by Waylon Galvez
San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa, two teams that played in the Finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last season, are heading the same directions as both are eyeing an import change after absorbing contrasting defeats in the ongoing mid-season conference.
SMB, which downed TNT for the title last season, fell to 0-2 following a loss against Rain or Shine in overtime, 123-119, the other day at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.
The team played minus import Troy Gillenwater in the second half after he was ejected from the game for bumping a referee.
Gillenwater exited the game with 11 points and three rebounds. In his PBA debut, the former New Mexico State University standout had 19 points and 14 boards in a 93-85 setback to Meralco.
San Miguel mentor Leo Austria said that it’s possible for them to make an import change considering the “unimpressive performance” of the 6-foot-9 Gillenwater. But he said it should be a collective decision by the coaching staff and the SMB management.
“It’s always a possibility,” said Austria, who mentioned that a meeting has been scheduled today to decide on the matter. “We always look to improve the team, and we’ll assess things.”
When asked about a possible replacement or if former reinforcement Renaldo Balkman is an option, Austria said that anything is possible.
“We’ll see… nothing is definite at the moment.”
A former NBA player, Balkman’s first stint with SMB – previously known as Petron – ended in an infamous choking incident with Arwind Santos. This led to a ban meted by then PBA commissioner Chito Salud.
Current league chief Willie Marcial recently lifted the ban on Balkman, thus giving him the green light to join any team in the PBA, including his former team.
As for the KaTropa, the team is likewise considering that same route of replacing import Jeremy Tyler following his so-so performance in the last two games.
It was TNT’s first defeat after a 3-0 start, and Tyler finished with only 16 points and 11 rebounds. A former NBA player, Tyler has averages of 11 points and 14 rebounds in three games in the PBA.
A team source said that Joshua Smith, who helped the team reach the finals of this same Commissioner’s Cup last season but lost to the Charles Rhodes-led SMB in the title series, has already been contacted.
“Nothing is final at the moment, but we already talked to him,” said the source.
The 6-foot-10 Smith is fresh from his stint in the Japan Basketball League where he played for the Kyoto Hannaryz, which made it to the quarterfinal playoffs but lost to Toyota Alvark.