The NLEX Road Warriors take on the squad that gave them a lot of trouble in the last conference when the PBA D-League Foundation’s Cup fires off Tuesday at the FilOil-Flying V Arena in San Juan.
Bidding for a third straight crown, the NLEX Road Warriors get their campaign going against the pesky Big Chill five at 4 p.m.
“Teams have fortified their lineups, and in my assessment, all teams are capable of going all the way,” said NLEX Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez.
Blackwater Sports and RnW Pacific Pipes, two of several souped-up squads, clash in the op-ener of the double-header at 2 p.m.
Before sweeping Freego Jeans in last conference’s finals, the Superchargers pushed the NLEX Road Warriors to the brink of elimination in the semifinals.
The Superchargers, the lone squad to beat the Road Warriors in the eliminations, return with Jessie Collado, Alex Mallari and Jewel Ponferrada and new recruits Jeff Viernes and Mark Montilla.
Ateneo star Kirk Long also debuts for the NLEX Road Warriors, who boast a virtually intact lineup led by Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang, Dave Marcelo, Cliff Hodge and Chris Ellis.
Long, a major cog in the Blue Eagles’ four-year UAAP reign, got the go-signal to play even if he’s an American national following an appeal in which he cited his decade-long stay in the Philippines.
Only RR Garcia, an MVP candidate last conference, remains doubtful for the NLEX Road Warriors as the topnotch Far Eastern U guard has yet to get clearance from his school.
Blackwater, meanwhile, hopes to do better with AJ Mandani, Kelly Nabong, Robby Celiz, Paul Zamar and Mark Jeffries teaming up with holdovers Chris Camus and brothers Gio and Ice Ciriacruz.
“We acquired good, quality players,” said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac. “I just hope that we’ll jell at the right time.”
Pacific Pipes also tapped Pido Jarencio as its new coach and added nine new players led by University of Santo Tomas’ Jeric Teng and Adamson’s Jan Colina.
Meanwhile, Cagayan Rising Suns coach Alvin Pua faces possible sanctions after physically and verbally assaulting a game official in a practice game yesterday at the National University gym.
Pua cursed, shoved and punched referee Jessie Jarabejo, prompting the league’s supervisor of officials Ramil Cruz to report the incident to the office of the PBA commissioner.
Commissioner Chito Salud is expected to summon Pua this week.