeks ago,” Black added.

“I don’t know if there’s a lingering effect on him or not, I have no idea. He’s been okay in practice, but I don’t think that’s an explanation from the way he played (Wednesday).”

Black and the rest of the Bolts have been experiencing early setbacks, a far cry from the previous performances they had over the past five conferences where they reached the semifinals, including two finals stints.

The Bolts absorbed their fourth loss in five games and slipped to 11th place of the standings.

“We’re also missing some key players and we’re having problems shooting the ball from the perimeter,” Black added.

“We have a game on Saturday and I’m not sure how much we could do between now and then.”

Chris Newsome has yet to play a game since he suffered a contusion on his calf in the team’s first game of the conference and to make things worse, Chris Banchero, another reliable guard, hurt his ankle and missed the game against the Fuel Masters.

“It’s still bothering him (ankle injury). I just have to go to the next guy,” Black said.

“It’s difficult because we’ve already lost Chris Newsome. Banchero is almost as the same ability of Newsome. It hurts when he’s not around, particularly at this time. But what can I do? He sprained his ankle in practice and that was over a week ago and it is still bothering him at this point.”

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