TNT welcomes early test against Ginebra, as 44th PBA season opens

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 13 2019 06:24 AM | Updated as of Jan 13 2019 08:14 AM

2017-18 season Leo Awards to precede Philippine Cup tipoff

MANILA, Philippines—With the brief but eventful Terrence Romeo era now in the past, the TNT KaTropa are ready to move forward.

They get an early test right as the 44th season of the PBA opens on Sunday, as they take on Barangay Ginebra at the Philippine Arena for their first game of the All-Filipino Cup.

Game time is at 6:30 p.m.

Coach Bong Ravena said TNT welcomes such a tough assignment early in the conference, as it gives his team a chance to gauge its progress.

"Playing with a tough team like Ginebra, mas maganda 'yan for us, kasi we will see kung saan kami, kung saan kami banda. Are we good, or do we really need a lot more big players?" Ravena said.

"Mas maganda 'yan, maaga pa lang mate-test mo na, makikita mo na kung saan ka, ano ang status mo diyan."

With Romeo now with San Miguel, all eyes will once again be on Jayson Castro as he tries to lead TNT back to the upper tier of the league after a disappointing campaign in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup.

Meanwhile, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone remains wary of TNT even after it lost one of the most prolific scorers in the PBA.

"Well, I think Talk N Text frankly sees Romeo's departure as addition by subtraction," Cone said. "They think that they'll be a stronger core together without him, more ball sharing, maybe a better defensive team, I don't know."

"I think this gives them something to prove," he added. "I think they'll be a very, very, very motivated team, and I think we'll see that on Sunday. That's something we're expecting. And what better way to showcase themselves than opening game against us?" 

Prior to the game, the league formally closes its 43rd season with the Leo Awards, wherein they honor the top performers from last year.

San Miguel big man June Mar Fajardo and NorthPort guard Stanley Pringle are in a tight race for the MVP award, while Jason Perkins of Phoenix is the favorite to win rookie of the year.

The traditional opening ceremonies will follow the Leo Awards, with Pia Wurtzbach, Alyssa Valdez, and Sharon Cuneta among the muses tapped by the PBA teams. 

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