By Jonas Terrado
Rain or Shine is expected to miss several key players to injuries to start off its campaign in the PBA Philippine Cup scheduled to open this Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Elasto Painters coach Caloy Garcia said veteran Jay Washington could be out until January while Jericho Cruz will likely miss the rest of the month when they begin the season-opening conference with matches against TNT KaTropa and Blackwater.
Washington missed the remainder of last season’s Governors’ Cup after hurting his hamstring while Cruz sustained a knee injury late in a tune-up match against Magnolia.
But Garcia said James Yap and Raymond Almazan could be available by the time Rain or Shine sees action against TNT on Dec. 22 after they also dealt with injuries.
Yap was expected to participate in practice this week after recovering from a hamstring injury that prompted him to miss the Elasto Painters’ quarterfinal loss to TNT in the Governors’ Cup while Almazan hurt his ankle while practicing with Gilas Pilipinas for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
Garcia hopes to gain significant contributions from youngsters Rey Nambatac and Ed Daquioag as they fill the voids of their injured teammates.
Nambatac, taken seventh overall in the PBA Rookie Draft last October, is groomed to make a significant impact for the Elasto Painters, who are eager to reach the semifinal after suffering quarterfinal exits in all three conferences last season.
Daquioag had a productive showing in a recent pocket tournament where he scored double figures in one of the three games played. The former University of Santo Tomas standout was acquired from Meralco in exchange for Mike Tolomia last conference.
Gabe Norwood, Chris Tiu, Beau Belga are expected to power Rain or Shine’s charge for the scheduled opener.
Both Rain or Shine matches are slated to be played at the Cuneta Astrodome on Dec. 22 and 29.