MANILA, Philippines - Rain or Shine returns to action after its Governors Cup championship, taking on Petron Blaze and its souped-up crew under new coach Olsen Racela in Day Two of the 2012-13 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today.
Barako Bull and Air21 also parade their overhauled rosters as they face off in the other game of the first regular twinbill of the 38th PBA season.
The Energy Cola and the Express clash at 5:15 p.m. while the Elasto Painters and the Boosters collide at 7:30 p.m.
The Elasto Painters hope to pick up from where they left off last season but they expect a tough outing against a team tipped as one of the major title contenders with a talented lineup made more formidable by prized draft acquisitions.
"Petron is probably the strongest team on paper. They also have the tallest player in the league as of now. We are the smallest and the size will always be a concern for us. We are hoping we can compensate with our quickness," said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
Much of the attention could well be on Petron top draft pick Junemar Fajardo and on how he would fare in his PBA debut.
Focus will also be on Racela, who makes his first appearance as head coach of Petron.
"I'm excited," said Racela, thrust into coaching after 18 long, glorious years as a player of Purefoods and Petron.
"Di pwedeng magpakita ng kaba baka madamay ang mga players (Can’t afford to show anxiety. It may rub off on the players)," Racela added.
The Boosters lost their tune-up match with the Elasto Painters but they feel they have improved since then.
"We've improved after seven (tune-up) games. Hopefully, we're okay by tomorrow. We're a work in progress. We expect to improve as the conference goes on," said Racela.
He, however, won’t yet enjoy the full complement of his powerhouse cast with Marcio Lassiter nursing an MCL injury and Chico Lanete still recovering from a strained hamstring.
Fajardo, however, is ready for action, and he’s one of Guiao’s major concerns.
Beau Belga, Jervy Cruz and JR Quinahan will have their hands full against Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Jay Washington, Danny Ildefonso and Dorian Peña.
The Petron backcourt and wing defenders, meanwhile, are bracing for tough jobs versus Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, Paul Lee and RoS’ own gem of a rookie find in Chris Tiu.
The Barako-Air21 tiff is a good aperitif.
KG Canaleta, Rob Reyes and Nonoy Baclao return as Air21 players, teaming up with Nelbert Omolon, Eric Salamat, Ogie Menor, Mark Isip, Renren Ritualo, Wynne Arboleda and James Sena.
Rico Villanueva, Sean Anthony and Roger Yap don the Barako jersey, backstopping Danny Seigle, Doug Kramer, Mick Pennisi and Ronald Tubid.