MANILA, Philippines -- Meralco coach Norman Black is confident of the Bolts' chances in the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup after they welcomed Chris Newsome back into the fold.
Newsome, 32, played just one game in the Commissioner's Cup -- their conference-opener against the NorthPort Batang Pier. He missed the entire second half of that game, a 101-95 Meralco loss, due to a right calf injury.
The do-it-all swingman wound up injuring his other calf during Gilas Pilipinas practice days later, and Newsome ended up missing the rest of the conference. With him on the injured list, Meralco labored to a 4-8 win-loss record and missed the quarterfinals.
"I said from the beginning, if Newsome was healthy and he was in the team, I don't think we would have been eliminated in the last conference," Black said. "It's hard to lose your best player and expect that you're gonna perform at the same level that you performed before."
Newsome made his return for the Bolts on Sunday, in their first game of the Governors' Cup against Rain or Shine. The 6-foot-2 swingman immediately got a starting nod and put up 10 points, six assists, and five rebounds in a 38-minute stint.
He was a plus-18 during his time on the floor, as Meralco pulled away in the second half for a 105-87 victory.
"I always say this but it's really true -- he's our most productive player," Black said of Newsome, whom he selected with the fourth overall pick of the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft. "He came in and did a great job of holding the fort for us, playing good defense and also being able to control the team offensively."
"So just having him back is a big relief for me, myself as a coach. 'Cause now I know, I have my best player back on the floor again," he added.
Newsome was one of five players in double digits for Meralco on Sunday night. Import KJ McDaniels led the way for them, putting up 27 points and 23 rebounds in a dominant performance.
With Newsome now back to 100%, Black is optimistic of their chances in the season-ending conference.
"With him being back, and with a full line-up, I think we can compete with anybody. I'm not saying we're gonna be the favorites to win any championship in the PBA, but we can certainly compete," said the coach.
Newsome, for his part, is determined to do what he can to stay healthy after settling for watching at the sidelines in the Commissioner's Cup. It was a "really tough" experience for the Meralco captain, but he is embracing the new start in the Governors' Cup.
"Now, I gotta focus a little more on recovery and warming up properly and all those little things just to prevent this injury from coming back," said Newsome. "But, I think the team doctors and the PTs have done a good job of doing what they can to keep me available."
"That's the whole goal this year. Just to make sure that I can be available, especially whenever the playoffs series come. So whether that's minutes restrictions in practice or things like that, then that's what we have to do," he added. "But nonetheless, I wanna be available, and I wanna be able to make an impact for this team."
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