The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters finished first in the four-team, three-day pocket tournament held at The Upper Deck and they did it with a depleted lineup.
One of the players absent from coach Caloy Garcia’s rotation was Raymond Almazan who is still recuperating from an ankle injury he suffered during the preparations of Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The big man, who showed his support for his team by watching their games, is raring for the chance to share the floor with his teammates again.
“Next Monday siguro makakapag-practice na ako ulit. Di lang ako naglaro sa pocket tournament para makapag-pahinga at mapatingin ko na rin,” Almazan said. “Actually, pwede na akong maglaro pero ayaw rin ni coach na biglain.”
True to form, even without of their stars, the Painters looked like a well-oiled machine as they shared the wealth on offense and helped each other on defense. They had a long offseason as they failed to make the semifinals in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup.
“Matagal na kaming hindi nag-se-semifinals. Siguro yung chemistry nag-iba talaga nung nawala si coach Yeng,” Almazan said regarding their long absence from the Final Four cast.
“Pero ngayon sobrang intact yung team namin. Iwas injury lang talaga. Sana healthy kami lahat. Yun talaga yung problema namin e. Sa umpisa maganda yung record namin tapos biglang may masasaktan.”
Even with many of his teammates unavailable for the pocket tournament, Almazan was not surprised that their team got a couple of victories against Phoenix and NLEX.
“Gaya pa rin ng dati, wala pa ring superstar sa team namin. So itong pocket tournament, maganda rin para sa amin kasi nabibigyan ng change yung iba na makapaglaro rin ng mahaba,” Almazan said. “Sina Dexter Maiquez, sina Ed Daquioag maganda yung pinapakita ngayon so kailangan pagbalik ko makasabay ako agad.”
The lanky center isn’t worried that he’ll lack the stamina when he returns on the court but is aware that it might take some time before he gets back into game shape.
“Sa conditioning wala naman sigurong masyadong problema kasi bago ako ma-injure, kundisyon naman ako e,” Almazan said. “Basta ako this season, gagawin ko lahat ng makakayo ko para mag-semis kami at sana makapag-finals. Yung mga individual awards wala naman sa amin yan e. Hindi naman namin iniisip.”